Could you learn to navigate a tall ship? Nathan Warner not only took the helm on Captain Cook’s replica, the Young Endeavour, but found his leadership skills, although tested, were in shipshape condition by journey’s end.
Earlier this year, Macquarie Astrophysics and Astronomy student Nathan Warner returned from an 11-day voyage sailing from Eden to Sydney on the tall ship STS Young Endeavour. He was one of 20 young people who had boarded the purpose-built training ship for a learning experience of a lifetime.
The voyage was organised by the not-for-profit program The Young Endeavour Youth Scheme, which offers young Australians aged 16-23 a challenging and inspirational adventure at sea. The program’s objective is for its young participants to build trust and confidence through teamwork – specifically in learning to sail and operate an enormous square-rigged tall ship!
Surprisingly no experience is required as the young crew has a team of experts on deck to keep its learning on course. But even Nathan, an experienced sailor, needed plenty of expert guidance.
While the 23-year-old grew up sailing skiffs at Northbridge Sailing Club and had a world champion 18-foot skiff sailor as a father, Nathan says that sailing a tall ship (specifically a brigantine, which is a two-masted sailing vessel with a fully square-rigged foremast and at least two sails on the main mast) was outside of his realm of experience.
Royal Australian Navy staff are on board to teach the young shipmates the skills required to sail a tall ship, including how to navigate, keep watch, cook in the galley, set and furl the sails, take the helm and climb the 30-metre mast to work aloft.
Nathan, who is currently enrolled in a postgraduate Masters degree at Macquarie University studying Astrophysics and Astronomy, specialising in cosmology, says he’s seen plenty of stars while at sea. A boat was like a second home to Nathan, who grew up sailing with his family. He comes from blue-ribbon competitive sailing stock, his father, grandfather and stepfather have all been sailors of note.
“My grandfather was the first man to win the Sydney to Hobart yacht race consecutively on Astor in 1963 and 1964 – Wild Oates XI has been the only boat to do it since,” says Nathan.
“My stepfather sailed on Young Endeavour back in 2000 and has been telling me to do it for years,” says Nathan. “He said it was one of the best experiences he’d had in his life. Hearing how much he loved it, I knew it was something I had to do.”
Nathan says the young crew is made up of a diverse range of people from across Australia and they are encouraged to pursue personal and team goals and challenges during their high-seas adventure. “Near the completion of the voyage, each youth crew member elects a command team who takes full responsibility for Young Endeavour for 24 hours, sailing the ship along the coast,” he says.
On ‘Command Day’ Nathan was given a leadership role. “I was elected the navigator and helmsman to bring us into Sydney,” says Nathan. “At one point, it was quite stressful. Our assistant navigator had told me we’d followed the right course after I plotted it, but the crew set the wrong sails, so we were doing doughnuts in front of Lion Island, Broken Bay, for a few minutes.”
While this was unnerving for the meticulous Nathan, he said it was a good thing to happen as he learned from the experience. “Learning how I can manage myself and other people has been a big thing on the voyage and something I’ll definitely apply in the workplace.
“One of the greatest challenges for me was being able to step back and trust in other people’s skills and knowledge. At times, I can micro-manage, so it has helped me to trust in other people and to know that they’ll follow me as much as I’ll follow them.”
Nathan says the voyage was one of the best experiences of his life: “I’d happily do it again in a heartbeat. It was an amazing experience.”
The Young Endeavour conducts up to 20 voyages a year, predominantly up the east coast of Australia from Eden in the south to as far north as Cairns. Since the program started in 1988, over 13,100 Australian youth have sailed on her and benefitted from the program. “It definitely increases self-awareness and develops teamwork and leadership skills,” says Nathan.
If you’d like to follow the whale migration up the coast to Queensland, or explore the magical Whitsundays on a tall ship, apply now at www.youngendeavour.gov.au