Plastic Marine Litter on our Doorstep

Marine litter has been a part of Challenge Wales’ sail training adventures over the years. It’s taken teamwork to recover disused fishing nets that were just left bobbing in the sea and deliver them to a local marina, we’ve sailed past thinning, faded, plastic carrier bags and been nestled in marinas where a change of wind direction and raised river levels have created masses of driftwood and ‘drift plastic’ to congregate. Even on a quiet, windless day, white items of plastic including empty drinks bottles, sweet wrappers and straws can be seen floating in Penarth Marina.

Over the last eight months we’ve been researching the unfantastic plastic and marine litter problem to see how we can really make a difference. We’ve been speaking to organisations who are playing their part nationally in Wales so that we know who to feed our findings or research into, we’ve been doing some market research and thinking about how our future actions can link into the bigger picture….and what a big picture it is becoming.

Challenge Wales plays a large educational role within Wales. Not just in alternative curriculum programmes and accredited learning but through our engagement with children and adults within school, college, university and the work place who jump onboard and into our outdoor classroom. In 2018, to underpin our educational programme and youth adventures will be awareness of marine litter and one-use plastic with a particular focus on plastic water bottles. We want to help change thinking in a throw-away society and bring some new conversations to the table and the people, organisations and suppliers we work with.

TV programmes, blogs, newspapers, social media, conversations, radio have been great in raising awareness of the plastics issue but what next?

Like many, we watched the recent BBC programme Blue Planet II, like many (no doubt) we ordered the free Oceans Poster/Educational pack that was advertised after the show to help us learn more about marine life and the issues around microplastics and marine litter, and to share this knowledge with those who come onboard. With anticipation when our pack arrived we ripped open the plastic package it came in, and like many (hopefully) we popped the plastic envelope in our recycle bin. We had assumed it was recyclable, it must be, surely?!

Our plastic envelope had a 5 PP symbol on it. It’s got recycling arrows on it so must be ok to recycle, surely?

And, this is where awareness kicks in. We had assumed a few arrows in a triangle shape had meant it was recyclable and our local council website suggested all plastics can be recycled, but an online search revealed a Grade 5 plastic made from Polypropylene (shown as PP on the envelope) might not be. But surely such a powerful programme about our oceans and the importance of protecting them in which David Attenborough warned that plastic pollution was one issue that was threatening our oceans wouldn’t get the Open University to send out information in a package that was at the heart of the problem?

A quick call to the Open University, who had despatched the information, gave us not quite the answer we were looking for. But they said: “It can’t be recycled in your kerbside collection but you will need to find a supermarket that recycles carrier bags and they should be able to take it”. But if the plastic packaging was in fact recyclable then why did a packet of muffins with exactly the same logo on it have “Currently not recyclable” stamped clearly on the packaging?

So does this mean there are different plastic composites within different plastic packaging so that even with the same symbol some can be recyclable and some can’t?!

 

So, we went and did a teeny weeny bit of market research and showed 16 volunteers our empty plastic envelope that our poster had come in, followed by the unrecyclable muffin pack and pointing out the same logo, followed by putting our Open University/Blue Planet Poster back into the plastic envelope and re-circulating it. Gosh, what a gasp there was. OK it was a small sample size but it was proving a point. The majority thought that the plastic envelope was unrecyclable, with a couple suggesting to check it out with the council as it might be. And, with most thinking it was unrecyclable there was the shock and questions asked as to why was a programme raising awareness of plastic issues providing us with information in an unrecyclable plastic envelope.

It’s an interesting conversation piece! With our local supermarket advising us that they don’t do carrier bag recycling anymore it now looks like the plastic envelope that our Blue Planet/Open University poster came in….is not going to be able to be recycled and the consensus is that it wasn’t recyclable in the first place. But even if it was recyclable with the information we’ve received it was probably going to be disposed of in the refuse with the risk of becoming marine litter/microplastics and contributing to the problem. Can’t all packaging be labelled in the same way to help the consumer, clearly like our Muffins pack?

Challenge Wales is now going to be helping to turn the tide on plastic through our educational and adult programme and having more conversations like this.

Our first step, yes – you can probably guess, is the one-use plastic water bottle. The Challenge Wales charity hasn’t purchased bottled water to go onboard the boat since it’s been operating. We carry our own water (yep that’s a whopping 1,760 litres of it on Challenge Wales and an almost equal amount on Adventure Wales) so we’ll be discouraging (as we progress to banning) everyone from coming onboard with a single use plastic water bottle and, with financial support, our aim is to be able to provide ALL our guests with a refillable water bottle.

This is the start of our own awareness as we bring the conversation of one use plastic and the impact of marine litter to the table.


As of writing this our plastic envelope is sat in the office on the desk as we really hope it is recyclable.

Challenge Wales sail training vessel has Blue Flag Status through Sail Training International. Blue Flag is a programme of the Foundation for Environmental Education and we play our part through our actions and education in protecting our marine environment.

 

 

 

We’re recruiting: Full Time Mate

As the Challenge Wales sail training charity expands we have a fantastic full time opportunity arising for someone who has the right sailing experience and wants to help young people develop their potential.

The Mate is a key role in supporting and assisting the Skipper in delivering the services of Challenge Wales. Most of the work Challenge Wales does is sail training; helping young people develop life skills through adventure sailing. Our voyages take us over the Welsh horizon to other parts of the UK as well as overseas. For the right person, this opportunity is perfect for adding onto your sailing or youth work CV. You will also be involved with the refit/maintenance programme and supervising volunteers during this activity.

This role has been created as the Challenge Wales charity is supported by the European Regional Development Fund through Welsh Government and through the Social Business Growth Fund, which is managed by WCVA (Wales Council of Voluntary Action).

Read more about the Mate role including job description and how to apply…

Closing Date: 3pm, Wednesday 24th January 2018

If you don’t have the experience to apply for the above role then there could still be an opportunity for you, why not become one of our volunteer crew?

 

 

Challenge Wales New Vessel

Charity expands activities with second vessel

We’re excited to announce that we’re expanding our activities following the Challenge Wales charity taking ownership of a second ocean-going vessel.

The 60ft two-masted schooner, currently named Ocean Venture, was built for adventure and over the years she has circumnavigated the world, won First in Class in the famous Round the Island Race, raced in numerous transatlantic activities (including the ARC) and taken part in the international Tall Ships Races. More recently she has been used in outreach work providing teamwork and leadership opportunities with disadvantaged people.

Picture of Ocean Venture courtesy of Ocean Venture
Picture courtesy of Ocean Venture website

The new vessel will enable the Challenge Wales charity (which currently runs Challenge Wales | Wales’ Tall Ship) to expand its sail training activities into North Wales and strengthen the charity’s current activities in West Wales, Ireland and other ports around the UK. As the boat is slightly smaller than the larger Challenge Wales yacht she will be able to explore new ports, marinas and anchorages which were not possible in Challenge Wales enabling more young people to access sail training opportunities.

Sail training is about learning life skills which can build confidence, teamwork and employability skills. During 2017 the charity introduced accredited learning through Agored Cymru which has helped increase the number of young people it currently works with.

The project has been supported by the European Regional Development Fund through Welsh Government and through the Social Business Growth Fund, which is managed by WCVA (Welsh Council of Voluntary Action).

The boat had been based in Cowes, Isle of Wight, and over four days, Challenge Wales volunteers sailed her up to her new port of Penarth, near Cardiff Bay, in time for the New Year. With 2018 being celebrated in Wales as The Year of the Sea, the Challenge Wales charity will be using both vessels to continue to play its part in inspiring and developing young people in what should be an epic year.

 

 

A big THANK YOU to our volunteers

It has been a busy year, as we look back, reflect, reminisce and smile at all the great moments we have had.

But, without our volunteers giving up so much of their time Challenge Wales just wouldn’t be the charity it is. So on Thursday 14th December, we brought many of our volunteers together at our festive Volunteers Evening in Penarth to say thank you and to celebrate our successes.

One of Challenge Wales’ Trustees presents an overview of 2017 to volunteers and guests

It isn’t just the volunteer crew that were thanked but also the shore-side volunteers that have helped within the office, or onboard with maintenance and painting. The evening took a brief look back at everything we had done and my goodness what a lot of amazing stuff we had done!

2017 saw us welcome more young people than ever onboard from North, West, South and Mid Wales. We worked with more young people with learning difficulties and continued to welcome new volunteers into the Challenge Wales fold.

We also used the evening to say thank you to our funders who help ensure we reach the young people that need to be reached.

We look forward to a just as amazing 2018!

If you are inspired to be a Challenge Wales volunteer, then don’t forget to check out our volunteer page on our website.

Challenge Wales returns home after her biggest adventure yet

At the beginning of June 2017 Challenge Wales | Wales’ Tall Ship epic journey started as she left Cardiff in windy conditions, she is now set to return to Cardiff on Friday 25th August.

So before she returns lets look at a few top line figures about what happened this summer….

  • Challenge Wales sailed almost 4,100 miles
  • Challenge Wales represented Wales and the UK in one of the largest youth and cultural events in Europe
  • She was away from Cardiff for almost 80 days
  • Challenge Wales visited 14 countries – including Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Lithuania, Estonia, and Poland
  • Wind conditions blew in from a very frustrating 0 knots to an exhilarating 42 knots
  • 35 different ports were visited
  • Challenge Wales welcomed 10 different nationalities onboard
  • She motored through 3 canals (in Scotland, Germany and Holland)
  • The entire journey had different young people onboard for each leg on voyages that ranged from 8 to 14 days
  • Challenge Wales’ amazing volunteers donated over 9,200 hours of their time to mentor the young people and help the young people sail the boat
  • Young people were onboard for every day of our journey
  • Most of the young people onboard had never sailed before
  • The entire crew ended up in prison for one night….OK, it was for a party and the prison was a ‘tourist attraction’.

The reason why Challenge Wales was away was that she was taking part in the 2017 Tall Ships Races series in the Baltic. An event that is based around young people….so what are the stats around this event you wonder;

  • No fewer than 105 vessels took part in the 2017 Tall Ships Races series
  • These vessels represented 20 countries
  • Collectively these vessels had over 7,000 crew which each vessel being crewed by young people under the age of 26 years (in fact the rules are of Tall Ships Racing 50% of the crew has to be 15 – 25 years)
  • The largest Tall Ship measured over 122 metres
  • On one vessel there were over 200 crew (trainees and professional crew), that definitely beats our full compliment of 18!
  • End to end the vessels stretched almost 2 miles
  • Well over 2.5 million people visited the Tall Ships event making it Europe’s largest free family festival. Worth noting each port hosted the event for 4/5 days.

The Tall Ships Races 2017 Director, Mike Bowles said “The Tall Ships Races provide a unique opportunity for young people to go to sea to learn about themselves and others while developing skills that will stay with for life – it’s a proven life-changing experience. Young people taking part in these races become wonderful ambassadors for their home countries at the same time as learning about other cultures from different nationalities taking part. It was a great pleasure to see the Welsh sail training vessel Challenge Wales representing Wales. Challenge Wales is not only helping to raise awareness of Wales on an international scale but the Challenge Wales charity are to be congratulated for their continued commitment to the young people of Wales whose lives they are so positively influencing.” 

 

Emily (aged 17) from Llantwit Major said “I absolutely loved being on Challenge Wales. Working with a group of strangers, who then became good friends, in an extraordinary environment to meet our goals was fun and a great team-building experience”.

“I learnt that it’s ok to leave the comfort of your family and try something new” said Tyrone (aged 17) from Cardiff.

In the Tall Ships Races 2017 Challenge Wales finished 5th in Class and 18th overall which was an amazing achievement for all those onboard.

Challenge Wales is due to return to Penarth around 6.00pm on Friday 25th August. She will be sailing up from Lundy Island against the tide, past Penarth seafront and the Pier before heading through Cardiff Barrage. She should be heading into Penarth Marina briefly before heading across Cardiff Bay and into the Cardiff Harbour Festival for the Bank Holiday Weekend.

Thank you to everyone who has been involved in our summer of adventure!

 

Farewell to the Baltic

After departing Cardiff on 9th June for our summer of adventure, this week was the week that we said goodbye to the last port in the Baltic that was hosting the Tall Ships Race series…..and oh my goodness, what a port that was.

Szczecin (Poland), became the sailing capital of Europe welcoming the Tall Ships fleet for the third time.  From small vessels like Challenge Wales (22 metres in length…and even smaller!) to traditional barques of over 100 metres the fleet arrived over a few days to the shores of the Oder.

Our racing from Klaipeda (Lithuania) to Szczecin had been quite quick enabling Challenge Wales to make its way from the back half of the fleet to the second boat in the fleet with the finish line in sight, although light winds then spread across the fleet which meant some of the larger vessels at the back of the fleet struggled to progress at a favourable pace. We were physically the second boat to cross the finish line and had our highest position yet taking 4th in Class (C). It was well earned by those onboard who had been working 3 hours on and 3 hours off.

As we motored into the City which is around 60km from the sea (!) (we were under instructions not to be too close to the vessel in front) the reason was that each vessel’s national anthem was played (note this was the UK national anthem rather than the Welsh one) which we weren’t expecting. We lowered our ensign and all of us stood on deck. It was a moment that felt quite special for everyone.

Once in port, the shore-side celebrations and events started which was an opportunity for all the crews to meet and share their experiences as well as making new friendships. Crews wearing branded tee shirts mixed with the formality of white sailor suits and trimmed hats.

The infamous international crew parade was a mass of colour, vibrancy, noise and music as we paraded almost 3 miles through the City streets to the Summer Theatre, Poland’s biggest amphitheatre. Representing Wales and the UK we were waved, photographed and cheered on by thousands of onlookers that in some places stood 10 people deep.

One of our trainees said about the crew parade “Walking around the City, waving at the crowds, it was like being famous”

Music and festivities were at the heart of Szczecin Tall Ships Races, spectacular fireworks lit up the sky, the boats glowed in the sparkle and thousands of people could be seen watching from the shore.

pic courtesy of Tall Ships Races Szczecin

Thousands partied at the concert, performers one evening were from ‘The Voice Poland’ while another evening Andrea Bocelli performed, all of which took place just opposite Challenge Wales.

Pic courtesy of Tall Ships Races Szczecin

We also had time to explore….this time underground, in the sprawling tunnel network beneath the city streets that were bomb shelters in the 1940’s. Bringing history to life and enabling visitors not to forget the past.

We saw spectacular sunrises and sunsets which always makes an early morning worthwhile and were amazed at the Szczecin hospitality. We were all made to feel welcome, nothing was too much trouble and if we needed any help or assistance people (in particular a big thank you goes to our lovely Liasion Officers Monica and Aga) couldn’t do enough for us.  We even had fresh bread arriving onboard every day which we all enjoyed eating.

Pic courtesy of Tall Ships Races Szczecin

Catherine who was onboard one of our voyages said “I would encourage anyone who was thinking about taking part in sail training as I believe it has provided me with really valuable skills that I will need in life; for example the ability to form an effective team of people who previously never knew each other.”

Photo of Tall Ships at Tall Ships Races 2017 in Szczcecin
Pic courtesy of Tall Ships Races Szczecin..and yes, that is people around the Tall Ships!

 

At 0645hrs (yes, it really was that early) on Tuesday 8th August we let go of our lines and waved goodbye to a City we truly hope to return to on our travels. One by one the Tall Ships fleet left, we were proudly flying our Welsh flag and as we departed the bellows of horns cut through the air as the larger vessels said goodbye to us.

So after taking part in 3 races, one of which had no wind, our final position was 5th in Class and 18th overall, a great performance as we were crewed by young people with most of them having no sailing experience….and of course that is just one part of what sail training is all about!

Our adventure continues and you can be part of it…


Challenge Wales heads from Szczecin to Amsterdam, then to Gosport before returning to Cardiff for the August Bank Holiday. If you missed out on this year’s activities then why not take part in 2018? Our schedule isn’t released as yet as we are still putting it together but you can sign up to our newsletter if you want to stay in touch. Volunteering opportunities are also available.

Fantastic Finland and Lively Lithuania

Our Tall Ships adventure from Halmstad (Sweden) to Kotka (Finland) seemed to ‘sail’ by (pardon the pun). Although at times it did feel like we were bobbing around (oh, actually we were….check out our video!).

But once in Kotka, it was time to see the spectacular Tall Ships in port, take part in inter-crew sports activities and of course the famous Crew Parade.

As we said goodbye to our trainees in Kokta, we welcomed 10 more trainees onboard for the next voyage, a Cruise in Company to Turku (Finland). A Cruise in Company is the more relaxed part of the Tall Ships Races series as it gives the opportunity to explore new places.

A few days later we arrived in Turku and what a welcome it was.

We were proudly representing Wales and the UK and plenty of people lined the streets to wave at us in the crew parade, mind you we were doing a lot of waving to them.

Sail Training International reported that over 540,000 people turned out to the 4 day Tall Ships event in Turku, a record number for the port that has hosted a Tall Ships event no fewer than five times.

Credit: Sail Training International. Tall Ships getting ready for the next race from Turku to Klaipeda.

Catherine, one of our trainees onboard said the experience taught her a lot about working as a team: “For me the most valuable lesson I learnt was teamwork and the ability to form a close-knit and effective team from a group of people who were previously strangers”.

After the Parade of Sail in Turku, it was a night in a  new port, before heading to the start line of Race 2 to Klaipeda (Lithuania).

For this race, the wind was stronger than anticipated which made for a quick race and like many of the boats Challenge Wales arrived into Klaipeda earlier than expected.

Challenge Wales was first of the Class C vessels to physically cross the finish line. Which was fantastic for the team onboard. Well Done everyone!! Our final result with handicap is 8th in Class C.

Although we were one of the first vessels in port, and had now already spent a day in Klaipeda, today we decided to go out and do a bit of sailing to say hello to the square riggers that were in nearby waters. It enabled those onboard to get a bit closer to the larger boats, we did a Challenge Wales Mexican wave and cheered as we went past….our way of saying a Welsh hello to our fellow competitors.

We are now nestled back in Klaipeda….shoreside music is pumping out, the boats are in port, the party is about to begin. And what is on the horizon….more inter-crew sports, crew parade, crew party, cultural tours, saying goodbye to new friends….This is what Tall Ships Races is all about!


There is still time to join Challenge Wales on a summer voyage. There are a few berths available on the voyage departing the Tall Ships Races in the Parade of Sail in Szczecin (Poland) on 7th August to Amsterdam. Check out our sailing schedule…

 

 

Our Tall Ships Adventure Under Sail Is Underway

Our summer of adventure has started, and for the uninitiated a Tall Ships adventure is like no other.

If you haven’t been involved in sail training before, you might think that we just ‘sail around’ and if that is what you think then you are definitely missing out on something. Sail training is adventurous outward bound on the water which provides a life-experience and social skills development on a variety of levels across all abilities. For Tall Ships racing you can add culture to the list!

Tall Ships Races encourage international friendship, competition and fun, teambuilding and passion about the country you are representing in the race. It’s a cultural and youth event like no other with races consisting of several hundred nautical miles and a ‘cruise in company’ allowing crew to explore new places. Over 50% of the crew participating must be under 26 years which often surprises people.

On 2nd July, our Tall Ships summer adventure truly started. We said goodbye to Danish, Scottish and English young people who had sailed across the North Sea to help deliver the boat and welcomed, Welsh, Polish, Swedish, English and Canadian young people for the next journey. We were already in the Tall Ships spirit having partnered up the day before with the German sail training vessel Esprit to take part in the Stand Up Paddleboarding competition….which we won!

The 3rd July, the Tall Ships fleet paraded out of Halmstad, Sweden. Choppy seas, westerly winds of up to 30 knots greeted Challenge Wales and the fleet and knowing that we didn’t need to cross the start line for another 30 hours (yes, the start line was 100 miles away) we took the opportunity to have another night in port and headed for Helsingborg.

We were spotted, sailing past Denmark’s most famous castle: Kronberg Castle, made famous as Esinore in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet.

The start of the first Tall Ships Race was a virtual start, and Challenge Wales (as a  Class C) boat was scheduled to cross through the start gate a couple of hours after the big square riggers had gone through. It was fun watching on Yellow Brick tracker at the start of the race, and must have been quite a sight to be actually there!

From the strong winds that greeted us at the start of the race, the wind slowly settled down and by 1530hrs (BST) today but at the other extreme had settled down to nothing, as the Skipper reported “We’re having curry tonight, we need the wind, we are currently sailing at a speed of 0 knots!”  The image below shows 0 knots of wind speed and 0 knots of boat speed (yikes!)!

So, with no wind and warm weather it was the perfect time to take an aerial shot of Challenge Wales sailing, in fact this is probably the first time we have had an aerial shot with an onboard camera while sailing.

So, as we go into the evening of 8th July there is less than 50 miles to go to the virtual finish line. Two boats have already crossed the line and with the current weather conditions Challenge Wales is expected to finish around 0450hrs (BST).

Safe passage as the sun sets on another day of adventure under sail.


Don’t forget for frequent updates on Challenge Wales visit www.twitter.com/challengewales
To track Challenge Wales during the summer while she is Tall Ships racing, visit www.challengewales.org and scroll to the bottom of the home page!

Challenge Wales Dragon on Scottish Canal

Neptune’s Staircase, a dragon in Loch Ness and big big ships!

It was a wet morning as Challenge Wales left Oban, Scotland, in a mere 3 knots of wind. Passage planning complete, Fort William was where we were heading for and we were on a strict timescale to get there ready to enter the Caledonian Canal at midday. The Caledonian Canal is 60 miles long and would take us across Scotland through some spectacular scenery. As the sun was trying to break through, the lock gates opened and we started our journey.

Challenge Wales entering Caledoninan CanalAs we tied up on arrival, we were welcomed by some friendly Scottish people who had been watching our journey on Marine Traffic (a vessel tracking system) and had been ‘spying’ on us as we arrived. Fear not, they came to the boat armed with doughnuts, and Scottish accents, which went down very well….in the rainy weather!

Eating doughnuts in the Caledonian Canal

Tea break over, the next part of our day was to climb up Neptune’s Staircase, an amazing engineering feat and the longest staircase lock in Britain lifting boats up 2 0metres. Prior to arriving in Scotland, we had seen some fantastic pictures of Neptune’s Staircase in the Scottish sunlight but the misty haze of rain didn’t quite make it as picturesque as we were hoping. But it was fun and lots of people came and said hello to us along the way.

Of the 60 miles that makes up the Caledonian Canal, 38 miles are along Loch Lochy (we thought this was quite an original name), Loch Oich and…..Loch Ness with the remaining 22 miles being canals. At the top of Neptune’s staircase we decided to call it a day, and moor up for the night…and the rain was just about stopping (yippee!).

Wakey, Wakey! Another day, another new adventure in the Caledonian Canal and although we could say it was a wet and murky start, we like to think it was misty, mystical and eerie! Well our dragon mascot thought that peering at the low drifting clouds.

Today, Challenge Wales would be at the highest altitude and highest latitude that she has ever been at, which was quite exciting (certainly to the person who was tweeting back at Challenge Wales Towers!….in the dry). It was a great view from this lock and now it was time to descend from Fort Augustus into…..Loch Ness.

We were very excited to enter Loch Ness. Loch Ness is the second largest Scottish Loch by surface area and the second deepest and apparently it contains more fresh water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined. With all the rain we were experiencing we weren’t surprised!  Was Nessie going to make an appearance? Think of the press coverage that could bring us! The rain seemed to lift but being a little bit behind schedule at this point we decided to motor through Loch Ness quite quickly. Thank you to a fellow sailor who sent us a picture (below) of us in Loch Ness. We are wondering though whether that black blur in the bottom right corner is actually our wake or is it Nessie about to make an appearance and we’ve missed a money-making opportunity!

We spent another night in the Caledonian Canal, and the following day started our journey down to the North Sea. We were still waiting for the Scottish sunshine to come out and were feeling optimistic about this.

In the distance was Kessock Bridge, a focus of the Inverness skyline, which at some point we would need to go under (cue double and triple checking our charts and calculations to ensure we get under the bridge at the right time!).

Interestingly why Challenge Wales was crossing through Scotland she was encountering significant rain showers (did we mention the rain?!), and at times quite torrential. Back at Challenge Wales’ home port, and in fact in most other parts of the UK there was a heatwave! The Met Office picture literally shows the rain tracking the boat through the Caledonian Canal! Those onboard weren’t too happy with this picture. Good job they didn’t see us tweeting about this at the time!

Our journey through the Caledonian Canal was at an end, and that night moored up in Inverness marina we enjoyed (at long last) a peak of the sun and a golden sunset….with the water glimmering and now enjoying the longest day of the year we kept our fingers crossed for sunny weather the following day!

In the morning, it was goodbye Inverness Marina and hello to Kessock Bridge. We knew the last part of our journey before heading out into the North Sea was to go under a bridge. Going under a bridge with a big mast is always nerve racking, even when you have checked and checked again the calculations. There isn’t much of a gap between the top of the mast and the bridge, and even when you know you can fit under the bridge, most of those onboard the boat decided now would be a good time to go below deck, make a cup of tea, and not watch!

Well, we couldn’t not include a picture of what it looked like going under the bridge. Goodness it looks a tight fit! We did joke about sending someone up the mast with a fender. And it looks like that was almost needed!

From Inverness our journey would be non-stop to Aberdeen, so working in 3 hours on and 3 hours off watches we sailed through the Moray Firth, famous for its dolphins…and yes we did see dolphins.

Thank you again to the person who captured us motor sailing through. By now we were having a bit of respite from the rain, and the clouds started to disappear. It was our last night at sea and what a sunset we were treated to.

It was chilly on the water, but we were all wrapped up warm (apart from those who were snuggled up in their bunks trying to have their three hours of sleep) and we were enjoying the sailing. Our journey then took us towards Fraserborough before we would tack towards Aberdeen. Before we knew it, the sunrise peaked over the horizon and the fresh morning rays bounced off our mainsail giving our ‘Autumn Harvest’ coloured mainsail a warm glowing tinge.

A mile offshore from Aberdeen the mainsail was lowered and an hour or so later it was ‘Ahoy’ Aberdeen Port. It was our first visit to Aberdeen and we were warmly welcomed. We were a bit of an unusual sight in a port with menacing looking ships dwarfing our now very tiny sail training vessel.

Luckily in this picture (above) we were tied up just in case you did think we were being followed very closely by a very big boat.

Challenge Wales in Aberdeen PortYou can only just make out Challenge Wales in the picture above, but can you guess who is moored up in front of her? Yes, its Gipsy Moth IV. For the uninitiated Gipsy Moth is a vessel that Sir Francis Chichester commissioned to sail, single-handedly, around the world in and departed Plymouth in 1966 on this venture. So, two round-the-world boats alongside each other. Interestingly the last time Challenge Wales and Gipsy Moth were together was at the Queen’s Jubilee Pageant on the Thames in London in 2012 when we were both tied up in St Katharine Docks as part of the Avenue of Sail.

So after a couple of days in Aberdeen and after new crew and young people had arrived, it was a big farewell to our Scottish friends and our next adventure was to start. Halmstad, the Welsh are coming to have fun and be part of the spectacular Tall Ships Races.   And, to get into the spirit of the Tall Ships Races we departed in style, cheering and doing a Mexican wave! See you in Sweden!

Challenge Wales departing Aberdeen

 

 

Travelling could make you more employable

Taking time out in between studying, or taking a break from work could be seen as a risk. How do you pay for travel? Am I going to miss a promotion at work? Will I get left behind as my friends and family carry on with their lives.

Well, according to new research conducted by Hostelworld who surveyed 1,000 people in eight different countries, taking time out (from a month to longer) to travel to gain some worldly experiences might actually make you more employable.

The results showed that over 80% of employers believed that travelling made you more employable. 38% of those surveyed felt travel boosts confidence, 37% believed it increased people skills, 35% said that travel helped them adapt to new situations well while 31% felt travel improved their communication skills. When looking at those who had travelled themselves, 62% said their travel experiences helped them understand what they wanted to do with their life, while almost 50% made connections while travelling who helped them get a foot in the door at companies.

Who knows what is over the horizon, but travelling suggests something better?!

We at Challenge Wales think this is very interesting, as we are into travel and skills development to improve employment prospects, we are also keen on adventure so we looked at one of our own case studies and did a little bit more digging!

It’s a competitive place on there, get your CV noticed
The Higher Education Statistics Agency shows 73% of students are graduating with a degree that is a 2:1 or higher….which means there is a lot of competition out there for jobs so your CV has to stand out. A life-experience like travel can do that.

Skills learnt are transferable into a variety of jobs
So, what skills can a life-experience like travel provide me with: Teamwork skills (if you are working with others), communication skills and confidence (visiting a new part of the world you might have to overcome language barriers, come out of your comfort zone, ask how to find a bus or talking to strangers?), adaptability (you are going to be out of your comfort zone, the unexpected might be happening, your routine might be changing – so you need to adapt), responsibility and independence (you’ve arrived at an airport, you are in charge of yourself: it’s you, your backpack, your passport and your travel money!). Read our case study ‘From unemployment and into work’.

Volunteering
Your travel adventure could tie in volunteering helping you to develop skills and experience in a specific field of interest. Challenge Wales offers this, so if you join us for a week or two one year, how about joining us for much longer the following year! Plus, this opportunity is available for those up to the age of 75!

Giving you a focus
One of our young trainees was coming to the end of her university degree and didn’t quite know what she wanted. to do Her adventure with Challenge Wales gave her that focus and drive to pursue a career she hadn’t thought of. Read our case study ‘From Wales to the other side of the world’.

Representing Wales and the UK
Challenge Wales is part of the international Tall Ships fleet, and those aged 16 – 25 years have the opportunity to represent Wales and the UK at these cultural events that form part of the Tall Ships races. All of the above applies to Tall Ships Racing: skills development, developing drive and focus, sense of competition, dealing with success, achievement but also reflecting on when things haven’t gone so well. Our voyages can be life-changing. And, with Challenge Wales being just one of over 100 vessels taking part, you can spend a whole summer jumping on and off different vessels or use the event to take you to new countries before continuing your travel on land.

Sometimes you can’t get to where you need to go until you find a different path
Quote – Unknown