Belfast Telegraph

Tall Ships: Life on the high seas looms for our rookie deck hands

By Joanne Sweeney

Eleven young novice sailors from Northern Ireland are to enjoy life on the ocean waves as deck hands on a majestic 190ft high tall ship.

For 10 days the students will have the opportunity to serve as junior hands on the Eendracht.

They are among 80 young people from all over Northern Ireland given a chance to sail in one of the 60 vessels making their way to Belfast for the Tall Ships Festival this week from Thursday to Sunday.

More than 500,000 people are expected to travel to the city to see the spectacle over the four days, while another 500,000 will gather along the banks of Belfast Lough on the final day to see them depart.

On shifts of four hours on and eight hours off, the new Eendracht sailors will take turns to make food, and clean for the entire crew. But they also get the privilege of taking the helm under the supervision of the senior crew and captain. For Dermot Wallace from Holywood, the chance to sail on the class A tall ship will mean stepping up to the big league on the sea.

The keen sailor from Holywood Yacht Club is also manning a rescue boat, in case anyone falls overboard while the ships are anchored in Belfast Harbour.

The 16-year-old RBAI student said: "We will be asked to cook and serve meals to the crew and clean up, but we will also get a chance to man the helm, which is really exciting to think about.

"I do love sailing and sail regularly, but this will be the biggest ship that I've ever been on."

Sophie McConn, also 16 and a student at Victoria College, Belfast, said that her parents, Manus and Jane, will shed a tear or two when she departs on the ship next Sunday as she's an only child.

"Yes, they will be there to wave me off and then it's off to sea for the next 10 days," said Sophie.

They will leave Belfast Harbour on Sunday in the Parade of Ships ahead of the start of the first stage of the race from Portrush to Aalesund in Norway.

The Dutch three-masted ship called into Belfast last week, giving most of the new recruits an opportunity to see for the first time the magnificent ship they will call home for a week and a half. It has now left to sail around the Scottish islands before returning again.

Another class A ship - the Morgenster from the Netherlands - is currently at Bangor Harbour, sailing in early to take part in the town's Maritime Festival at the weekend.

Also on board the Eendracht will be Co Down deck hands Caitlin Foley (17) from Ballynahinch; Liam Gallagher (17) from Downpatrick; Sacha Bell (17) from Killinchy; Rory Cummings (17) from Anahilt; Sacha Bell (27) and Darren Cushley (26) from Killinchy. And from Co Antrim the junior sailors in the ship will be Maddie Robinson (16) from Newtownabbey; Leona Donaghy (20) from Ballykelly, and Nicola Simpson (22).

50,000

The number of people who are expected to travel to Belfast to see the Tall Ships this week

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