All hands on deck!

Scrubbing the decks of the Lord Nelson.

Scrubbing the decks of the Lord Nelson.

I recently had the opportunity to lend a hand. I joined a group of volunteers on board the Lord Nelson in the port of Cape Town where all hands on deck was literally the mantra of the day.

It all started when I received a number of press releases from Norton Rose that highlighted their involvement with the Jubilee Sailing Trust and, specifically, their connection to the tallship, the Lord Nelson.

Intrigued by the uniqueness of the vessel’s mandate to offer sailing opportunities to both able-bodied and disabled sailors alike, I jumped at the chance to experience the true ethos of the vessel first hand and soon found myself signing up for a day of hard labour.

Perhaps not making the best of first impressions, I arrived a little late only to find that my fellow volunteers were already hard at work and looking in control of things. Greeted by four fellow deckhands in red Norton Rose shirts, I soon discovered that the notion of working on a vessel in Cape Town’s harbour was appealing enough for the staff at Norton Rose to vie for the opportunity via an office competition

Tina Costas, Jeremy Brown and Jonathan Levine of Norton Rose were joined by Gavin Maggott from the QuadPara Association of South Africa (QASA) who, by the end of the day, had confirmed that maneuvering around the vessel in a wheelchair was more than feasible.

It’s clear from the moment you step on board that the vessel has been modified to accommodate wheelchairs and those with physical disabilities. Dedicated wheelchair lifts ensure that all crewmembers can access all areas of the boat and wheelchair tie downs are strategically placed to secure those that require it should the sailing get rough.

With provision made for blind, deaf and physically challenged crewmembers, it’s clear that being disabled on the Lord Nelson should not be a disadvantage.

But back to my day of labour.

Pairing up with Jeremy – we were put to work checking the life jackets and immersion suits on the port and starboard aft stations. With all lights and gear checked and accounted for, we were being ushered on to our next tasks by first mate, John West.

Down below I found Jonathan towing a vacuum cleaner and finishing off the main staircase with a dustpan and brush. I also encountered the doc, Steve Ogden, who was preparing the bunks to welcome new arrivals for the next sailing leg later that day so I stepped in to help him.

Somehow, however, I found myself sometime later in latex gloves, toilet brush in hand, cleaning the small bathrooms on the starboard side. These too have been modified to accommodate disabled crewmembers.

After a break for lunch enjoyed on the deck in the sun, I teamed up with Tina (who had been hard at work polishing the brass with Jeremy and Gavin) and Jonathan to scrub the decks. Armed with hoses, hard brooms, buckets and some soap powder – the hours soon clocked up as curious passersby stopped on the quayside to watch our progress.

Wet and tired, we proudly surveyed our handiwork before catching up with Gavin and Jeremy. Despite the sheer volume of deck that we had scrubbed and the time it had taken – it seems we somehow got off lightly as the other two had spent the afternoon cleaning fans and other equipment below deck!

It was a group effort and the Lord Nelson was ready to receive her guests for a scheduled cocktail party that night. But it took a diverse group of volunteers willing to flex their muscles, get dirty, surrender their time and put a common goal ahead of their own for a day.

We need to find more time for days like this and we need to make the effort to ensure that our industry provides access to all.

Take a look at our Facebook All Hands on Deck gallery for photos from the day! <click here>


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