I sat at the table, mum by my side, for third time in three years anxiously awaiting the guest speaker to pull out the last female candidate that would be awarded a berth on the Young Endeavour. Watching a familiar face from my home town addressing the crowd and talking about their experiences on the Young Endeavour. They spoke about the hours of sea sickness, their fear of heights, being woken up every four hours for their turn on watch duty, then more about their constant sea sickness. I distinctively remember one girl who after day two had to be flown back home due to her extensive and on going vomiting. The one thing that they all said was that they’d do it again in heart beat. The last name was pulled out. It wasn’t me. My father leaned across the table and whispered, “seems like you dodged a bullet, I wouldn’t want to go on a boat and throw up the whole time.” I was trying to hide my disappointment, told myself to pull it together and be happy for my class mates that got chosen. Despite this and all the vomiting, I was let down, I wanted to go, I wanted to be part of something amazing.I come from a small rural community that recognises the importance of educating the young community. Therefore, each year six people; 3 boys and 3 girls are randomly chosen to be awarded a sponsored voyage on the Young Endeavour. The positive impact on both the individuals and the community was constantly spoken about as ‘life changing’. Whether it drew people out that were quiet, developed independence and maturity or built team spirit. Each participant experienced their own beneficial change.
Simply over the heart break and rejection of not being selected, I knew the timing the following year would clash with my HSC exams. Living and working the next year in England, I had completely forgotten about the program. It was one day while travelling in France that a previous class mate shared on Facebook that the ballot was now open for 2016 voyages. Sleep deprived and missing home I took my shot sitting on the airport floor in France. I put in, again, for a berth on the Young Endeavour.
Months went past, I heard nothing, I came home, resettled and prepared for University. My theory was that if I couldn’t get at least 1 of the 3 female spots out of my small community, there was no chance of me getting a spot out of all of Australia. Then it happened, I checked my emails and rang my mum straight away, ‘I’m finally going on the Young Endeavour!’. Relaying to her all the information and logistics, telling her the dates and that I would have to fly from Sydney to Esperance. Then it hit me, the berth is next week, how am I going to manage that? After a family discussion that night, it seemed almost impossible to organise in such a short time.
Six days later I boarded my plane to Perth and turned to wave goodbye to my dad. During the whole flight I was looking around trying to figure out who else would accompany me on the voyage. My curiosity was fulfilled on my flight from Perth to Esperance meeting most of my boat. Arriving in Esperance, I wasn’t completely sure we were in the right spot. All I could see was desert, it wasn’t until we were greeted by the ships Captain Gav that reality really kicked in.
A buzz of excitement overtook me as I pulled the Young Endeavour T-shirt over my head. Today's the day. Walking the wharf to be escorted out to the boat seemed surreal, I was finally embarking on this journey I had taken so long to be a part of. The crew took us through all of protocol, safety precautions and boat setup. That first night I will always remember, I climbed the mast! Not only did I conquer one of my biggest fears but so did many others; connecting us as a group. That night we were all lucky enough to get a full night’s sleep, kindly being given the night off watch. Waking to the familiarity of catchy music and an overly chirpy Kenny yelling down the microphone that it was time to get up signalled the start of another day.
The sweet, sweet smell of bacon would fill the cabin of a morning but all I could think about was how much time I had to put on my harness and make it to deck without throwing up in-between. The next four days were a struggle. They didn’t over exaggerate the stories about throwing up. I would help pull sails in on deck and then quickly rush to the edge to feed the fish. I couldn’t go below deck without having to quickly rush back up to be sick. I couldn’t eat (even the crackers made me sick), I went two days without a shower, brushing my teeth or changing purely because of sea sickness. Everyone was miserable; exhausted and ill, our watch leader would confirm that we had one of the worst watches overnight. No one would say or do anything. I sat thinking why have I done this to myself, maybe my dad was right, will this ever stop?
Eventually it all subsides, I forgot about how miserable I was because I overcame it. Suddenly, without even noticing the boat jargon is second nature and I’ve actually learnt so much while struggling not to throw up. I have a supporting team around me, something that has not always been true. Out here, on the ocean, I am free.
Being elected as a watch officer, I was in command of our team. The day started smoothly, we ticked off things that we had to achieve and we were moving faster then expected as we had heavy winds pushing us in the right direction (Navigator Kyle actually extended our destination target as we were going to arrive too early). Despite having the wind on our side as it got later the fog started to set in just as everyone else was going to bed. Working well as a team and helping each other I was down to readjust a sail with our limited crew. Hearing navigator Kyle yell something I clamber back to the helm and my chest sunk. Fear and panic set in simultaneously and the next second I am yelling at the watch to take down a sail and put another one up as quickly as possible to avoid a huge navy ship coming straight at us.
I’m so relieved and thankful but at the same time tears were quickly rolling down my face. After all these years, I’m going to be the one that destroys the ship. We ran out of time to try and pass port side. Captain Gav is now on deck and steps in. Skilfully manipulating the boat to save us, whilst staying completely calm. His amazing abilities, support and reassurance showed the entire crew in this moment what the Young Endeavour was all about.
Constantly hearing ‘Going on a Voyage with the Young Endeavour was the best experience of my life’, I was finally able to fully understand and appreciate how true it is. Despite all the rejection and struggles I had both before and during my Voyage on the Young Endeavour it truly is an experience I will cherish forever.Lauren EcclesVoyage 2/16