Etty Bay teen Gabrielle Hall wasted no time signing up for a voyage of a lifetime on STS Young Endeavour, sailing from the southern NSW port of Eden on her 16th birthday, making her only just eligible to sail.

After hearing about the Young Endeavour program from her older sister Lucy had sailed four years earlier, Gabby knew it was something she just had to do.

“When I heard about it from Lucy I knew I’d love it! I love the boats and the ocean,” Gabby said.

During the voyage, Gabby and 18 other young Australians aged 16 -23 learnt the skills required to sail a square-rigged tall ship; including how to navigate, keep watch, cook in the galley, take the helm and climb the 30 metre mast to work aloft, setting and furling sails.   Working in close quarters, they had the rare opportunity to meet friends from all over the country.

“It’s been amazing meeting so many new friends.  Everyone has become so close it’s like we’re a family now.”

The ship often reaches parts of Australia that are not accessible to the general public and the youth crew have the opportunity to see and experience unique places.

“We were on our watch doing the 4am – 8am shift and sitting at the top of the mast when we saw luminescent plankton in the water. All these waves were crashing against the boat and then all of a sudden these dolphins came to the surface and they were glowing in the water. It was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen!” Gabby said.

While undertaking the youth development program, youth are encouraged to pursue personal and team goals and challenges in an unfamiliar environment. For Gabby, the hardest part was getting used to the sleeping patterns, as the youth crew take it in turns to ‘keep watch’ during varying hours of the day. But Gabby overcame this challenge and at the conclusion of the voyage was awarded the Captain’s Award of Excellence in recognition of her achievements during the voyage.

Since 1988 the Young Endeavour Youth Scheme, in partnership with the Royal Australian Navy, has provided challenging and inspirational training voyages for over 13,100 young Australians in Young Endeavour, and day sails for a further 11,000 guests from organisations supporting young Australians with special needs.

Youths aged 16 – 23 years old can apply for a chance to set sail on the voyage of a lifetime at www.youngendeavour.gov.au