Byline: Natalie Staples

22 year old Kieren McGrath wasn’t sure what to expect when he stepped aboard tall ship STS Young Endeavour, but the recipient of a NSW RFS 2019 Young Leader Scholarship knew he wanted to get everything he could from the experience.

Kieren who lives in Uralla and is from the Kentucky Brigade and Tamworth State Mitigation team joined 26 other young Australians for the 11 day voyage from Sydney.

“I didn’t know what to expect or how good it would be, but I threw my hat into the ring and got it,” Kieren said.

As one of the youth crew or ‘youthies’, Kieren was challenged to meet all the challenges of sailing square rigged tall ship.  This included climbing the 30 metre mast to set and furl sails, facing potential sea sickness and a 24-hour watch routine.

“Climbing the foremast, that was an interesting experience.  I was really keen to get up there, but once I was out on the yards I developed a fear of it, still I pushed myself to go up there and do it every time,” Kieren said.

Specially trained Royal Australian Navy personnel delivered the program and taught Kieren how to navigate, keep watch, cook in the galley and take the helm. Towards the end of the voyage the youth crew elected a command team who took responsibility for sailing Young Endeavour for 24 hours.

“I was elected Blue Watch leader on Command Day.  I’ve done a few courses with the RFS in crew leading so I had a general idea of what to do, however leading a bunch of people who have only just met, I  didn’t really know how that would go.”

“By the end of the voyage Blue watch was a really tight knit team and basically like a family, so it became easier to learn everyone’s strength and weaknesses,” Kieren said.

As one of the older youth crew on the voyage, Kieren said he was surprised by how much he enjoyed interacting with younger crew members.

“I definitely enjoyed it way more than I thought I would. I’ve come out with some really great friendships and life-long skills.”

“I actually didn’t think I’d find myself having fun with a bunch of people way younger than me. If you met them in the street you wouldn’t think twice or anything.  But I’ve had the best time of my life on here mingling with these guys and getting to know them,” Kieren said.

Each year Young Endeavour conducts up to 20 voyages along the east and south coasts of Australia between Cairns, Adelaide and Hobart. Young Australians aged 16 to 23 years are able to apply for a berth via a ballot at www.youngendeavour.gov.au.