16-year old Ronnie Critchley from Charters Towers recently sailed on an 11-day adventure aboard Australia’s national sail training ship, STS Young Endeavour.

Ronnie, who is College Captain of Blackheath and Thornburgh College, heard about the youth development program from her mum and applied for a community scholarship offered by Charters Towers Regional Council.

“I’m so grateful to Charters Towers Regional Council for giving me this opportunity. Without it I doubt I would have pushed myself to take the opportunity,” Ronnie said.

“I wasn’t sure at first if it was something I could do, if it was something that I was capable of, but I decided to go for it and commit to the experience.”

Ronnie joined 23 other young Australians from around the country in Brisbane on 7 July and set sail on a voyage to Mackay, sailing a distance of 600 nautical miles.

“I was super nervous when I went aboard.  Everything was a completely new experience, but I was ready to take the challenge,” Ronnie said.

“One of the first things we had to do was climb the main mast.  I’ve never been more scared in my life.”

“The staff crew were so amazing and supportive.  Sumo my watch leader went up with me and talked me through it.  I don’t think I could have done it without him.  When I got down I felt like I’d really achieved something,” Ronnie said.

“Right from start you are encouraged to push and challenge yourself and you start to realise how much you’re capable of. If you tell yourself you can do it, you can do it!”

During the voyage the youth crew are taught all 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.

Near the end of each voyage, youth crew elect a command team who take responsibility for Young Endeavour for 24 hours.
 
“It’s hard to pick my favourite thing about the voyage – it was all so amazing.  We visited beautiful islands, saw whales and sea turtles.”
 
“While the voyage is mentally and physically draining at times, there was nothing we were presented with that we couldn’t overcome.    Everyone was in the same boat, we learnt to rely on each other and in turn had the responsibility that other were relying on us.  By the end we were one big family and no one wanted to leave,” Ronnie said.
 
During a Young Endeavour voyage, participants disconnect from social media and learn communication, teamwork and leadership skills.  They are also encouraged to explore personal and team goals and as a result they become more self-aware and develop selfconfidence and resilience.

“While I was challenged on Young Endeavour I was never forced to do anything where I wasn’t fully supported by the fantastic crew and my fellow youthies.  I was challenged to prove to myself that I am capable of so much more than I give myself credit for,” Ronnie said.

 “Everyone on my voyage grew as individuals in the team environment.  We’re so much better because of it. I’ve learnt that I can do anything I put my mind to.”

“Being on Young Endeavour has been one of the most amazing and rewarding things I’ve done.  It’s so much more than just 11 days of sailing.  Yes you sail, but you meet new and fantastic people and develop a new outlook on life.  You learn to appreciate small things.  Everyone on my voyage will cherish the friendships we’ve made and will have that experience to look back on for the rest of our lives,” Ronnie said.
 
Voyages on Young Endeavour are open to all young Australians aged 16 – 23 years of age.  Applications and more information are available at www.youngendeavour.gov.au