Young Endeavour is not an experience that is easily put into words. Only those who have sailed on her can truly understand. I cannot emphasise just how much of an impact sailing on Young Endeavour has had on my life, but I’m going to try. I want to share my experience so I can encourage others to take the leap and sail as well!

There’s something special about Young Endeavour’s ability to turn strangers into family, weaknesses into strengths, and self-doubt into confidence.  Young Endeavour provided a fresh canvas to figure out who I really was, without the hindrance of people having preconceived ideas of who I was. This was freeing and extremely empowering, and I instantly shined. All the youthies clicked immediately, and I instantly had friends. These friends wanted me for me! I had decided to go on board and not hide my crazy self. I went straight in for hugs, danced to every song that played, and asked the best ice breakers (within the first hour I asked “do you pee in the shower?” and everyone knew that I was an open book from then on.) This confidence was new to me. I had never felt like this before, there was no doubt in my mind that these new people in my life loved me for me, and I didn’t have to double check what I said or did. My openness made others come to me, and very quickly I become a person that others felt they were able to confide in, I was their new sister, and they were my family.

The staffies helped to foster these feeling of strength and confidence in everything we did. While we were all learning brand new skills on how to sail this incredible ship, they had confidence in us. They pushed us further then we thought we could be pushed; this was evident by our night time climb of the foremast on our very first night! They were patient with us, but made sure we grew and didn’t get stuck in a rut. Even during the first few days when everyone was sharing their dinners with the fishes, they made sure we found the strength to get up and continue to make the most out of every day. If you felt so unwell that you needed to sleep during watch, you did it on deck, and that was an experience in itself. Smiles were contagious on board Young Endeavour, and even if you woke up feeling sick or just off, it wouldn’t be long until you’d be dancing with smile from ear to ear. The people are the best part of the whole experience, which is a big statement because it’s hard to beat sailing through the Bass Strait with water washing over the deck, having dolphins follow you and seals stare up at you, jumping off the ship into the open sea and visiting remote beaches. The staffies showed us what we were capable of. Watch leaders became family as well and supported us in finding who we were. Every staff member lent me an ear when I needed to talk through my life and ultimately theirs to help me figure out who I was. Ultimately I realised that the sea was the place for me. The freeing feeling of the ocean, the chance to explore the whole world, and the bond between the crew was a life I wanted to lead. 

I was lucky enough to have an incredible watch leader; Keithy became like a uncle figure to me. He was there when I was down and was there when I was up as high as the masts! It’s incredible to know that just because Young Endeavour is over doesn’t mean the bonds formed are. I have made life-long friends who are now family, scattered across Australia. We’re there for each other every day, even though physically none of us are able to see each other.

When my voyage came to an end we disembarked into a different world. As we were sailing while the Covid-19 outbreak was underway. We were unaware as to how bad it was getting until the last few days when the staffies started to update us as to what was going on in the world beyond our little haven. Many of us were instantly impacted; I was one of them. Two days from the end of my voyage, Sailmaster Ivanka called me in to tell me that my dad wasn’t going to be there when I got off the ship, and that now instead of spending a few days in Melbourne with family and catching the train back home with him, I was now going to be flying home the afternoon that we disembarked. This was quite a shock for me, but the staffies ensured that I was okay and that I’d be able to get to the airport. They really care about every single youthie in their care, and that was evident throughout the voyage.

The life skills they taught us helped every single youthie go into the new world with a positive and resilient outlook on the world's unprecedented situation. Most of us immediately went into lockdown, which was a huge change to the freedom of being on the ocean surround by all of our friends. We stayed in contact and continue to stay in contact every day, continuously checking up on each other. We were taught that it’s up to us to see the positives in life. No one else can control how we feel except for us, and in every situation, good or bad, there is always going to be something to be happy about. This was really put to the test in the new world of Covid-19, but it was just what was needed.

Young Endeavour left me with three extremely important messages to remember:

1. Every situation has a positive and the only person who can make sure you see that is you!

2. You’re stronger then you think and can achieve anything you put your mind to

3. Just be you, then the people who come to you are the people who are meant to be in your life

Elysha McCauley