The beautiful tall ship herself was yet to appear in front of me, would she though? Only luck and faith knew the answer to that. Although I could see myself on the ship, with the wind in my hair, watching the waves splash the decks of the ship from up above I had to wait, even though it felt like a lifetime to find out if she would ever appear before my eyes.  It all started in the month of October, being stopped in the middle of the street asking if I would accept a nomination from the Upper Hunter Shire Council to board a world recognised tall ship, also known as Young Endeavour. Of course I immediately accepted the nomination without any hesitation, and was later asked to attend a ceremony dinner to meet with all the nominees and have our names placed into a bucket, to make it a fair berth draw. Only three ladies and three gentlemen received a scholarship berth to board the Young Endeavour, the drawing of the berths had begun. The first female berth as drawn, then the second, not a sound to be heard of my name. The final female berth was about to be drawn, the gentlemen reached his hand into the bucket, my fingers and toes crossed, my heart rate elevated. The piece of paper was drawn, I immediately knew it was me, I had folded my piece of paper a precise way to recognize it! PAIGE HAYDON will be the final definite female berth. I still couldn’t believe it. The beautiful tall ship would appear in front of my own eyes. The next four months were a panic but also let the exciting, but yet scary reality set in that we would be embarking on such a journey. Before we knew it, the time had come.

It was finally here! The day to set sail. As I waved to the onlookers on the shore, a feeling of nerves began to set it. The journey on the high seas was about to begin. Little did I know that this was a journey that would forever change my life in a positive way. The next 11 days of my life were by far the best, scariest and challenging days of my life. I had no idea just how much could change in a short period of 11 days. I am lost with words to be able to explain just how appreciative I am of being able to take part of a world recognised tall ship to learn how to sail and push myself. Each day was different, learning a new skill and learning to work as a team with complete strangers, that would soon become lifelong friends and family. We were placed in our watches and worked together as a team for those 11 days. The night watches began around 8pm at night and ending the following morning around 7:30am. Each watch lasted four hours, which flew by, what is it they say? Time flies when you’re having fun. Four hours to watch, learn and do.  

You soon find out your strengths and weaknesses. I found out what I was capable of and how strong I can be physically and mentally when needed. This was no more evident than the day I had to climb the mast. It loomed in front of me. How in the world would I ever make it to the top? My hands were shaking as I readied myself to climb, giving myself words of encouragement, as well as support from the staff and youth crew. This was it. I began to climb, one foot after the other, one hand in front of the other. The feeling when I reached the top was euphoric. I closed my eyes and took it all in. looking down 34 metres, looking at the steady waves overlap the ships body, the view was magnificent, so much beauty and peace. I felt a feeling of success, to reach the top yard was a goal of mine, it made me think just how many more goals I could concur during those 11 days, when I had already started succeeding them, in just the second day of the voyage. I knew that I had made the right decision. This was what I could see myself doing over and over again.

To this day, I am still lost with words to describe my experience. All it took was 11 days. 11 days to push me out of my comfort zone. 11 days to make the most incredibly supportive friends and 11 days to learn as much as I did. There isn't a day that I regret on the ship. Each day I pushed myself out of my comfort zone giving 110%. Even those days when you felt tired, and didn’t feel if you would be able to go on, the team was always there to support you. They would encourage you. It felt like a warm comforting hug. This experience brought us all together. I know that I will always be able to reach out to the friends I made on the ship. Going through a similar experience has bonded us in a way no one else could understand.

It was day 8 before we knew it, the ship had become a part of us.  Day 8, the day we got to take control. The day the staff got to step back and assess how well they had taught us. We could put everything into perspective. The opportunity that allows all youth crew to see how far they've come and how much they have learnt had finally come. Mixed emotions were soaring through the atmosphere of the tall ship. Our journey was almost over. No one wanted it to be the case.

By the end of the eleventh day, none of us wanted to leave. It had gone too fast. One minute we were standing on deck waving goodbye to our family and loved ones, and before we knew it, we were all waving hello to them again from the yards of the mast.

Occasionally, the tall ship itself also takes part in world voyages, taking 12 months to travel the world, what an amazing experience that would be.  You wouldn’t turn down that opportunity, even if it meant leaving everything behind. The expereince would be invaluable. There isnt a day that goes by that I don’t reflect on, or remember the 11 day journey. I still miss the tall ship, the way the waves lapped at the boat, the wind in everyone’s sea hair and the smiles on everyone's faces as we flew with the wind and the ship glided peacefully through the waves with dolphins by its side.

Will you promise me one thing? If you ever get the chance to take part of this amazing opportunity, grab on with both hands and don’t let go.  I would personally like to thank each and every staff member on board the Young Endeavour and the ship itself, you have taught me so much about myself, and life in general.  Never take life for granted.

Paige Haydon.

Paige Haydon