If you’ve ever wanted to try something that challenges you, boosts your confidence, improves your skills as a leader, allows you to meet like-minded people from varying backgrounds who later become lifelong friends, all whilst having the time of your life. Then a voyage on the STS Young Endeavour is exactly what you’re looking for.

I was lucky to have sailed on the STS Young Endeavour from Newcastle to Brisbane in May 2019, as part of my Duke of Edinburgh Gold award. The voyage was full of amazing experiences from the very first day. Dolphins started following our ship just as we came out of the harbour. When night fell the Milky Way and the stars came out clearer than I had ever seen before. I got to climb up to the highest mast and look far across the turquoise waters of Nelson Bay.

Oh, and you’ll probably be seasick - but only for the first few days - no promises though.

As a team, I and the other youth crew members braced for the task of commanding the ship on our own for 24 hours. We learnt to apply everything we learnt aboard- setting and furling sails, navigating, working efficiently under pressure as a team. These experiences changed all of us. It fortified us from any self-doubt that we may have previously had and allowed us to grow as individuals. We proved to ourselves that we are capable of so much more than we initially thought.

We had so much fun with our activities. Playing deck games and even exploring a shipwreck to name just a few.  We entertained ourselves at the café and shared many great memories and jokes over, often multiple, cups of cold milo.

Every day of the voyage was great, but one of the most memorable experiences during the voyage had to have been taking children and their families from Brisbane Hospital down the Brisbane River and giving them a tour of the ship. In pairs, we showed them around.

I remember asking one of the children, “So what would you like to do when you grow up?”

His response, with a smile, “I want to sail here,” he ran off shortly after to join his brother to check out the nav room.

His mum went on to fondly tell me and my partner that he’s counting down the days until he turns 16 so he can apply. 

I remember looking over at my partner and seeing that she’d also been moved to hear many of them express their aspirations and dreams to us. Seeing the way we could help bring hope and make a difference in people’s lives, made me wonder what else I could do to continue doing so when the voyage was over. My partner, a cancer researcher, later went onto pursue a project combining her interest in design, art and tech, to explore how design can be used in a medical setting to improve people’s lives.

Now more than a year later our crew is still very close, and after getting to know most of them over this time I realised that their experience on the Young Endeavour changed them and I saw them go onto improve their lives for the better and feel empowered to contribute to society in many positive ways.

One of our shipmates, went onto join the Navy, another progressed as an Air Force cadet, and one even went to Asia to work in human trafficking prevention!

As for me, the voyage couldn’t have come at a better time, I wasn’t in a particularly good place when I applied, I struggled to stay motivated and concentrate on my ambitions and easily became stressed. My experiences aboard the Young Endeavour and the many things I’ve learnt from my crewmates since then, have changed me for the better. I took the culture of leadership and comradery to calmly and effectively handle any task handed to me, at work and at university. The discipline I learnt allowed me to go onto excel academically and improve my overall health and fitness. They also played a large part in motivating me to apply for the Black Dog Institute, as a volunteer research assistant for their Future Proofing Project where I’ll contribute to research that will help prevent and treat mental illness among young people.


These experiences still continue to have a compounding effect on my life.

I’m sure it’s the same for anyone else who has sailed on the STS Young Endeavour.






Jithmal Ranasinghe