Trip of a lifetime for Kirkcaldy High pupils as they sail Tall Ship from Dunbar to Orkney

The group of eight pupils and two teachers sailed from Dunbar to Orkney on the Excelsior tall ship.  (Pic: submitted)The group of eight pupils and two teachers sailed from Dunbar to Orkney on the Excelsior tall ship.  (Pic: submitted)
The group of eight pupils and two teachers sailed from Dunbar to Orkney on the Excelsior tall ship. (Pic: submitted)
Eight young people from Kirkcaldy High School were given a unique experience as they helped sail one of the UK’s most historic vessels from Dunbar to Orkney.

Excelsior LT472 is a traditional Lowestoft fishing smack, built more than a century ago, which is now a sail training vessel offering adventures for all.

Built in 1921 by John Chambers and Co of Lowestoft to trawl the southern North Sea, she was sold to Norway during the Depression in the 1930s.

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After many adventures and owners, including a narrow escape after a bomb just missed her during the war, Excelsior made her way back home in 1988 as a sail training ship.

A final farewell following the trip.A final farewell following the trip.
A final farewell following the trip.

Last month, a group of KHS pupils and two staff from the school became trainee recruits on board.

Starting in Dunbar, they sailed up the East Coast of Scotland for eight days, stopping off in Peterhead to refuel and collect fresh water before heading on to Stronsay, Kirkwall and Stromness.

Jayne Preece, one of the two KHS staff members on the trip, said over the course of the journey she saw the students exhibit “amazing resilience and strength” through some very adverse weather and making “a real connection” with the crew on board.

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She said: "Isaac, our skipper, became a fantastic role model as he grew up in Whitehall on Stronsay and was introduced to small sailing boats when he was the same age as some of the young people, learning in the very same harbour that she sailed into.”

Some of the young people on board.Some of the young people on board.
Some of the young people on board.

Aaron Lowndes, one of the pupils on board, said he “couldn’t believe his luck because it was an opportunity of a lifetime” when he was gifted one of nine places on the trip.

He said: “On board that first Monday we all looked at a chart of our journey to Peterhead, and beyond and did some introductions. We hten split into groups, my group went below deck first and we got to look around. We looked inside the foc’sl, the heads and how to work them. Then on to the saloon, galley, chart room and engine room. There was also bunks. It felt very small for 16 bodies.

“Once we hoisted the sails I felt fairly dizzy, felt like my stomach was really unwell and I started to get a headache. It got worse over the next few hours – I would say like ten times worse and I got to the point where I couldn’t leave the deck.

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"I just wanted off and for the feeling to end. I would have literally done anything to get off at this point. However, I did not give up and I felt amazing knowing that I hadn’t given up, just knowing that I had the strength, courage and resilience to keep going is something that I will always remember.

Sampling some of the local ice cream in Stromness.Sampling some of the local ice cream in Stromness.
Sampling some of the local ice cream in Stromness.

“If times get tough in my future I am going to always remember that I am able both mentally and physically to keep going and know at the other end there will be huge rewards.”

The group’s trip and journey back from Stromness was funded through Trefoil, Brewin Dolphin Foundation, Barnardo’s and NorthLink Ferries.

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