Pam is going to perform an aerobatic challenge for the Jubilee Sailing Trust, a charity that champions mixed ability (disabled and non-disabled) tall ship crewing at sea.
In 1985, I took a Jubilee Sailing Trust voyage on STS Soren Larsen. I was a timid person, awkward with cerebral palsy, and when I returned to my dull office job, I must have bored the pants off my colleagues with my recounting of a holiday that had filled me with high achievement, confidence and laughter. Dangling from the bow sprit, doing the ‘graveyard’ watch of the night, cleaning the brasses, taking a turn at the helm, the magic of esprit de corps, were things to be savoured and relished for a lonely 32 year old whose life consisted of just work, home and housework.
But the holiday was a turning point and had given me something precious, CONFIDENCE. It had also given me a friend for life. Jan, a music teacher from Wivenhoe, Essex, where the Lord Nelson (the JST’s flag ship) was being built, had been my buddy for the voyage (buddies were working partners that the permanent crew assigned to you at the start of the voyage). Now, I was travelling to Wivenhoe regularly to visit her from my home in Redhill, Surrey. Eventually, I found I had more friends in Wivenhoe than in Redhill.
My tedious job was getting me down; I had to do something! So, I quit the job, sold my flat and moved to Wivenhoe to start afresh as a mature student. That voyage in August ’85 had instilled in me a sense that I could do anything, if I tried. Even to the point of changing the direction of my life.
Since then I’ve hit many a choppy water. I am 65 now, weaker and frailer than I was back then. I have fractured my neck and I now walk with a walker. But I haven’t given up on new challenges. Last year, I took up flying! On doctor’s orders I can only take the controls at cruising level only, but that was good enough for me! I have a pilot’s log book with 10 hours recorded on it. The Cessna aircraft has dual controls so, with an instructor on board, it’s perfectly safe for someone with L plates on to fly.
So when the JST issued their challenge to branch members to raise some much needed funds for their two ships in this their 40th year celebration, I jumped at the chance to say a big flying THANK YOU to the JST. So, when the Lord Nelson voyages near the North Essex coastline during the Southampton to Sunderland week starting 7th July, I am aiming to do a sponsored victory roll in the skies over her, weather permitting, of course. Having just obtained the clearance from my flying doctor to do gentle aerobatics, and with the consent of the Clacton Aero Club, I feel confident I can do this challenge – alongside my instructor pilot of course!