If I looked down I would see the ship's deck far below me, if I looked behind me I would see the vast South Pacific stretching away to the horizon, if I peered to my left or my right I would see Australia's East Coast winding its way into the distance. But I do not see these things, because right now I am looking directly ahead, my eyes transfixed. Before me stand "Sydney Heads", the two Kilometre wide entrance to Sydney Harbour lodged between the imposing cliffs of North and South heads, the Sun is steadily descending into the West behind the city, and in its final moments it has bathed the world in a glorious orange glow, as if giving a parting gift to those it must now leave in darkness. But as the light of the sun fades to nothing, the light of the city steadily grows. And I see it all as if through the eyes of a bird gliding above the waves. I am perched precariously at the edge of the Topgallant yard 100 feet above the ship's deck and rolling seas bellow, clinging to the railings as the mast sways violently from side to side, secured only by my trusted harness. I am aboard the STS Young Endeavour, and this is the most awe inspiring and exhilarating experience of my life.
Before I applied to sail on Young Endeavour I had never travelled further than Melbourne, a mere few hours from home, I had never flown before and I had never seen the ocean before let alone sailed it. By the time I returned home I had completed an epic voyage of over 1000 nautical miles. I had flown twice, stayed at a backpacker's hostels and seen Sydney. I saw Dolphins and Wales, beautiful dusks and glorious dawns. I had experienced for the first time the wonder of travel and the beautiful vastness of our Earth.
I learned to sail a ship. I steered the helm, set and furled sails, climbed the mast, cooked in the galley and charted our course, enduring storms and seasickness. And I learnt to be part of a crew, a single piece in a cohesive team. We worked in unison to haul in and out sails, keep watch through long cold nights and to put brilliant food on our table three times every day.
Now nearly three years on and one trip to Europe later my voyage on Young Endeavour remains the greatest experience of my life. I made amazing friends from across the country, with my fellow youthies(youth crew) and the amazing staffies(staff crew). I was pushed out of my comfort zone, faced the challenges of crewing a ship 24/7 and living for over a week with 30 odd people in a space only as big as a medium sized house on a ship that was regularly swaying from one 45 degree angle to another (just getting around a moving ship like that is an extreme sport). And when I stepped off the ship in Sydney after a voyage of just over 1001 Nautical Miles I did so with a new sense of confidence in my abilities, dozens of new friends, an appreciation of the size and beauty of the world, and a longing for the open seas which stays with me to this day.
As we sailed through the heads into the harbour the sun sank below the horizon, the last rays of light glistening through the gaps in Sydney's skyline. But the world around me is illuminated by the lights of the city, which in the darkness of night become a dazzling beacon, a testament to the ingenuity of mankind. The ship comes to rest in the harbour and drops anchor just off shore at Taronga Zoo and I am finally brought back to reality as they call from the deck below for me to come down. I am startled by the realisation that I am the last person left up the mast. I shimmy back across the yardarm and clamber down to the deck to be greeted by the wafting smells of the BBQ dinner prepared in the galley bellow for our last night on Young Endeavour. I have made many memories, many friends and had many new and awesome experiences over the past 9 days. And though I will leave the Young Endeavour tomorrow, in all likelihood forever, I don't think the Young Endeavour will ever leave me.