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Monday, July 18, 2016


Cruise ships often call at Tahiti.  The local ship Paul Gauguin is a common sight at the Paquebot Quay in Papeete.  But on April 21 there was an unusual visitor -- STS Tenacious. Not only was this three-masted bark reminiscent of a much earlier era, but there were 29 disabled student sailors on board.

Tenacious is a British sail-training ship that was specially designed to accommodate men and women who suffer from some kind of disability. Some are blind, some are deaf, and others have more "invisible" conditions, such as diabetes or hemophilia.

Launched in the year 2000, Tenacious is the largest wooden sailing ship to come out of the United Kingdom in the last hundred years.  At over 200 feet long, she carries over three thousand square feet of canvas in her sails.

The Tenacious was built to help meet the huge demand for voyages that followed the success of Lord Nelson, the first ship ever built to enable physically disadvantaged people to take part in the romance of the sea.  Funded by the UK Lottery Foundation, plus private donations, she is owned by a registered charity, the Jubilee Sailing Trust. She is a hard-working ship -- more than 85% of her time is spent at sea, and to date she had carried 13,000 people, including 1400 who were confined to wheelchairs.

And how does a man or woman in a wheelchair help to set the sails? By being hoisted up the mast -- a highlight for many who have sailed with her.  Moving around the deck is easy, too, as aisles are wide, and lifts help get people from one level to another.  Important signs are in Braille, and directional arrows are engraved on handrails.

Before arriving at Papeete, the ship called at Costa Rica, the Marquesas Islands, Bora Bora and Moorea.  Right now, they are on the way to Australia, where the ship will be dry-docked for maintenance in Melbourne.

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