Former journalist Dave Rushby is funding seven places for 16-17 year olds on the Pelican of London to help them build confidence and life skills. He is hoping other people will do the same

Pelican of London started life as an Arctic fishing trawler in 1948 before being converted to a coaster for trading.

But in 1993, the 148ft ship was impounded after the crew were arrested for trafficking vodka from Finland.

She languished for two years in Norway, with no clear future or direction, until she was bought by Retired Commander Graham Neilson for restoration.

The work was carried out in Portland, Dorset, and took almost 12 years, before she sailed again with the charity, Seas Your Future.

Children holding rope and coiling it on the deck of a large ship

The students will experience a full range of sail training skills. Credit: Seas Your Future

This August, seven 16 and 17-year-olds from Lipson Co-operative Academy in Plymouth, will be crewing on the Pelican of London; all of them face disadvantages – mental, educational or financial.

It has all been made possible by retired Financial Times journalist and sailor, Dave Rushby, who is privately sponsoring all of the students.

He witnessed first hand the difference to young lives a voyage on the Pelican of London could make.

‘Having seen a change that took place in somebody that we knew on the boat, who went on Pelican totally lacking confidence and stuttering, to coming off not stuttering and with some degree of confidence in himself,  I thought, perhaps I should put half a dozen kids onto this boat,’ he explained.

Children on a beach carrying out a plastic survey

The students will be taking part in citizen science programmes, like systematic plastic surveys on beaches. Credit: Seas Your Future

‘The children are being given an opportunity they would not otherwise have access to because of their educational or domestic backgrounds being limited in some way. It just struck me that if I could put kids on this boat, and one of them came off and moved forwards, then that would be brilliant.’

Students at Lipson Co-operative Academy had to write a short application about why they wanted to sail on the ship, and what they would gain from the experience ahead of being chosen for the 12-14 day voyage, which will leave from Dublin on 25 August 2022.

The plan is to sail towards the Hebrides, if weather allows.

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As well as working as a crew and learning transferable skill, such as time management, taking responsibility and being in control, the students will also be learning about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

The curriculum is being delivered by marine chemist Dr Charlotte Braungardt, who used to work as an associate professor for the University of Plymouth.

Dr Braungardt stresses that the Pelican of London won’t be a floating classroom, but an ‘immersive learning environment’, with the students taught practically and through discussion.

Crew up the rigging on a tall ship preparing to drop the sails

It is hoped the skills the students learn by crewing the Pelican of London will help them in their future lives. Credit: Seas Your Future

‘My idea is to use the environment we’re in to bring important global concepts closer to the children. For example, I will explore ocean chemistry with some experiments that test how far we can push down the pH of the water by adding carbon dioxide; this will them lead into the whole debate about climate change and how it is changing the ocean environment,’ she explained.

The students will also be taking part in citizen science through plastic and invasive species surveys on beaches, as well as cetacean watching. All their findings will be reported back to the relevant organisations.

Pelican of London has a crew – captain, first officer, second officer, bosun, bosun’s mate, engineer and engineer’s mate, as well as volunteers from all walks of life who act as watch leaders. Sea cadets, training for either deck officer or engineer, will also be onboard.

Two people on the deck of a ship looking through binoculars

The crew will also be carrying out cetacean surveys. Credit: Seas Your Future

It is hoped this exposure to a range of different career paths will help the seven students in their future development, providing a direction they might not even have thought about.

‘At the moment there is a 17-year-old girl onboard the Pelican and she has just helmed the boat out of the Floating Harbour in Bristol and down the Avon. OK, so she had a pilot on board, but she is helming this huge boat and has all of that responsibility. When you do things like that, you realise you can do an awful lot of other things that you never thought you could do,’ said Rushby.

A man wearing a white jumped looking down a microscope

STEM subjects will be taught during the voyage. Credit: Seas Your Future

Rushby is now hoping other people will consider privately sponsoring a berth on the Pelican of London for similar students.

‘I know I am privileged to be able to do this, but I would love to see other people stepping up to fund kids in this situation, to give them the chance to spend time on the Pelican, to get confidence in themselves and to understand that they can put one foot in front of the other and move forwards; they have an identity, they have a value. I will certainly be doing it next year too.’

Anyone interested can contact Dave Rushby at:

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