02 October 2008

A Day on the T/S Gunilla

Today has been a very positive and uplifting day for me. The weather was fine, with a clear blue sky and sunshine well into the afternoon, which is not that common here in October. But it was a welcome compensation for the long and grey weeks of rain and storm we had during this year's 'summer'.

However, the good weather was only the backdrop for this positive day. I have just returned home from Cork, where I spent most of the day on board the Swedish sail training ship Gunilla, which arrived in Cork on Monday and will sail on to Spain on Sunday. Later, after a change of the trainee crew, the beautiful three-masted bark will sail across the Atlantic Ocean, heading for the northern coast of South America.

With 49 metres length the T/S Gunilla is Sweden's largest sail training vessel and a truly fine example of great ship design, initiative and proper seamanship. (for details of the vessel and its history, please see my entry from September 25th)

Like all other sail training ships, T/S Gunilla teaches young people to sail, to work in teams and to take responsibility for each other and for their vessel. But in contrast to other tall ships, this is not all the trainees learn. The Gunilla is home to a unique Swedish education model, which can best be translated as the 'sailing high school'. Besides all the sailing skills and comradeship at sea the students have also normal classes as they would have in any other school on land.

Having seen myself today how it works, and encountered 33 kind and enthusiastic students on board (among them many young women), I am impressed by the concept and convinced that it should be adopted by other training ships and vessels as well.
I also spent good time with the Master, his officers and teachers, and thus gained a good insight into the operation of the seagoing college.
What I found was a combination of professionalism and high quality, combined with a very humane and friendly attitude. All over the barque one meets people with bright eyes, great smiles and a relaxed but nevertheless orderly attitude.

Over the past 33 years I have been in many seagoing vessels, and among them a good number of tall ships. So I think that I have some experience and understanding of the matter and have to say that I rarely experienced such a happy ship - happy in every way - as the T/S Gunilla.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Captain Frederik Göthberg and Chief Officer Knut Svanholm for their kind invitation and hospitality, and the other officers, crew members and trainees for their great openness, interest and friendly reception. They all have given me a good insight into the great work they do, and it truly made my day.

May the Gunilla and all that sail in her always have a save voyage with good wind, high spirits and educational as well as maritime success. And on a personal note I hope that one day we will be honoured to welcome her also to the port of Waterford.

The Emerald Islander

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