It was a true voyage of discovery, for Discovery College student Cherry, who recently got the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to join the crew of a tall ship on an ocean science expedition across the South West.
Cherry Welch, 19, is a Discovery College student studying Level 3 Health and Social Care and she was given the chance to set sail aboard the 75-year-old tall ship, the ‘Pelican of London’ this September, for what was an unforgettable experience. Cherry joined another Discovery student, Alfie, on the adventure, which was made possible through the ‘Discovery College’ x ‘Seas Your Future’ collaboration.
Before setting sail from Plymouth, Cherry said she felt a mix of excitement and trepidation. With no sailing experience, the enormity of the challenge set in when she first saw the huge ship in person before boarding it on the Barbican. When on board, she said the task ahead seemed even more daunting when she found out that she’d not only partake in the ship’s crew duties and scientific tasks – as she was expecting – but she was asked to further play an important role as a mentor to the younger crew members, which included assisting in coordinating tasks and activities.
But after settling into the ship, meeting the other young people aboard and the senior crew, Cherry said she felt ready to get stuck into the incredible 10-day experience.
The ship traversed the scenic Cornish coast to Falmouth, as well as along the Devonshire coast to Dartmouth – although it was far from a leisurely cruise! The power of the sea showed itself in full force as storm Agnes began to barrel into the UK, with the stormy conditions forcing them to seek shelter for a short time.
The journey tested and honed Cherry’s resilience, confidence, and teamwork skills. Aside from learning how to keep the vessel in ship-shape condition, challenges like facing her fear of heights by climbing out the rigging, as well as testing her endurance while staying awake for late-night Harbour Watch shifts at 4am, became accomplishments she hadn’t envisaged.
But much more than swabbing the decks and learning how to steer a tall ship, the voyage had a real purpose behind it, with Cherry and the crew taking part in meaningful ocean science tasks. This included gauging pollution levels in the sea and understanding its effects on marine ecosystems. They even spent time with scientists at the National Marine Aquarium, who turned what seemed like a boring study of seagrass into something that, to Cherry’s surprise, was “actually really interesting!”
(National Marine Aquarium Science Lab)
But it wasn’t all work; there were magical moments too. Cherry recalls the surreal and rare sight of dolphins gliding through bioluminescent algae, illuminating their path as they leapt through the glowing waves – something she said was “amazing and we all watched without even thinking about taking our phones out to record it! Cherry said that learning to enjoy moments like that without having to use your phone was also another takeaway from the experience. Even seeing the night sky like never before was an eye-opening experience, realising how stunning the stars are when they’re not obscured by city light pollution.
Beyond the fun tasks and stunning views, it was the team spirit created aboard that stood out for Cherry. “We became a like family and although people were from different ages and backgrounds we got along and supported each other” said Cherry. From mentoring the younger ones to lots of laughs in the challenges and activities, the togetherness of everyone made it special. Even if “It did take a while for the boys to learn how to tidy up properly!” according to Cherry.
Summing up her voyage, Cherry shared that she will take many lessons and skills she developed into her future career goal as a Paediatric Nurse, which she’s working towards with her Level 3 Health & Social Care course at Discovery College.
“I feel the personal development was huge, it changed my outlook on things and helped me develop my confidence, communication and teamwork abilities. They’re all skills that I’ll take with me into my life and career journey that lies ahead.”