Recent British weather won’t have made anyone dream of a life at sea, climbing towering rigging and stepping along a yard-arm to reduce sail.
It’s fascinating, thrilling and genuinely amazing to read works like Eric Newby’s The Last Grain Race, about this method of transport, heavily relied upon by world trade for centuries up until World War 2.
Tall ships may have carried grain and wool rather than mobile phones and other high-tech, but the highly effective use of acres of canvas to capture wind for power, meant an incredibly active, skilled, arduous and dangerous life for crews…
…and much of that vital activity took place high above the deck, on spars swaying violently in the endless swollen waves of the Southern Ocean. It’s ironic that tall-ship sailing today is regarded as quite a privilege, when it used to be one of the toughest livelihoods anywhere.
One thing that’s certain is the necessity for a head for heights. With various highly technical tasks for every person aloft, it’s no time to be fumbling for a foot-hold. Harnesses are of course essential today, where once only a desire for self-preservation kept crew secure.
So it’s highly appropriate that Head4heights has been chosen as technical advisor on the Go Aloft climbing experience aboard Brunel’s famous ship at Bristol docks, the SS Great Britain. We’ll be providing full training and support for the event, starting in April this year.
The 170 year-old ship has a fascinating history, having spent forty years crossing the Atlantic, then half a century as a coal-hulk in the Falkland Islands, followed by more than thirty as a wreck, before she was refloated and brought home for another four decades of renovation. She’ll be an exciting, adventurous, inspiring day out…