Thursday, December 1st, 2016
Captain Moreland and I just got home to Lunenburg from the Sail Training International conference in Halmstad, Sweden.
This is an annual conference, held in various places around the world, for tall ship operators, owners, crew, host ports, and anyone else interested in sail training. We try to participate, representing Picton Castle, as often as possible. Halmstad will host the Tall Ships Races this coming summer so the conference was also hosted there, in the Tylosand Hotel, a pretty swanky hotel/resort with a huge modern art collection overlooking a beach on the Kattegat, an extension of the Skagerrak and the North Sea, that’s seven kilometres long.
To get there, we flew to Copenhagen. Since the Captain and I are both big fans of Copenhagen and we have shipmates and friends living there, we arranged to stay a day or so there to adjust to the time zone change and do some visiting before heading for Halmstad. I love all things festive and I have to say that the Danes have holiday spirit figured out, especially at this time of year. We strolled along the canal in Nyhavn, which used to be where all the sailors came ashore and is now a tourist area, and found all sorts of little booths selling warm drinks, snacks, gifts and souvenirs, all under the glow of Christmas lights and garlands.
The day before the conference officially began, we attended a meeting of the Ships Council. The Ships Council is made up of all ships that want to be members and we communicate, both in person and electronically, about issues of importance to sail training. Within the Ships Council there is a Tall Ships Forum (of which we’re a member) and the Small Ships Forum (for smaller sail training vessels). While there are some issues that affect all sail training ship operators, there are some that are more common to larger or smaller ships. All of Thursday was spent as a whole Ships Council, tall ships and small ships together, discussing things like learning from case studies of accidents and near misses, emergency response plans, and marketing to attract trainees.
One of the initiatives Sail Training International has undertaken recently is the website SailOnboard.com which is designed to help trainees with no sailing experience or prior knowledge of tall ships find out what the experience is all about, then help them choose a ship to sign aboard. If you’re in Canada, you may have already seen or heard TV or radio advertising sending people to this website. We’re excited about any initiative that helps to spread the word about what ships like ours do and gets people on board!
The conference itself began on Friday November 25 with an update on what Sail Training International has done in the past year and what is coming up in the next few years. After the one general session for everyone, there were a number of sessions offered at the same time so we were able to choose which to attend. We received more information about next summer’s Rendezvous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta, we met with a variety of ports that we could potentially visit in the future at a series of speed meetings (like speed dating), and we took in a number of other presentations and discussions throughout Friday and Saturday.
The last official business of the conference was to present awards to various individuals, ships and programs. A full list of winners is available here [https://www.sailonboard.com/blog/2016-annual-awards/]. We’re particularly proud of Captain Moreland’s old friend and shipmate Captain Jarle Flatebo who was awarded the Lifetime Achievement in Sail Training. Captain Flatebo was most recently the master of the Norwegian ship Statsraad Lehmkuhl, but the two met while they both worked on the Danish state training ship Danmark.
While we certainly learned from the sessions and workshops offered, perhaps the greatest value in attending a conference like this is the opportunity to meet and talk with people who do things similar to us. Each ship has its own unique operations and challenges, but there are certain common elements. By discussing what we each do, asking questions and talking about situations, we can learn from one another, share good ideas, share ideas that didn’t quite work out, and combine resources and knowledge. It was great to see old friends, catch up with them and what they’re working on now, and to meet new people and make new connections. We look forward to seeing many of these friends and colleagues again this summer as Picton Castle joins an international fleet of tall ships for the Rendezvous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta.