It’s not every day that you get to sail aboard a majestic Tall Ship. But that’s exactly what happened to a local councillor, who has described the experience as absolutely amazing.
Coun Steven Bridgett, from Rothbury, spent five days on Swedish vessel Vega Gamleby, as part of the North Sea Tall Ships Regatta; a 500-nautical-mile race from Blyth to Gothenburg last week.
And to add the icing on the cake to an already unforgettable trip, the 29-year-old and the rest of the crew steered the boat to victory in the Class B category, as well as being crowned the overall race winners.
Steven, who is Rothbury Parish Council chairman, as well as county councillor for the area, flew back from Gothenburg earlier this week, and he is buzzing about his adventures at sea.
He said: “It was absolutely fantastic, it was an amazing thing to do and it really was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Steven was one of the trainees aboard the ship and life on board was certainly far from quiet.
He shared a cabin with four other people, which he describes as being like a prison cell, and his duties included cleaning the ship and jibing (changing course by swinging the sail across a following wind).
“I was totally out of my comfort zone. When I first got on board I thought ‘am I doing the right thing?’” he admits.
The crew worked on shifts and he was part of a team which did the 12 until four stint, during the night and also in the afternoon.
In fact, Steven was on shift when the boat crossed the finishline. And the team celebrated in fine fashion.
He said: “It was 3am and we celebrated with a glass of Sprite and Queen’s We Are The Champions was blasting. It was magic.”
Victory was sweet, but Steven insists that experiencing life on a Tall Ship and meeting new people were the things that he really treasures.
He said: “I learnt so much about sailing and about different cultures because there were so many nationalities on board, with people from the likes of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Northern Ireland and the North East, of course.
“I learnt that in Sweden they have fika, where you eat and drink coffee every few hours. I can live with that!”
Steven also taught a thing or two to other nationalities – including how to make a good old-fashioned English cup of tea.
Steven joined the Vega Gamleby crew in Blyth, as the town hosted a group of magnificent Tall Ships during a four-day bank holiday spectacle.
All of the competing vessels left the harbour on Bank Holiday Monday and headed for Gothenburg, which subsequently put on its own celebration event.
Steven said: “The festivities in Gothenburg were good, but the general consensus was that Blyth was exceptional and it set a standard that will be very hard to beat.
“It showcased Northumberland, not just nationally, but internationally, and it was very good for the county’s economy.”
The Vega Gamleby was built in Viken, Sweden, in 1909. She was set to be broken up in Stockholm in 1985, but was saved at the last minute thanks to Egil Bergstrom’s desire to pass on Sweden’s cultural heritage to future generations.
A large-scale restoration project started and Vega, which is 39.25metres in length, made her second maiden voyage in 2008.