In August 2013 we set sail from Stromness on our second Sea Change expedition, aboard Lerwick community boat The Swan, with a crew of 27 artists, scientists and informers. More ›

The Crew

The expedition crew of 27 includes a wide range of scientific and creative folk.
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A leave before

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The Swan goes for a short sail with Crew Two.

“Gorm you should come on the Expedition!”  Those were Cape Farewell Director, David Buckland’s words to me as I shot photographs of Michèle Noach’s The Flower At The Top Of The World event at the Science Museum’s Dana Centre.  That was back in mid May.This was a once in a life time opportunity to go visit places that you would not be able to get to by any other means, (and thus less documented), and to join a unique, creative and inquisitive crew aboard The Swan, a converted Herring fishing sailing boat.

I said YES on the spot.

Having worked with Cape Farewell for many years though design collective Bullet Creative, I have got to know and become good friends with many Cape Fareweller’s past and present. Part of my preparations for the voyage was asking various folk for advice. What I got back ranged from the practical: take ginger for seasickness, layer your clothes; to the creative: work outside your boundaries, have a concept in mind but be prepared to throw it out of the window if need be. I also asked about dealing with life onboard, and maybe alarm bells should have rung when speaking to Chris Wainwright, one of Cape Farewell’s board members, who is an experienced Sailor, and lives on a boat himself said something along the lines of: “hmmm no port holes”.

The months and weeks leading up to departure I spent preparing, both physically by bringing my fitness levels up, and mentally by contemplating how I would deal with certain situations.  I believed  that I could deal with anything that would be thrown at me, weather, sea sickness, other people, cramped conditions etc. I thought I had answers for situations I had never had to deal with in my life before.

Turned out I would be wrong.

The journey up from London was enjoyable, I generally enjoy travelling, sometimes the journey as much as the destination. I busied myself by getting into climate / environment mode, I counted wind turbines, saw oil rigs off the coast of east scotland as the Intercity train I was on zipped through the countryside. I caught the over night ferry from Aberdeen  to Lerwick on the east of the Shetland.  There was during the crossing a bit of up and down movement due to the seas during the night.  I felt comfortable, and not at all sick or worried about the ships motion, so felt that was a good sign for how I would cope.  Arriving in Lerwick the next morning, I was keen to join the The Swan.  It was not scheduled to arrive until the afternoon, so some of the crew that were in town converged for cups of tea and smoked salmon bagels.   We all seemed excited to meet, and to eventually get on the boat, We headed over to Scalloway where we were to meet the boat, we waited up on a hill the over looked the outer harbour, and watched her sail in.

A time to join

The Crew literally swapped over on the street between the Scalloway Hotel and the mooring where the ship was alongside. Quick hellos were said as the intent was for the two crews to meet up later over food an music aboard The Swan.  As us members of the second crew loaded in our luggage and equipment it started to dawn on some of us what we had let us in for.  The Swan is a beautiful community owned ship, and is comfortable as can be considering the space available.  What was once the ship’s hold for storing their catch of Herring, had been converted in to the main dining area and sleeping accommodation. We were to be sleeping and eating in this one small cabin for the next 10 days.  As soon as I got down there, I could feel a level of panic, of apprehensiveness building up like a kettle boiling, I immediately felt nauseous, and put that down to nerves.  I kept telling myself this would pass, and I am sure other members of the new crew were having similar thoughts to different extents.

We spent a pleasant evening with the exiting crew, and they seemed in good spirits as they recalled tales from their half of the expedition, including stories of sea sickness.  We had some great conversations and received good advice about the ship and generally how to deal with things, but I was still feeling apprehensive turned-up-to-11 as we climbed in to our bunks, which are akin to climbing into a small coffin, It was at this point I discovered an newly found phobia that I don’t think I had before: claustrophobia (I have yet to decide if this should be added to my CV along with my qualifications!).  Needles to say I did not get any sleep that night, and spent it restlessly trying to think of the good points of the forthcoming trip: The awesome crew, the opportunity to learn and collaborate with others and the photographic opportunities.

A decision to make

The morning came and the feelings of apprehension, grew to become dread and I had become upset.  Everyone was great (especially Deirdre), and talked with me thus calming me down to a certain extent, and helping me think through my decision and the process I had gone through to get to the point I had got to: TO GET OFF THE BOAT.  One of the hardest things I have ever had to do was to tell David: “I am sorry but I can’t do this I have to get off”. Him and the other organiser of the trip: Ruth Little had put their faith in me by inviting me along to photograph and experience the expedition, that I felt like I was letting them down as well as my self and the rest of the crew.  I stayed for a few hours more, but it did not help my fears, that there was a force 8 gale forecast, and thus I eventually left The Swan after the Skipper Richard gave his safety briefing.

Hopefully I will learn from this experience just where my boundaries are, they are in different places for different people, I know others that remain have their own personal battles to deal with during the trip, but I know that they will be in good hands aboard The Swan, I just wish I was able to be with them. I am able bodied, but unfortunately it turns out not able minded for a sailing expedition.

Bon Voyage Crew Two, may your seas not be lumpy, Your oxo’s tight and your sprits kept high.

Below are some pics from my short time with the crew and watching The Swan go for a short afternoon sail.


Author: Gorm Ashurst


Joins the expedition for week 3 "We are the music makers, we are the dreamers of a dream" -Willy Wonker
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1 Comment

  1. avatar Cape Farewell says:

    We’ll miss you Gorm! T

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James Brady’s expedition blog for ecoartscotland

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See James Brady’s blog here:   http://ecoartscotland.net/    

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bunk and deck
quota n 1. the proportional or part of a whole that is due from, due to, or allocated to a person or group 2. a prescribed number or quantity, as of items to be manufactured, imported, or exported, immigrants admitted to a country [from Latin quota pars how big a share?, from quotus of what... Read more ›

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Poet. Climate change.  Environmentalist.  Scientist. Carbon economy. (Ex-)soldier. Renewables. Conservationist.  Fishing quota.  Artist. Sustainability. Writer.  Everyday words susceptible to our own interpretation, predisposition and characterisation.   Words that can be polarising and divisive.  So what happens when you mix them with a few associated ingredients?  On the one hand there is the potential for an explosive... Read more ›

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