MENBERS of Ballywillan Men’s Fellowship found themselves “all at sea” on Thursday morning last week as they listened to the first-hand experiences of a crew member of one of the competing vessels in the Round the World Yacht Race.
Michelle McCann from Greencastle in Co. Donegal was on board the 68 foot yacht Derry-Londonderry during its 11 month voyage in 2011/12.
Crew members changed regularly as the vessel called at various ports on its trip around the world, but Michelle was one of only three crew who remained with the vessel for its entire 40,000 nautical mile journey.
“It was the most unbelievable year of my life”, she told the Fellowship. “In fact, it changed my entire life”.
The event began on 31 July, 2011, from Southampton and with the aid of slides and video clips Michelle enthralled her audience for a full hour as she vividly described the experience of being one of the crew of 11 of one of ten competing yachts. All crew members were amateurs, with the exception of a professional skipper.
The Derry-Londonderry called at a dozen ports in the course of its voyage. The penultimate leg from Halifax in Nova Scotia to Londonderry was made as Hurricane Chris raged in the North Atlantic. Michelle was given a huge welcome home after being away for almost a year, during which time her first grand daughter had been born. Then, it was back to sea for the final leg of the race to Holland.
In the course of the round the world voyage, Michelle fractured a rib during a fall en route to South Africa but fortunately was one of only a couple of crew members who had not suffered from seasickness during the entire trip. Another crew member sustained a broken leg during a particularly rough passage in the south Atlantic.
This was a most interesting talk and Michelle afterwards answered many questions put to her by members of the audience. She was thanked by the Fellowship president Dr. Michael Gardiner.
This Thursday (16 February) the Fellowship will have as guest speaker a former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Very Rev. Dr. Ian McNie. Proceedings start informally with coffee/tea and chat at 10.30 am. The talk starts at 11am.
The Fellowship meetings are held in Ballywillan Presbyterian Church Hall, Portrush, and are open to retired and semi-retired men of all faiths and none. There is a small charge to cover speakers’ expenses.