About the SHTP Project: This Shipshape Heritage Training Partnership (SHTP) project is managed by NHS-UK and funded by a £261,100 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund Skills for the Future programme. It provides ten 12-month training placements at five partner sites offering on-board specialist training to ensure the significance of the various historic vessels and the ability to operate them safely and effectively is kept alive. The trainees will also undertake a tailored course in historic vessel maintenance at the International Boatbuilding Training College and an interpretation placement at the Scottish Fisheries Museum. A skills mapping exercise will provide template training models for the wider sector and an assessment framework for seamanship skills will be developed as a project legacy.


Shipshape East Anglia hosts one of the five partner organisations in the form of the Excelsior Trust, Lowestoft. The Trust conserves Excelsior and other historic sailing vessels to give supporters the opportunity to join in - sailing and socialising. Excelsior, is a gaff-rigged Lowestoft smack built in 1921 and an historic fishing vessel. http://www.excelsiortrust.co.uk/. Whilst on board Excelsior, the trainees will undertake the following:

• Learning traditional seamanship and deck work on board a gaff-rigged vessel including: sail handling; boatwork; steering; keeping look out; traditional ropework; use of capstan and winches; use of purchases; heaving a line etc.

• Undertaking specialist maintenance and ship husbandry tasks on Excelsior such as block maintenance, lubricating gear, protecting wood with oils, rigging repairs etc.

• Learning the skills encompassing a traditional boatswain’s role on a vessel of this type

• Evening and weekend sailing with members of the local Old Gaffers Association

• Working with youth and educational charter parties for the purposes of: curriculum enhancement, Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme Expeditions, RYA Courses and Tall Ships’ Races, introducing them to basic vessel handling skills

• Working with charter parties involving companies and other groups, welcoming them on board and communicating safety procedures.


September 2014: Update

The month began with a delivery trip back to Lowestoft and upon arrival, Helen spent a couple of days doing general maintenance on board.  Then she helped to deep clean the boat and welcomed a group from a local high school for their third trip on Exclesior this season. 


August 2014: Update

Excelsior began the longest voyage of the 2014 season on the 1st of August.  She left Lowestoft with a group of young adults, sailed to Weymouth through some difficult weather and then headed on to Gloucester with a small crew, a trip of 600 nautical miles in total for trainee Helen.  In Gloucester, Excelsior was hired to be part of a Victorian docks scene for the second Alice in Wonderland Disney movie and Helen was hired as an extra to work the boat during the filming.

Helen then took some leave which she spent volunteering on board Edwardian gentleman's racing yacht Duet, with the Cirdan Trust, sailing from Gosport to Falmouth.  Once in Falmouth, she re-joined Excelsior for the Tall Ships Regatta festivities and received a group of paying adults for the race.


July 2014: Update

Back on Excelsior, Helen had six consecutive day sails and was kept very busy working as part of the crew.  During leave, she worked on her personal project for the course, which was to help with restoration of a 74 year old Hilliard. The vessel was hauled out, scraped back and two planks were replaced.  She was then caulked traditionally, scraped back to bare wood and painted.

Helen then set sail to Holland on Excelsior with a High School from Norwich, before sailing down to the Thames Estuary with a younger group of school children.


June 2014: Update

This month, Helen took part in the rotations with other partner vessels on the SHTP programme to experience sailing different types of vessel and rig.  Her first placement was with the Sea-Change Sailing Trust on sailing barge Reminder doing youth and eduation trips and the second phase saw her join pilot cutter Jolie Brise, based in Hamble.  During the latter placement she helped with maintenance and varnishing, plus did a day sail to the Isle of Wight and a charter with a Duke of Edinburgh group. 


May 2014: Update

Helen's mission this month has been to organise the tool cupboard on board Excelsior.  She fitted a new shelf and experimented with the space (hanging, purging etc.). She also went, with the skipper of Excelsior, on a three-day blacksmithing course in Devon to allow them to better use the facilities of the Excelsior yard which is fully equipped with a smithing building and portable forge.  She learned how to make hooks, tongs, and caulking tools. On her return, Helen helped with the regular maintenance on Excelsior in preparation for the first voyage of the season. This involved checking all the manual deck pumps and oiling and greasing all the moving mechanical parts of the boat.  The first trip of the year was an Adult charter to Holland where Helen began to learn about the watch system, as well as lights and sound signals.


April 2014: Update

This month saw Helen complete the course at IBTC learning skills including plumbing, engine maintenance, use of power tools, more woodworking and a varnishing and paint theory course.   She then had a shake down cruise on Excelsior and quickly became involved in active maintenance getting her ready for the season.  This included bending on the sails, learning about types of lashing, replacing the ratlines, eye splicing, seizings, circuit boards and light fittings, oiling and tallowing, basic sailmaking repairs and helping to make a new rubbing strake.


March 2014: Update

Helen began her four week placement at the International Boat Building Training College, Lowestoft, undertaking an initial vessel maintenance course with the other SHTP trainees.  She was particularly pleased to have the chance to develop some basic techniques in fine woodworking.  During this period, Helen lived with the other four trainees on board historic vessel Excelsior which also gave her an opportunity to get to know her host vessel ahead of the season.


The Bosun's Boots

Shipshape Trainee Helen Denning kept a blog of her experiences during the 2014 programme, including skills gained while onboard Excelsior.

Read her blog here.


February 2014: Update

Helen Denning was appointed the SHTP trainee for East Anglia.  She had developed a passion for traditional sailing vessels from the age of 16 when she was a student on board the American schooner 'Harvey Gamage' as part of the Ocean Classroom Foundation programme.  She later signed on with the replica freedom schooner 'Amistad' for a voyage to Puerto Rico where she met the manager of Lovell's Boat Shop, Massachusetts and returned north as an apprentice under him. 

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