All aboard for skills for life
What happens when you bring together twenty two Beavers and Cubs, a Scout Adventurer and one of the most famous ships in the world? A glorious celebration of explorers past, present and future.
A Beaver Scout dressed as an Elizabethan sailor has a question for Scout Adventurer, Poldy van Lynden: ‘How do you go to the loo when you’re out at sea and there’s no loo on board?’
The Beavers and Cub Scouts from 1st Middleton Scouts are gathered on the deck of the mighty Golden Hind, a perfect replica of Sir Francis Drake’s famous galleon, now moored in its dry dock on the River Thames. They’re from 1st Middleton Scouts in landlocked Milton Keynes, and are taking part in one of the highlights of their year – a sleepover on the historic ship and a full programme of seafaring activities.
Poldy looks momentarily stumped. He’s here to give the young Scouts a taste of real life on the ocean waves and tries to think of a tactful answer. On this occasion, he decides honesty is the best policy: ‘In a bucket or over the side…’ It is swiftly made clear that there are excellent loos on the Golden Hind and Poldy’s method is not to be recommended.
Two great adventurers
The original Golden Hind travelled the globe between 1577 and 1580, and was subsequently engaged in battles with Spain. When it was broken up, some of the timber was made into a chair which can still be found in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. The current ship was built in 1973 and sailed over 140,000 miles, before settling into her current home at Bankside, London.
Recently returned from his epic expedition to Svalbard for Arch2Arctic, Poldy has an equally incredible story to share. He and fellow Adventurer Rob McArthur ran three marathons, swam the English Channel and cycled through northern Europe before a five day row to the Arctic Circle, thus completing the trip by human power alone.
Inspired by the first brave question, the other Beavers and Cubs soon join in. ‘How many sharks did you see?’ (Answer: one, which stalked them in a very sinister way as they rowed north.) ‘How many times were you stung by a jellyfish?’ (Answer: several times, every one of them painful.) ‘How did you eat when you were in the water?’ (A tub of food was thrown overboard on a rope. According to the strict rules, he wasn’t allowed to touch the pilot’s boat during the channel crossing.)
An epic crossing
The toughest part of the challenge for Poldy was the channel swim, which took him a gruelling 18 hours. It was the closest he came to giving up. ‘I couldn’t lift one of my shoulders and it was the most exhausted I’d ever been. The tide actually should have swept me back out to sea – the pilot said he had seen it do that before, so luck was clearly on my side.’
The leaders are just as impressed, especially by the huge amount the pair raised through their expedition – around £90,000 and counting. One Cub asks why Poldy and Rob chose to fundraise for the Scouts.
‘We both just felt that the Scouts captured the spirit of adventure and were really happy to fundraise for them. It’s such a worthwhile thing.’
A night below decks
We listen to Poldy beneath the lights of tower blocks and a litter of stars over London’s south bank. But the young people are clearly transported in their minds to the wild seas of the Arctic. Poldy explains how, when they ran into a storm, they had to put out a sea anchor and retire to their tiny cabin. When a wave washed in, their sleeping bags were soaked through and several uncomfortable nights sleep followed – not that they slept long at all, taking it in turns to snatch a couple of hours sleep while the other rowed.
The Beavers and Cubs are keen to know what’s next for the intrepid adventurers. ‘We’re thinking about going in the other direction,’ explains Poldy. ‘Maybe with a trip to Antarctica. But these things require a huge amount of time and planning. Besides, my fingers are still aching from the rowing – I want to let them recover first before I do anything else.’
Once Poldy’s grilling has concluded, the young people have yet more treats in store. Sir Francis Drake himself appears in full costume and puts them through the paces. The giant masts tower over them and they’re enveloped in a cobweb of rigging. They find out what life was like on board the ship 500 years ago, before settling down for their sleepover.
‘It’s brilliant to be able to share our adventures with these Cubs and Beavers,’ reflects Poldy. ‘Experiences like this build their confidence, widen their horizons and help them develop skills for life.’
Bill, Cub Leader at 1st Middleton was impressed. ‘The interactive talk was exactly what I had hoped for and all our youngsters, even our very youngest Beavers were fully engaged and inspired.’
‘Poldy was very cool,’ adds one young Cub. ‘I’d like a beard like his when I’m older…’
Help Rob and Poldy get to their £100,000 #Arch2Arctic target by donating here.