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The word ‘accessible’ gets bandied around a little too willy nilly for my liking. So, when I heard that a Tall Ship, which was specifically designed to be fully accessible for people with disabilities, was arriving into Sydney, I just had to take a look. We headed to the Australian National Maritime Museum to see the visiting ship, Tenacious, and we were impressed by the extensive accessible features. Tenacious is an accessible tall ship which offers day tours and longer voyages for people of all abilities.

Accessible Tall Ship
Tenacious Tall Ship

Tenacious took nine months to travel the nearly 29,000km (18,000 mile) voyage from the UK, sailing with a crew of 40 people, around half of whom are living with disabilities. Tenacious is owned and operated by The Jubilee Sailing Trust, a UN-accredited charity that has led the way on the issue of social inclusion for nearly forty years. The ship is the largest operative wooden ship in the world (at 65 metres and with a mast height of 39 metres) and was built in 2000 by 1.500 volunteers, including many with disability.

Accessible tall ship
A specially designed gangway allowed wheelchair access.

The specially designed features of the ship allow everyone, regardless of disability to play a full and active role as a member of crew. The entire vessel is wheelchair accessible INCLUDING the platforms up to the mast and bowsprit (pointy bit at the front of the ship for people like me! See photo below of BJ on the bowsprit).

Accessible tall ship
BJ exploring the bowsprit (the pointy end of the ship!)

Let me take you on a tour of this truly accessible tall ship.


Lifts allow crew members with a disability to access all levels of the ship without need to use the steep stairs.

Accessible tall ship
Lifts allow access between all the decks

It was the first time BJ has been able to explore a tall ship and he was pretty happy about it.

Accessible tall ship
Hubby and BJ using the lift to go between levels
Accessible tall ship
BJ arriving on the top deck via the lift

Tenacious is a great example of what can be achieved when inclusion is part of the design and planning of a project.

Accessible Tall Ship
Tie down positions through the ship allow for wheelchairs to be secured

The decks have small raised pieces of wood to act as a guide for visually impaired crew members (see photo above) and tie down points to secure wheelchairs.

Accessible tall ship
Entry inside is via a lowered and ramped doorway.

Ships usually have a large step to get inside but Tenacious has lowered doorways and ramped entry. In rough seas the ramp is removed and the door closed.

Accessible tall ship
Secured flip down seats.

Secured flip down seats allow crew members with restricted mobility to be seated while working the ropes. Even a talking compass is located on the bridge for people with a hearing impairment.


Nothing changes when you head below deck. Everything has been designed with access and inclusion in mind.

Accessible tall ship
Lifts take crew members below deck

BJ was delighted to be able to head below deck and check out the crew’s living and sleeping quarters.

Accessible tall ship
BJ checking out the living quarters
Accessible tall ship
Accessible bunks

Hoists are available for crew members who need to transfer from their wheelchair to the bunk. The bunk above is on a pulley system which allows it to be raised while the person is transferred.

Accessible tall ship
Accessible bathroom on board

The bathroom is accessible with a flip down shower seat, hand held shower head, rails throughout and lever taps.

Accessible Tall Ship
Accessible light switches

Light switches are made for easy access.

Accessible tall ship
Braille signage throughout

Signage is in braille to assist vision impaired crew members.

Accessible tall ship
Features for hearing impaired crew members

Vibrating pads are located under the mattress of any hearing impaired crew members which are used if the alarm is used in an emergency.

Accessible tall ship
Medical centre

There is medical assistance on each voyage – either a nurse or doctor on board.

Accessible tall ship
BJ on Tenacious

I spoke with one wheelchair user who was a crew member on the voyage from Fiji to Sydney and asked her about her experience. She was enthusiastic and assured me she had been involved all the way including scrubbing the decks. This is not token inclusion, this is true inclusion at work.


Power chairs cannot go on Tenacious due to the weight and size. Guests needing assistance with personal care need to travel with their own buddy. Guests not needing this assistance will be matched with a buddy for the voyage.

Tenacious does day tours and longer voyages. Over the next 10 months she will be a regular visitor to the Australian National Maritime Museum as she embarks on voyages to Melbourne, Adelaide, Hobart and Geelong. The public will be able to visit the ship later in the year when it returns to Sydney.

In the meantime check out the voyages available around the world here.

What do you think? Would you like to give sailing a go?



  1. Hi Julie

    Many thanks for such a comprehensive blog – I don’t even have such good photos of some of the features on Tenacious. Please feel free to let your readers know if they want more details on how they can come sailing aboard Tenacious (and that includes both people living with a disability and those that are not) they can contact Jubilee Sailing Trust Australia on 0429 186 625 or email us at
    I am so glad you enjoyed your day visiting the ship and hope that we might see you afloat sometime soon. To keep you up to date Tenacious is currently showing her crew Refuge Bay a beautiful spot on Wilsons Prom that would otherwise only be accessible by bush walking. She will then head for Melbourne and will berth in Williamstown at 2pm on Sunday 14th August for anyone that wants to welcome her in.
    For all your Melbourne readers we have an Open Ship day on Wednesday 17th August before Tenacious goes into a scheduled maintenance period. But check out the website for voyages and day sails where you can join us as one of the voyage crew. Thank you.

    • Hi Peter,

      I’m glad you like the blog and photos. It is fantastic to be able to share such a wonderful initiative with our readers. I hope word continues to spread. I’ll share the Melbourne open day on our Facebook page closer to the day.


  2. I am a volunteer tour guide at the Australian National Maritime Museum.

    I have worked in the disability sector for several years and as a result, I have started a micro business whithin which I aim to allow people with a disability to travel, locally in the Sydney area for now, to places which would otherwise be difficult for them.

    I am excited to see Tenacious in Sydney and look forward to having a closer look when she returns.


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