Chloe Sandell is not the type to sit around in an office, wondering what the big wide world is really like. She decided to go and find out for herself.
Chloe has already sailed the east coast of Australia and the South Pacific, and is now taking a degree that could ultimately see her becoming captain of a cruise liner or even an oil tanker. Having attended Ryde School with Upper Chine, she completed her Duke of Edinburgh award scheme bronze and silver, before progressing to gold, part of which was a ‘residential’ course. Basically it meant being away for four of five nights in a different environment, so she chose sailing with the Tall Ships Youth Trust, based in Portsmouth.
“I loved it, and that is where it all started,” said Chloe. “The next thing I knew I was on a 72ft Challenger yacht on my way to Cherbourg, getting up at 7am and doing anything from sailing to cleaning. I was on the yacht for a week and thought ‘this is for me’. I wanted to progress and sail somewhere; see what was out there.”
Chloe, now 19, was initially thinking of a career in the Royal Navy, but at the time they were not recruiting, and purely by chance a friend told her that she could get full sponsorship for working in the Merchant Navy, with a guaranteed job at the end of it.
After applying to some 15 companies, she received three interview offers, and Chiltern Marine agreed to sponsor her for a foundation degree at Plymouth. But Chloe admits she then took a big risk, explaining: “I decided I wanted to take a gap year, so I asked Chiltern if I could go back to them in 12 months’ time. They said they couldn’t really do that, but we reached a compromise that they would put me top of the interview list if I re-applied a year later.”
That prompted her to do her Royal Yachting Association Flying Fish Yachtmasters’ course in Cowes up to day skipper level, before heading to Flying Fish* in Sydney last November to continue her sailing education.
That entailed sailing 2,500 ocean miles up the east coast of Australia, taking nearly three months, before she returned home intent on completing her final Yachtmasters’ practical exams.
“I had only been back a couple of weeks, when I received a phone call from a former school friend whose dad had bought a 13-year-old Oyster 56, and wanted to sail the world in it. I was asked to join the crew to do the Pacific crossing and immediately said ‘yes’. It puts some people off because it means up to three weeks at sea without seeing land. But my dad and I were both up for it, so I postponed my final exam and headed for Panama,” said Chloe.
She and her dad Chris – who had no sailing experience – joined the other three crew members to embark on the journey of a lifetime as part of the Oyster World Rally. She continued: “On the first leg the weather was good, but our main worry was that it was a 13-year-old boat so everything on it was outdated and breaking. We headed for the Galapagos Islands; six days at sea and our first big test. My dad had a few ‘what am I doing here?’ moments, especially when we started to sink three days into the journey.
“When we looked under the floorboards the water was about an inch away from the battery bank – a close call.”
Chloe and the crew spent a week at Galapagos, diving and snorkelling with seals, before setting sail to the ‘stunningly beautiful’ Marquesas Islands. She said: “It was another trip of 3,010 miles, taking three weeks, and we worked shifts of two hours on, eight hours off. You weren’t going to hit anything, because there was nothing else about, but it was important to look after old sails. And the two experienced members had to also teach the three novices how to sail.”
During a two-week break on the islands the crew really enjoyed bartering with the locals – normally wine for fresh fruit or rosewood carvings – before setting off to the Tuamotus Islands. Chloe continued: “The water was crystal clear and there were fish everywhere – the best diving conditions imaginable. We even swam with dolphins and small sharks.”
Visiting the Leeward Islands and Windward Islands, including Tahiti, completed the epic three-month voyage. Chloe added: “The trip proved to me I am definitely suited to sea life, and I don’t want to work in an office.”
While she was away Chiltern contacted her saying they didn’t sponsor for Plymouth anymore. But they would sponsor her for Warsash Maritime Academy, and she is very much on course for ‘nautical stardom’, currently on her way to completing a degree in Navigation and Maritime Studies. The aim is to graduate as a deck officer, and ultimately first officer /captain of a cruise liner, superyacht or even a tanker, combined with qualifications for all land-based duties within the industry.