Tall Ships: Sailors loving their life on the ocean wave

Thousands of visitors passed through Belfast docks on Thursday as the site came alive with sound, colour and international crewmen.

Belfast City Council has estimated that 500,000 people may flock to the city’s docks for the four-day Tall Ships maritime festival.

Crowds flocked to the Belfast docks for the start of the Tall Ships festival

Crowds flocked to the Belfast docks for the start of the Tall Ships festival

Seaman Jim Jones, who was travelling on the Sorlandet from Norway, said life at sea “teaches people a lot about life and a lot about themselves”.

The 23-year-old from Calgary in Canada, whose vessel was in Pollock Dock, said he was inspired to adopt sea legs after hearing stories about “my great great grandfather who was a captain on a ship during the world wars”.

“So it has missed a generation but arrived with me,” he added.

Mr Jones said the vessel he is travelling in was built in Kristiansand, Norway, in 1927 as a full-rigged ship.

A captain in pink orders the photographer to walk the plank at the end of two cutlasses

A captain in pink orders the photographer to walk the plank at the end of two cutlasses

Admitting a life at sea is “a child’s dream” he cautioned: “There is always a lot of work to do no matter what time of the day it is.

“We have 72 trainees on board and an additional 20 crewmen for the races so there is not a lot of personal space,” he added.

“Some learn this faster than others but it is a learning curve nonetheless.

“I find working in the Tall Ships very rewarding. You learn a lot of useful skills that you can bring to land and good work ethics that you can use in everyday life back at home.”

Aye aye captain! Rachel Kearns and sister Claire selling the official programmes

Aye aye captain! Rachel Kearns and sister Claire selling the official programmes

Determined not to return to “a land job”, Mr Jones said after starting as a student with Sorlandet he returned to college to get “certificates so I can work as crew”.

“I now want to get my masters tickets to become a captain.”

Meanwhile, down the dock Norwegian seaman Kristian Bulow, 25, said there was “healthy competition” between crews about the Tall Ships race.

The Norwegian, who is travelling on Statsraad Lehmkuhl – a three-masted steel barque, built in 1914 in Bremerhaven, Germany – said: “There are a lot of good ships and good crews here, but we are here to win.

Norwegian seaman Kristian Bulow

Norwegian seaman Kristian Bulow

“Trainees who start on the ship may not think about this at the start, but they soon know they want a position in the race.”

Mr Bulow said he had not, as yet, seen anything of Belfast.

“We work a lot when we are in harbour but we have the nights off,” he added.

“I hope to see around Belfast on my day off as I learned a lot about the Troubles in Northern Ireland at school.

“I also want to see some museums when I am here,” he added.

He said the job as a seaman is “hard work but great fun”.

“We have 80 crew and about eight students on board so life at sea is a close community. And you learn a lot,” he added.

This year, Belfast is the home port for the start of the Tall Ships races where around 50 vessels will be on show from 15 different countries until Sunday.

Visitors can see ships in two main sites in Belfast – on the River Lagan beside the Titanic Quarter and at Pollock Dock near Duncrue Street.