A blog series from on board the Australian National Maritime Museum’s HMB Endeavour replica as it sails from Adelaide to Port Lincoln. See our Sail the Endeavour page to learn more about joining voyages like this.
Like his father, Donald, sailing did not play a large part in Sam Wilson’s childhood. However, unlike his father, the sea did play a major part in his childhood. Living in Bunbury a block away from the beach Sam spent a lot of time body boarding or just hanging at the beach with his mates. Watching vessels on the horizon and the yachts sailing up and down the coast became a fascination for him but joining them never entered his mind. It was during this time at the beach that he was unconsciously honing his ability to read the waves and the sea. An ability which would serve him later when the sailing bug took hold.
At school Sam took Technical Arts (woodworking) which satisfied an innate need in him of the precision and care required when working with wood. He initially thought of going to university to study Aeronautical Engineering but it was during his gap year he came to the realisation that job prospects in that particular field were not only limited but diminishing. His interest in woodworking and his love of timber and uses to which it can be put led him into the field of construction.
Relocating to Perth, the job prospects in construction were much more encouraging, Sam found his niche and his attention to detail and his desire to follow a task through to the end resulted in his never having to apply for a job. The jobs came to him in the form of being invited to join a various construction teams. This in turn took him into areas that he would never have dreamed of going, for example; the Simpson Desert, the remote top end of WA and the South West wine region.
At 21 he went on his first snow-boarding holiday at Falls Creek and discovered it to be akin to surfing, it was like “surfing the clouds.” Despite suffering several injuries, Sam could not get enough of snow-boarding so he went to Canada, a spur of the moment decision, and spent the winters working in the snowfields.
In the summers he worked at the Hakai Institute, run by British Columbia Parks, located 24 hours by boat north of Vancouver. The Institute is a scientific research and conference centre for respected professional and university students doing their fieldwork in ecology and the environment. It was his experience in construction that got him the maintenance job there. Very quickly he became involved in the maritime side of the of the Institute operations and ultimately obtained his SVOP certification (Small Vessel Operating Proficiency). The certification covered all aspects of marine operations, navigation, vessel maintenance, outboard maintenance, time spent at sea, ability to read the waves and weather.
Sam spent a total of 3 years in Canada only returning to Australia for a brief period before returning to the Hakai Institute to take up where he had left off. One image that remains with him from that period is of an all timber yacht which arrived at Hakai one day. The elegance of her lines and the unique use of Douglas Fir, cedar and mahogany appealed to him. Returning to Australia he went back to the construction industry and ended up working in some of the remote indigenous communities.
His father was the one who influenced his return to the sea when he joined the Eden to Sydney leg of the Endeavour’s voyage in 2014. Owing to working commitments Donald was unable to join the voyage so Sam went by himself. Totally blown away, when he arrived back in WA he insisted that he and Donald had to do a voyage together. So when the ships lined up for his father, Sam was right there with him and it was also a chance for them to spend some time together, something that had been lacking for the past couple of years.
Sam’s SVOP certification (similar to a Coxswain’s certification) stood him in good stead when he first sailed on the Endeavour and on the current voyage he feels he has become much more proficient in terms of the effect of the wind on the sails, navigating according to the prevailing conditions and predicted weather patterns and being introduced to celestial navigation.
Sam loves anything related to the sea and, despite his love of sailing and wooden ships, he would consider signing on to a motor vessel. But first, when he returns to Perth, he is going to volunteer aboard the Leeuwin and coming from the Endeavour he will probably snapped up very quickly.