Spirit of Adventure celebrates 50 years of changing lives

For five decades the Spirit of Adventure has been making a sea change in the lives of thousands of young New Zealanders. 

The not-for-profit organisation is celebrating its 50th anniversary travelling around with country and making stops at various locations, including Nelson, Dunedin, the Bay of Islands and Auckland.

On Monday, it stopped in Wellington where 40 animated teenagers disembarked after the latest 10-day adventure at sea. 

They're among the more than 85,000 young people who've taken part in this voyage of personal discovery. 

Nelson adventurer Melody Stokes said 10 days was quite a long time to be on a boat with 40 people. 

"Forty teenagers plus crew, but honestly it's been a blast, I loved it. I wouldn't have it shorter," she said. 

Stokes said she loved the singing, the people and seeing young people connect without phones and distractions. 

Joshua Saunders from Auckland described the sailing experience as extraordinary. He said meeting so many people from around New Zealand and making new friends was a highlight. 

"Honestly I recommend everyone give it a try," he said. 

The Spirit of New Zealand.
The Spirit of New Zealand. Photo credit: Newshub

Established in the early 1970s, the Spirit of Adventure is less about sailing, and more about building character.

The CEO of the Spirit of Adventure Trust Bruce Pilbrow said it was about a group of young people, from all over the motu, coming together to build a community.

"They get to work and live and sleep and play and have an adventure on this incredible tall ship," he said. 

Pilbrow explained that post-COVID digital technology has consumed our young people.

"They've had to do school online. So we turn all that off. We hear from young people that their life just stops, for a sec, and they kinda see themselves again," he said. 

The CEO of the Spirit of Adventure Trust Bruce Pilbrow.
The CEO of the Spirit of Adventure Trust Bruce Pilbrow. Photo credit: Newshub

Over the past 50 years there have been two ships. The Spirit of Adventure was commissioned in 1973 and sold and replaced by the Spirit of New Zealand in 1996. 

The vessel usually spends about 10 months of the year at sea. 

"The fact that the ship is in the condition she's in, is a credit to the people who have nursed her through her life. Poured the love and money and time into her," said Spirit of New Zealand captain Nick Charringon. 

A ship that also gives so much value to young people.

"Give us a kid for 10 days and we'll return someone back to you who is motivated and looking forward and will smash whatever you put in front of them, like exams," Pilbrow said. 

Sailings this year are almost sold out and the trust hopes the young people taking part will continue making lifelong friends for another 50 years.