A crew of Year 9 students from Bede Academy, in Blyth, and Emmanuel College, Gateshead, dropped anchor at Port of Blyth after a nine-day passage to Brugge on the British tall ship Stavros S Niarchos.

The young sailors formed part of a crew of 37 from the Emmanuel Schools Foundation with fellow students from sister schools, The King’s Academy, in Coulby Newham, and Trinity Academy, at Thorne, near Doncaster.

Bede biology teacher Dr Helen Edge, who is a volunteer with the Tall Ships Youth Trust which operates the 60m vessel, said: “This is our seventh ESF annual tall ship voyage and for many of the students it will have been a life-changing experience.

“A tall ship voyage really takes young people out of their comfort zone and as well as helping them learn life skills, confidence and team work on a practical level it also helps them learn first hand about sailing, geography and weather systems.

“Everyone has had an incredible time; some struggled a little bit in the beginning, others took to it straight away, but they all came through in the end.”

As well as living on board the young crew, who boarded the vessel at Canary Wharf, London, also took part in all ship duties including helming, scaling the 50 metre masts to set and stow sails, navigating, scrubbing the decks, cooking for fellow shipmates and night watches on the bridge.

They were also given the opportunity to row the longliners, which forms part of a yachting award and is the first step on the ladder for sail training.

Bede Academy student Louise Mclean, 14, of, Blyth, said: “It has been a great opportunity to learn to be a bit more independent.

“This was my first time on a boat and I did find it a little bit scary but it’s the best thing I’ve ever done especially the night watch and seeing the sun rise over Belgium.”

Emmanuel College student Morgan Fowler, 14, of Gateshead, added: “I applied to come on the trip because I really wanted to challenge myself and also to get over my fear of heights by getting to the top of the rigging – which I did.

“I really enjoyed sightseeing around Brugge but I didn’t like being woken up at midnight to do the night watch until 4am in the morning – but I would love to do it all again.”