Special Report: Tall Ship at sea

The Sail Training Ship on her maiden voyage Credit: Marcin Dobrowolski

When it's the middle of the night, pitch black, freezing cold, the wind is howling around your ears, and the sea is as rough as you've ever seen it, you do begin to wonder whether filming a series on a tall ship was such a good idea.

I joined the Lord Nelson in Sydney in early October knowing that crossing the Tasman Sea to New Zealand almost guaranteed at least some bad weather. I also knew that getting any useable footage while the ship was moving around so violently would be a challenge for me and for my equipment.

We use Sony Z5 cameras, which are reasonably light and easy to handle. But when you need both your hands just to hold on, they're not much use. So ITV provided me with a GoPro minicam which is not only small - about the size of a cigarette packet - but also designed to be used in bad weather. It is completely waterproof and comes with a range of attachments, one of which means you can use it strapped to your head. That meant I could actually get some shots as the ship was bouncing around.

I was also helped by the ship's 2nd Officer Marcin Dobrowolski. He's from Poland and has been with the JST for five years. As well as being in charge of navigation, he's also a keen photographer, cameraman, and blogger. He took some of the best footage in my series of reports, mainly the ones from places I wasn't prepared to go - like the very top of the mast!

I've filmed on many ships before, although never for so long, and have learned a few tricks along the way. One of the most important came from Phil Croker, who has edited both series of Sail the World reports.

After a particularly tricky edit with some of my footage years ago, he patiently suggested I should give up on my tripod and hold my camera in my hand to minimise the effect the roll of the ship was having on the horizon.

ITV Meridian's Richard Jones experiments with his camera on the ship Credit: ITV Meridian

I first sailed on the Lord Nelson as a young newspaper reporter more than 20 years ago and I met up up with her again in 2005 while I was filming a feature for ITV Meridian about the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar.

So I've always been interested in her and in the work of the Jubilee Sailing Trust. When I heard of the plans to sail her around the world, I thought it was ambitious, exciting, and worth trying to cover for ITV.

I filmed a feature about Sail the World in the summer of 2012 and I was on the dockside in Southampton on October 21 of the same year when she set off on her two-year, 50,000-mile voyage around the world.

First she headed across the Atlantic to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil where she spent Christmas and New Year. Then she set off again, back across the Atlantic, this time to Cape Town in South Africa.

I was there to film her arrival, to tell the story of a medical emergency which saw her land a crew member ashore, and to join her for a short voyage out into the South Atlantic.

I flew south again in October to meet up with her and to go aboard for the 1,300-mile Tall Ships' Race from Sydney to Auckland. Along with a mix of able-bodied and disabled people, a few tall ship enthusiasts, and some people out for a bit of an adventure, we sailed her across the Tasman Sea.

The ship's 2nd Officer Marcin Dobrowolski Credit: Marcin Dobrowolski

There's a permanent crew of around eight people, supplemented by volunteers above and below deck. But it's the voyage crew of about 30 who actually keep her moving, putting sails up and pulling them down, keeping her on course, and maintaining a lookout.

We were divided into four teams and operated to a 24-hour system of watches which generally lasted for four hours. And that's why I found myself on deck at 3am in some of the worst weather I've ever seen.

And how do you convince yourself that filming on a tall ship was a good idea? You wait for the sun to come up and for the sea to calm. Memories of the sights you see and the people you meet mean that the very temporary unpleasantness of being cold and wet quickly fades away.

You can catch up with the progress of the Lord Nelson at www.jst.org.uk.

Marcin Dobrowolski is back aboard the Lord Nelson at the end of December and will be blogging - internet connection allowing - as the ship sails from New Zealand, via Cape Horn, to South America. You can follow him at http://southvoice.tumblr.com

from December 10.