1314 – ‘Offshore’ – English Channel

Saturday 27th October: It is a typical October morning, but nothing can dampen the spirits of the Coventry cadets and staff setting off to Gosport for a week of offshore power training on TS Jack Petchey. None of the cadets have even been offshore previously, so this will be a completely new experience for them all.

All the kit is taken onto the Jack Petchey and all the cadets are surprised to see how little space their kit can take up when space is as tight as it is on-board. No full size wardrobes here! Waterproofs and lifejackets are issued and explained, then a tour of the ship and safety briefs followed along with explanations of how the ship worked. Cadets were amazed about the standard of food that can be prepared in such small galleys!

A decent night’s sleep later (helped by the clocks going back) and breakfast follows. Then it is all hands to preparing to leave the jetty, putting into practice what has been shown the previous afternoon. The weather is breezy but fair, so is a good introduction to a first day at sea. Man overboard and emergency muster point drill’s occur so that everyone is ready just in case! Rotated through a 3 watch system, the watches take turns on the bridge helping to steer the ship, sometimes in a straight line. Other watches check the engines are working ok, or ensuring the water tight integrity of the ship and that nothing is loose to be thrown about.

Returning alongside for the evening, some basic chart work and navigation lectures occur. After dinner, the cadets are introduced into ship shower routine – everyone has 2 minutes to shower. A shock to some of the girls that this is possible!

The following day, the weather decides to test us a little. Leaving the side goes well, however once out into the Solent, it is a test of character to not relive breakfast. In their watches the cadets again take turns steering the ship, keeping a lookout, completing the ships log and plotting on the charts. After lunch it is decided that as the weather is forecast to get rougher, it is decided to moor in Gunwharf Quay overnight. The cadets enjoy the shore side showers and then a good night’s rest.

Tuesday morning and the weather has decided to have a break so we cast off and head for Beaulieu River. This gives cadets an ideal opportunity to increase their knowledge of chart work and buoyage due to the tight constraints of the channel. A well-deserved ice cream after lunch as a reward. Setting off after lunch, we anchor up and the cadets go through anchor watch – ensuring we aren’t dragging, no ships are getting too close and radio traffic is monitored. For those not on watch, a high speed ride around on the sea boat is enjoyed. Course is then set for Cowes for overnight. Again the luxury of shore showers is enjoyed by everyone.

We set off the following morning to practice and refine the skills; however the weather has enjoyed her day off and returns with a vengeance. After only a couple of hours at sea, weather warnings are being broadcast and it is decided to err on the side of caution and head to Gunwharf. However it is too rough to attempt mooring there, so we return to Gosport. This indeed tests the cadet’s skills that are only 3 days old and with some challenging conditions, we tie up for the night. The cadets get some deserved retail therapy time, then return to swot up in preparation for Thursday test day.

Our final sea day and the watches take turns going through all the different roles, having their cards marked as completed satisfactorily. On return to Gosport for the evening, the final test of the day. Can the cadets cleaning be up to scratch for Captain’s rounds? After much coaching, the answer is yes and the ship is spick and span. Presentations of certificates and badges to all the cadets, as everyone has passed. And as a surprise, the cadets were given a tour of the Sea Cadet flagship, TS Royalist which was tied up on the same pontoon.

The cadets can’t believe the week is already over, and plenty are already planning their next trip offshore. If they have enjoyed this week with the rough weather, then they can handle it again.

Friday morning, minibus loaded and the journey home, cadets still excited about the week can’t wait to tell their peers and parents what they have been up to. Cue shocked parents who find out that their son / daughter does know how to hoover, tidy up, wash dishes etc!

We thank the Trust for assisting in funding this week offshore which a lot of our cadets would not have been able to afford otherwise, and has made a large impact on their confidence and self belief.

Lt (SCC) Derek Sinclair RNR, TS Coventry SCC

With thanks to:

Ulysses Trust

In partnership with:

Nuffield Trust