Ex Blue Salt Blade 2015 – Devon and Somerset Air Training Corps

A Slice of Cornwall
I need something different in the Adventure Training diary this year, something new, something challenging, something exciting. After a few hours searching the web I was on the phone to a very laid back South African accent which called itself Shaun, “Yes buddy, sure thing, we can do that, no problem at all, how many guys are we talking about?”.. “Listen, I’m off on an expedition to the west coast of Ireland soon, can we talk when I get back in a couple of weeks?”

It’s January, the West Coast of Ireland… he’s off on a Sea Kayaking expedition, to the West coast of Ireland, in January, for two weeks. I guess I am talking to the right kind of people.

And so the preparations for an ambitious nine day Sea Kayaking Expedition off the Cornish coast began. Planned for August 2015, it was eight months away but work had to be started early, soon the Warning Order for Exercise BLUE SALT BLADE was out and applications started coming in.

The weather forecast for the week is appalling, some said the weather was the same type of system that caused the UKs largest maritime search and rescue operation, ever, the Fastnet Race disaster, which in August 1979 claimed 18 lives. Thankfully the forecasts are more accurate, and easier to obtain, we had planned for bad weather, they are going to be wet anyway, right?

With everything checked, kit and equipment loaded a staff and cadet team of over 20 finally gathered and made their way down a rain soaked and windswept M5 and onto RAF Portreath, their camp during the two day pre expedition training course. The team will spend the weekend getting used to the longer and harder to manoeuvre Sea Kayaks, getting to know each other and preparing for the expedition which would start on the following Monday morning. They came from Devon & Somerset, Bristol & Gloucestershire and Hants and Isle of Wight Wings, all experienced Air Cadets they soon formed a good team. Sea kayakers depend on each other for support and rescue, so developing great teamwork is essential.

The weather did not seem to bother the team, it was raining in Cornwall, nothing unusual about that. Gradually as the week progressed, the weather improved and in classical Cornish style it turned out to be beautiful on the final day.

The team had explored the Helford river, wild camping and foraging on the shoreline, mid way through the week they moved to Falmouth and continued to explore the coast and develop their skills. There were several evening beach fires and long conversations, nine days with no signal, and no telly, but everyone seemed to enjoy the experience, being outdoors, close to nature, in challenging conditions, with good friends. What could be a better way to spend a week in August?

Ex Blue Salt Blade was put together by Devon & Somerset Wing ATC with the help of Shaun Rodgers, a laid back South African/Irish director of Sea Kayaking Cornwall, their team was equally as impressive as their equipment, their track record and the Cornish coastline. This expedition was ground breaking in the Wing, and is helping to open up a whole new adventure training activity.

With Sea Kayaking Cornwall offering us a very special deal and grants from the Ulysses Trust and the RAF Charitable Trust, the cost of the nine day expedition was similar to an ATC overseas camp.

Now that Blue Salt Blade is complete, we aim to include it as a regular expedition, running it every other year. Now, I need something different in the diary for next year, something new, something challenging, something exciting. Google “Norwegian Fjord”, that will do the job, “Ex Blue Macaw”

Flt Lt Phil Smith
Adventure Training Officer
Devon & Somerset Wing

With thanks to:

Ulysses Trust

In partnership with:

RAF Charitable Trust

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