From the 23rd to the 29th December 2015, 28 Sea Cadets and 5 adult volunteers joined the crew of the TS Lord Nelson to spend their Christmas in the port of Las Palmas in Gran Canaria. This was on board a square rigged training ship designed to give the chance to sail on the open seas. From going up the mast, raising the sails and even taking control of the helm to steer the ship on the high seas, it provided lots of opportunities for giving the cadets more confidence in team building, leadership and communication skills.
After an early flight to the Canaries the group arrived at the ship to get settled in to their allocated accommodation, and get acquainted with the ship, the local area and with each other. In the evening a meal for the entire expedition gave everyone a great opportunity to get to know each other better, and to meet the amazing crew.
Due to an issue with the ship’s drive system we were not able to take to sea but the crew had arranged various shore based activities while the ship was under repair. The first of these was a visit to a science museum that gave the cadets an insight in to all manner of subjects. These ranged from fighter jet technology, domestic air travel and even the international space station, including experiencing what it is like to be on a robotic arm on the side of the space station.
On Christmas morning, everyone was given the chance to climb the mast as in spite of the inability to go sailing we were still running drill and preparing for going out to sea, even on Christmas! Some people coped with being up in the crow’s nest better than others, but everyone was congratulated for achieving the task with no one giving up and all getting to the top and back down. The group was met by Santa, a reindeer, and one of his elves who arrived in a powerboat to give the group their Christmas presents after which the whole group enjoyed a very well prepared Christmas dinner served by the ship’s crew.
The activity organised for Boxing Day was a hike up Mount Teide to see the top of the island. This meant an early start, and some beautiful landscapes on the coach journey to the hiking site. The track took us through some deep valleys and alongside some very steep drops, adding to the sense of achievement everyone felt once they reached their destination. Those who were not too exhausted after lunch took the opportunity to attempt another trail that took them up an even steeper track to the top of one of the peaks on the top of the volcano for even more spectacular views.
Thankfully, the ship had been repaired by the following morning and the cadets were delighted to be able to venture out to sea and to do some proper sailing. Setting out to sea to find some wind, we managed to get some very enjoyable, all be it very exhausting, sailing done at last. This was an eye opening experience for all those that had not sailed such a ship before, and many underestimated the energy required to pull on all the different ropes to raise the sails, twist the booms to optimise the surface area of the sails and gain the best speed possible, to then have to do the same all over again when you have to change direction. A day out at full sail was exhausting for all, but the teamwork and camaraderie of everyone working together and going through the same experience was a huge reward!
The crew had charted a second ship to ensure that the group did get to sea at least once during their time on board if Lord Nelson couldn’t be fixed. As this had already been arranged it gave us a chance to experience yet another type of ship to sail, the TS Jean de la Lune. This was a slightly smaller ship with only two masts compared to the three of Lord Nelson, and though it required different skills to sail, the key elements of collaboration and teamwork were still vital.
On the last day it was left to everyone to prepare themselves and the ship ready for their long journey home. It was clear to see in the reactions from the group that everyone had gained a lot from their time together and the group had some very emotional farewells. This trip has been a massive success and despite the complications, the activities arranged more than made up for this and ensured that everyone had a great experience. I would like to thank the Ulysses Trust for helping to fund the expedition and Nicola Martin at MSSC for organising the trip. Without them some members would simply not have been able to attend so their hard work and support is very much appreciated.
Report written by: PO Lisa Livesey (Kendal Sea Cadets)