As the cadets first set their eyes on the 72’ Ocean Youth Trust Scotland Ketch, Alba Venturer, which was to be their home and workplace for the next 7 days, there were mixed comments and expressions of apprehension. None of the selected Air Cadets had ever taken part in an activity like this and it caused a mixture of excitement and nervousness to pass through the group as they stepped on board.
Exploration, adventure and a sense of achievement lay ahead for the group of novice sailors who were set the challenge of spending the whole week without stepping foot on land. Later, having reached the remote Outer Hebrides, they sailed around the island of Mingulay and it was with a sense of achievement that they took in the tranquillity of the wonderful scenery and wildlife that surrounded them.
By day six of the voyage the cadet crew had managed to gain sufficient experience and knowledge to be able to plan, prepare and execute the sail back to Oban. From navigating and pilotage, to sail changes and helming, the young people had every aspect of the sail-training vessel covered together with making sure everybody was fed and hydrated throughout.
Our Royal Air Force Air Cadets have an excellent reputation with OYT Scotland, one that has been built over many years. So much so that first mate Stuart, watch leader Duncan and Bo’sun Alister, were returning for a second time to work with our enthusiastic cadet crew. Skipper Iain Barbour was on his first cadet voyage; slightly in awe of our reputation and hoping to match the successful voyages of previous years. He needn’t have worried. The combination of OYT Scotland’s highly professional approach, together with the true spirit of ‘Venture Adventure’ displayed by the cadets, once again proved to be a winning partnership resulting in an outstanding voyage.
This adventure would not have been possible without the generous funding provided by the Ulysses Trust and the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust, together with the support and cooperation of Ocean Youth Trust Scotland. A huge thanks is due to all concerned. The impact of the experience will be felt for years to come as can be seen from some of the comments from the cadets:
“At the start of the week, I experienced a lot of doubt and apprehension…. Despite this… I had the opportunity to progress my skills into being able to complete numerous responsibilities and roles throughout the working day.”
CWO Sarah Rose – 275 (Nantyglo and Blaina) Squadron
“When I signed up for this voyage, I little imagined that I would be navigating our course or taking charge of a crew to sail off anchor or eating bread freshly baked in the galley. I learnt so much over the week…I would recommend this to anybody who is willing to work hard and has a good sense of humour.”
CWO Abi Mackenzie – 342 (Ealing & Brentford) Sqn
“Before we started this voyage I knew near to nothing about sailing and didn’t know what to expect! By the end I was leading a range of different sailing manoeuvres and making decisions on what to do to go where we wanted to go.”
CWO Will Lake – 1130 (Wrekin) Sqn
“Throughout this voyage I have learnt more than I imagined I would about how to sail. Despite sea-sickness and early apprehension, the trip has been thoroughly enjoyable thanks to the staff and the rest of the crew. The highlights of the trip include sailing through the night and the incredible scenery.”
Sgt Rachid Bouamra – 129 (Royal Tunbridge Wells) Sqn
“This week has been an absolutely incredible experience that I won’t forget for a long time. I’ve learnt a huge variety of sailing skills and knowledge that I knew nothing about before such as plotting routes on charts or changing a heavy sail. When I was first signing up I was quite reluctant… it was just something that I had never done before.”
Sgt Emily Buesnel – 7 Overseas (Jersey) Sqn
“I have had the most amazing week and met incredible people, both the staff and cadets and learned invaluable skills. This is an opportunity to grab with both hands… be ready to work hard and have the time of your life.”
CWO Kim Moir- 102(Aberdeen Airport) Sqn
“We all achieved the RYA Competent Crew Qualification. This now allows me to follow the route to gain my day skipper qualification. This will give loads of brilliant opportunities in the future.”
SGT Jaden Barber, 414 ( Epping & North Weald) Sqn.
“The west coast of Scotland was an amazing choice for this expedition. I developed great skills and discovered great things about boats and the sea; also the surrounding geography.”
CPL Callum C.Torreggiani, 1068 (Nairn) Sqn
“I was able to meet different people from all over the UK and then develop our skills to work together at sea. The best day was being able to take the skipper’s role and to run the vessel as a team to get it back to the port of Oban.”
SGT Jack Birch, 216 (Redditch) Sqn
“The OYT Scotland voyage was a fantastic expedition … Meeting cadets from all corners of the UK provided an exciting prospect to develop a hard working team who trust each other and can overcome challenges…. Some of these challenges included taking control of the vessel and sailing it over 30 miles. Overall the trip was fantastic and would recommend it to anyone.”
F/SGT Jacob Bullock, 42F (King’s Lynn) Sqn
“This expedition was an incredible experience. I would never have become involved in if it wasn’t for the Royal Air Force Air Cadets. It has given me the confidence to take the lead… and of sailing a boat with a team I had never met before.”
F/SGT, Isobel Hughes, 1211 (Swadlincote) Sqn
Report Compiled by Fg Off Charlie Hughes, RAFVR(T).
Editing and images by Sqn Ldr Mike Blakey, MBE, RAFVR(T).
Our thanks go to the generosity of the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust for supporting this expedition. www.rafct.com