Exercise Channel Pelican was the Summer Sailing Expedition for Ardingly College Combined Cadet Force (CCF) undertaken between the 5th and 11th of July 2018.
The Expedition sailed across the Channel (hence the expedition name) from Southampton visited the Channel Islands and France and then returned to Poole.
Exercise Channel Pelican was lead by Tim Sayers, Physics teacher, CCF Commander and Head of Outdoor Education for Ardingly College assisted by Dr Miles Porter, a CCF Officer and Head of Chemistry at the College. The expedition participants were pupils of the College ranging in age from 13 to 15, 5 girls and 7 boys.
The yacht Prolific was provided and staffed by the Ocean Youth Trust South (OYT) based in Gosport, Hampshire. Tim Sayers is an existing volunteer watch leader with the OYT, which reduced the costs of the expedition. Only the Skipper and the Bosun are paid roles, all other sea staff are volunteers. On board there were 12 children (Crew) and 8 adults (Staff).The OYT are a registered charity that provides sail training opportunities for young people from all backgrounds and had been in existence in various forms since the 1960’s. This is the second season for Prolific with the OYT. It is a Bermudan rigged ketch, 30m long including the bowsprit and draws 3.2m.
The aim of the Expedition was to cross the Channel and return weather permitting. During the voyage the crew would gain further valuable experience and log sea miles, which is crucial to offshore sailing. Like everything in life it is experience that is needed more than exam qualifications. The crew were nearly all complete novices to offshore sailing. By the end of the trip all the crew had been awarded RYA Competent Crew certificates.
We joined the yacht in Southampton and after assigning bunks and watches and completing the necessary safety briefs we set sail down Southampton water. Our first passage was a night crossing of the Channel. Once clear of the Needles we set into a 3 watch routine. Sunset watch gave way to star-gazing watch which led to sunset watch.
The conditions were calm but there was still some sea-sickness that was probably exacerbated by the night and the tiredness. It was a big effort by the whole crew and the busy first passage took all the young people out of their comfort zones (which was probably being out of sight of land!) This shared effort became a source of bonding and by the time we arrived in Guernsey the crew were at ease and relaxed in each others company and in boat routine.
The sun shone and the sea sparkled as we approached St Peter Port. We were treated to a fabulous display of Bottlenose dolphins as they moved between craft entering and exiting the harbour. A playing dolphin is the epitome of joy at sea.
The crew went ashore for a refreshing swim in the tidal swimming pool and legendary giant ice creams before some RYA Competent Crew training. The tides and wind predictions were such that the obvious choice for Day 3 was to watch England’s World Cup game before heading off to another Channel Island. Some techno wizadry allowed us to stream the game onto a makeshift screen in the galley. Though there was a significant delay in our cheers compared to the quayside pubs.
We anchored in a sheltered bay off the coast of Herm and established an anchor watch rota after supper. There was a glorious sunset and a clear night with both Mars and Venus brilliantly apparent in the sky. Heaven for a Physics teacher.
The next morning we had a quick explore of the traffic free island after being shuttled ashore by the tender. The island was truly calm with the absence of cars and the little shops and pretty beaches must make it a top holiday destination.
Once back aboard we had to catch the Alderney Race which is the tidal conveyor belt that sweeps up the west coast of Normandy. The winds were light but we had the sails up and made good ground nevertheless and arrived in Cherbourg in late evening.
After a quick trip ashore we had an early night to prepare for an early start for the return crossing. The crew were thoroughly in their stride by this point and spontaneous deck dancing broke out in between sail hoists. During down time crew were examined on their knots and rope work as well as taking more instruction on navigation.
After a glorious crossing in full sunshine that was more like sailing in Greece we returned to England and went alongside in Portland.
As a final event the Crew had to prove their competence by safely taking the yacht from Portland to Poole with minimal input form staff. They took bearings, plotted positions and prepared detailed pilotage into Poole Harbour; the world’s second largest natural harbour apparently (after Sydney). They did a fantastic job and we came alongside the town quay after a long and tiring week. They thoroughly deserved their run ashore with pizza and ice cream.
We covered 270 nautical miles and every crew member received their RYA Competent Crew certificate. The crew became a fantastic team from the very beginning and as often happens with sail training they learn more about themselves, each other and how to work and live together than they do about sailing. They were all great company.
Also a huge thanks to the OYT Sea Staff volunteers who make it all possible: Andy, Graeme, Jack, Josh, Nick, Vicky and Rosalie.
You can find out more via this SPARK presentation.