Saturday 16th March 2018 was the start of a big adventure for 14 cadets from Central District Sea Cadets. Setting from their units in Cowes, Ryde, Gosport, Portsmouth, Chichester, Bognor Littlehampton and Worthing the cadets arrive at Fort Blockhouse to join the Sea Cadet Training vessel Jack Petchey.
For all the cadets embarking on the Jack Petchey this was their first time on an offshore vessel and for most away from home. After lots of briefings and familiarisation with the vessel, the cadets settle into their new home for the next week.
Sunday awoke with a shock, the beast from the east, had overnight engulfed the vessel with a thick blanket of snow and brought with it bitter winds. The plans for the day were very much scuppered. Taking the opportunity to stay warm and out of the dangerous conditions outside, the cadets started on their training towards gaining their offshore Power Hand qualification. The morning was spent learning the various parts of the Jack Petchey, navigation and ropework.
After a mornings studies and a hearty lunch, the weather subsided, and it was off to the Submarine museum. This gave an opportunity for a snow ball fight with the cadets from the sister vessel to the Jack Petchey, the John Jerwood. After a much welcomed evening meal it was games time (a typical Naval tradition in the mess decks) and an occasion to continue to bond, in readiness for tomorrow’s voyage.
Monday everybody awoke with high expectations of getting to sea. The snow had not fully subsided and the upper deck was still to hazardous to work on safely. The disappointment was soon put aside as the cadets were able to go into the engine room and see the engines working, help in the gallery to prepare lunch and clean ship (not so welcomed). Great, rejoicing the Beast from the East had moved on. With the decks hurriedly cleared for the first time the cadets were away from the jetty, with light fading the Jack Petchey stayed in the harbour. The Beast from the East had forced HMS Queen Elizabeth back earlier. What an experience to see her up close, along with all the other Naval ships. What a day, all excited for what tomorrow would bring it was lights out.
Tuesday was the day, with good weather the Jack Petchey set sail for the Solent. A whole day at sea, what an adventure. This was now the opportunity to put all those lessons learnt into practice. Throughout the day the cadets took it in turn to steer the vessel, practise their navigation skills, act as lookouts and peel the potatoes for the evening meal. Once settled in Cowes for the evening there was an opportunity to go ashore. Unknown to Cdt Harry Weller upon his return there was a surprise birthday cake and card from all the crew and cadets.
Early start Wednesday to make up for lost time and the good weather forecasted. The destination today, Poole. Now working with the John Jerwood both vessels sailed around the IOW on route to Poole. Today was man overboard drills and launching the RIB to transfer between vessels. An evening in Poole allowed both crews time ashore to talk over their experiences and who was the best crew.
Thursday saw an early start again, so much so breakfast was eaten whilst at sea, a new experience for all, on a choppy day. Thursday was hard work, today was the day all the knowledge learnt was tested to see who was good enough to gain their offshore Power Hand qualification.
On returning to Portsmouth it was refuel ship and a thorough clean of the vessel from top to bottom (not all fun this week). After dinner, this was the moment it was awards time. The skipper and crew thanked everybody for what had been a difficult week with the weather. He praised everybody for their good spirits and excellent team work, hoping all of them had enjoyed it enough to want to return for another voyage. The big moment, they had all passed their assessment and could now proudly wear on their uniform Offshore Power Hand level one qualification, meaning they could all return for another voyage. After a final evening of reliving their experiences of the week and planning further adventures together all fell silent in the mess deck.
Friday was a sad day, the end of the adventure. After big goodbyes and swapping of phone numbers is was off to their respective units to tell other cadets of what a great adventure the Sea Cadet Offshore Training vessels are.