Air Cadet Sets Sail Aboard the TS Royalist
In November 2016, I was offered a place to attend a very different type of camp with the ATC. It was a sailing camp on a tall ship called the TS Royalist. The week was run by sea cadet staff for air cadets across the entire country.I had never been sailing before so I really didn’t know what to expect from the camp however it ended up being one of the best air cadet experiences that I have had.
On the first day, I travelled down to Portsmouth and arrived on the boat. Our accommodation, whilst small was still very nice. The girls ‘Rooms’ had staggered bunk beds, 6 on each side with a window on the top bunk. The boy’s accommodation had a similar layout but was located on the ‘mess deck’ which is the sort of dining room. We changed into our greens uniform and the trousers and coat that they provided before being split into four groups: Fore’d Port, Af’t Port, Fore’d Starboard and Af’t Starboard. After a few briefings, it was soon time for dinner, cooked by the chef on board.
On the second day, we woke up bright and early for breakfast, then headed up onto the deck to start with the day’s duties. These included washing and sweeping the deck (not pirate style), preparing for dinner (e.g. peeling potatoes) and stowing away our gear. After a few basic lessons, we were assigned jobs for the week. Mine was ‘Assistant Topsail and Topgallant Halyards and Fore Course Tack.’ These jobs told you what you were doing when you were setting the sails and also moving the sails around. Now that we were ready it was time to set sail for the Isle of Wight.
Each day there was a ‘Shore Crew’ who were in charge of releasing the ropes that tied the vessel to the land and on the first day I was lucky enough to be on the shore crew (which was a good photo opportunity). After untying the ropes, the ship started sailing- quickly followed by the shore crew on the sea boat. We practiced a lot of drills, moving the sails around and just generally learning the skills that we needed for the week. After a very fun but tiring day we arrived in Cowes, Isle of Wight, just in time for dinner. We were later given the opportunity to go onto the shore for a while before bed.
We woke up early again on the third day for our journey down to Poole. It was very windy that day but also very sunny. We sailed past The Needles and anchored in Swanage bay for lunch. We were also able to climb the rigging whilst we had stopped so we had to put on harnesses and wait our turn to climb up. It was a very different experience to normal climbing because the boat was rocking from side to side whilst you were climbing. Later, when we set off again we passed the Old Harry’s Rocks. Again, later on, we went on the shore to have a look around Poole. Fortunately, one of the cadets on the boat was from 149 Poole Sqn so she knew her way around town.
The fourth day, we continued to sail across the coast until later in the afternoon so it was dark. That day, we got to steer the ship at the helm and also climb all the way up the masts to tie up the sails.
The fifth day we first stopped at a Navel Fire unit where we learned all about the procedures and the important job that the firefighters play on the Navy Ships. We stopped on the land again to explore the town before setting sail for the Isle of Wight. Also on that day, we went out on the speed boat in small groups.
The last day was mostly an organising day; packing our kit; cleaning the ship; and sailing back to Portsmouth. We had a small party aboard the ship to celebrate the week before bed.
Overall the week was very worthwhile. I made lots of friends from all around the country and also learned a lot about sailing. Everybody gained the ‘Offshore Hand’ qualification by demonstrating the knowledge that we had learned over the week. I would recommend this camp to all cadet’s whether you are interested in sailing or not and I look forward to hopefully gaining places on other camps like this one.