Going offshore is one of the most exciting things cadets do. With a new series of taster days you can have adventures on three Sea Cadets vessels as they visit ports around the UK
“Blown away,” is how Leading Cadet Alex, 16, describes his first view of TS Jack Petchey. “It stood out! It’s probably the biggest ship we’ve seen in Gloucester Docks for a while. I was very impressed by it. Most of us hadn’t been on a ship that big before.”
For many of the nine cadets from Gloucester Sea Cadets, this is their first time on the water for more than 18 months. In March 2020, parade nights went online because of Covid. New cadets couldn’t meet their friends in person, and Alex even attended a virtual promotion board. Lockdowns and restrictions have also made overnight voyages on our vessels impossible at the current time. The offshore voyage programme ran for just one week in March 2020 before it had to be postponed. So the cadets were exicted to get out there today. “Seeing each other again was quite a happy moment,” says Alex.
So that cadets didn’t completely miss out on going offshore in 2021, Commander Andy Phenna, Head of Offshore Training, and his team started planning taster sessions that would work within the ongoing social distancing restrictions.
During weekends and school holidays this spring to autumn, the Sea Cadets fleet – 24-metre power vessels TS Jack Petchey and TS John Jerwood, and square rig tallship TS Royalist – are visiting ports around the UK to offer offshore taster days. This helps cadets develop skills and see what it would be like to go on the ultimate offshore adventure.
Back on board
As TS Jack Petchey leaves the docks and motors down Gloucester and Sharpness Canal, the cadets chat and admire the view. “When you’re on the water, it’s a different feeling,” says Able Cadet Susie, 17. “You get to see things you don’t see from the road or if you’re walking.”
The crew skillfully steers under bridges, dwarfing houseboats and fishermen. For Alex, being back on a vessel, in uniform, remembering to say ‘Sir’ and ‘Ma’am’, is strange – but in a good way. “Getting back into a routine felt a bit weird because I hadn’t done it in a long time. I had to get used to it. But it was quite exciting,” he says.
After lunch at Gloucester Docks, the cadets learn new skills, including heaving lines and firefighting with massive hoses. They test their communication skills over the ship’s radios and are shown how the engines work.
Lots of the activities that the cadets get to do are very hands-on. “It’s not writing or watching a video – it’s a new way of learning,” Susie says. “It’s what you’d do on a ship. They’re giving you that experience, like you’re actually offshore. It was very fun.”
“It’s the best way to learn,” Andy says, “to put things into practice with a task or a game.”
For Alex, his day on TS Jack Petchey has made him more excited about going offshore. “We went below decks and saw all the bunks. I think it would be pretty amazing to try it for a whole week,” he says.
As the day comes to an end, the crew of TS Jack Petchey says goodbye to the cadets, hoping to see them offshore soon. Meeting the crew was Susie’s favourite part of the day.
“It really inspired me,” she says. “I don’t know what I want to do when I’m older, but maybe that’s it – going offshore as crew, meeting new people, and helping them to enjoy it.”
Susie went offshore on TS John Jerwood for a week in 2018. She hopes to go again before she turns 18, and today’s taster session reminded her of how exciting that would be. Being back on board a ship “was a warm feeling – it was really nice and familiar”, she says. “It almost felt like home. It felt like I belonged there.”
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