Volunteer spotlight: offshore diary

Mike Langford, Chair of Eastern Area and a unit management team member, describes an offshore voyage with Harrogate Sea Cadets

Not many Area Chairs of Sea Cadets or unit management team members get the opportunity to help with an offshore voyage. I am so glad I did as it gave me the chance to witness our amazing cadets working together as a team, on tasks that, for many, were outside their comfort zone.I also saw the wealth of experience of the crew.

Embarking

Before we set off from Haslar Marina there was a flurry of activity: Covid tests, getting all the kit on board, bunk allocation, watch-keeping rotas, foul-weather jackets issued, life jacket demonstrations, then supper. The coxswain prepared a great meal, served by the cadets on mess duty. If only their parents could see how gracefully and in good spirits they performed their catering duties! TS Royalist and TS Jack Petchey were moored alongside, and we saw the two Sea Cadets yachts. Quite a sight.
Bed at 10pm, then lights out 10.30pm.

TS John Jerwood in the harbour

Up at 7am for breakfast. Our first stop was at Gunwharf Quay, then we went out into the Solent. The cadets were great at following instructions, so my job was just to make sure no accidents happened. The most popular job was steering, especially bringing Jerwood into harbour or out from our berth. 

The least popular was cleaning the heads on the last day, but nobody complained and they passed Captain’s rounds. Interesting jobs included plotting our position on the chart or doing engine checks. We passed HMS Queen Elizabeth in Portsmouth Harbour and saw other ships moored alongside.

Down time

Another highlight was when the Captain read the cadets a bedtime story – a modern version of Little Red Riding Hood. I was also introduced to my first use of Kahoot and was in the lead for the first round of the game, but that didn’t last! Some nights we watched a film.

There were talks on board most nights, around buoyage, engineering and flags. This wasn’t at all like school (as I remember it in the 1960s) – the talks were delivered in a fun and relevant way and the crew told us about their jobs. Most of the crew were former sea cadets.

Cadet Lucy, who only turned 12 on the first day of the voyage, told me: “I got to steer the helm and learn navigation skills. The food was really nice and we travelled to lots of different places.” George, 15, was the senior cadet on board. “Going offshore has helped me develop important everyday skills like leadership and communication, but it also helped develop specific skills for working on a ship like basic engineering and navigation,” he says. “The offshore week is a fun, hands-on way to learn.”

In the mess

Heading back to harbour 

Thursday afternoon was spent cleaning ship but even that was made fun. Everyone was awarded certificates. The minibus collected us from the marina at 9am on Friday and we knew we were back in the civilian world when Andy, our driver, told all the cadets to stop calling him ‘Sir’!

I am so grateful to have seen the cadets in action and the skills of volunteers and staff in keeping cadets motivated, alert and listening but still having fun. The expertise and training that goes with being a member of the permanent crew is staggering. 

I could also see that none of this would have happened without our Unit Management Team’s fundraising, keeping in touch with our sponsors, or Sea Cadets putting a massive investment into the vessels, the crew and the training. It made me all the more determined to do my part for this fantastic charity.

Mike Langford volunteer
Chair of Eastern Area and a unit management team member Mike Langford experienced a five-day offshore voyage

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