866 ATC 1Immingham Air Cadet Corporal Ryan Lark found himself in a completely new environment when he was fortunate to be selected for a week’s voyage in the Sea Cadet’s Offshore sailing vessel TS Royalist last month.

Ryan was one of twelve air cadets nationwide selected to be part of the cadet exchange scheme with the Sea Cadet Corps and sail with them in their training tall ship.

For Ryan, who had recently been presented with his “Blue Wings” for flying and passed his Senior Cadet aeronautic exams, it was a whole new learning experience with a new list of technical jargon to absorb.

Ryan joined the ship at Weymouth and spent the first evening being shown around the vessel, meeting the other cadets and staff and being briefed on the forthcoming week and allocated their watches. Accommodation was different from the usual RAF barrack block rooms he knew for he had a bunk in a rather compact sleeping area with eleven other cadets.866 ATC 3

The first shock came at 6.30 in the morning when he was awoken not for breakfast, but his watch had to scrub the decks before they could eat. Certainly different from an RAF station.

However, after breakfast they left dock for a day’s sailing. Ryan was allocated his “Bracing Station” and took part in sail setting and other rather strenuous rope pulling to move the sails into position. It was then that he was allowed to climb the mast to the first platform and here he was introduced to the “Top sail” and the “Top Gallant Sheets” – a whole new language.

They anchored out in the bay for lunch and after further sailing exercises they eventually returned to Weymouth. Called to “Harbour stations” they lined the side of the ship as they sailed into port receiving many a wave from spectators. As Ryan said, “It was quite exciting facing outwards to the public as we gently moored up alongside the Quay”.

The next day they set sail for Poole. Once again there was plenty of sail setting and action on deck. The sea was slightly rougher than previous and some, but not Ryan, suffered sea-sickness. However, it was not all hard work as they had a bit of sight-seeing when they sailed passed Durdle Dore into Lulworth Cove on the Dorset coast. That evening they docked in Poole.

The following day was spent out in Poole Bay but with a difference as this time the Captain and crew allowed the cadets more freedom when sailing the vessel. Although they were being carefully supervised they had control of the ship and spent their time in turning and other manoeuvres to put their skills into practice. It was during this day that they conducted the “Man Overboard” drills and as Ryan commented “It was the hardest half hour of the voyage with constantly turning the ship in trying to locate the man overboard marker. My hands were sore in pulling ropes and setting the sails. However, I felt that I had achieved something when we recovered the marker.”

Leaving Poole the next day they set sail for Cowes on the Isle of Wight. The days sailing involved meeting up with two Sea Cadet motorised navigation training vessels when the cadets had a chance to look around each other’s ships. On arriving at Cowes the cadets had a bit of shore leave when Ryan and a couple of others accompanied the ship’s chef and helped him stock up on supplies. As Ryan quipped “It is always useful to keep the chef on your side and help him when you can It can have its rewards!”

So now it was the last day and the voyage to Gosport, the ship’s home port. However, not before sailing up the River Beaulieu and seeing the famous Gypsy Moth IV at Bucklers Hard. This was the yacht that Sir Francis Chichester did his 1967 single handed circum-navigation of the world in. As the day drew to a close they sailed up the Solent to Gosport and the end of the voyage.

What did Ryan think of it all? Let him tell us.

“It was amazing. It was the most worthwhile week I have ever had. It is hard to explain but I feel different after it. I feel as if I have done something which I shall always remember. Really words can’t describe it. I feel so grateful that I had the opportunity to experience a whole new world for me. I made many friends on the trip, but I would particularly like to thank the Sea Cadet staff who were brilliant. It was so obvious that they loved what they were doing. Well its all over now but the day I climbed to the top of the mast of a sailing ship and pulled in it’s sails will live with me forever. Every time I see one of those tall ships on television I will know what it feels like to have the wind in your face, and the ship rolling beneath you as you grip those sails. I will never forget!”