The beginning of the end

I finished my last trip yesterday, it was only a 4 day trip, but my last as a cadet, and I suddenly find myself facing the prospect of returning to college for the last time.Where did the last three years go? I wonder, have I learnt enough? Will I crumble into a small heap of nerves as I step into that exam room? I am I good enough?

If you read my appraisals, you would probably say yes, phrases such as “Will make a fine officer” “Is welcome back any time” “Has demonstrated a solid understanding of the rules in busy traffic” are but a few of the kind things my training officers and Captains have written, but I can’t help but think… Are they just being nice?? My father says of course not, they wouldn’t say it if they didn’t mean it, but he’s my Dad, and a proud father, and therefore unlikely to say anything otherwise. I know he’s probably right, but I still have this deep down gnawing fear…

The last month or two has been interesting, for a variety of reasons. My last trip on the Balmoral was supposed to be my last trip, but as I had only gained 6 hrs watchkeeping hours per day on the Adventurer I needed 32 hours more bridge watchkeeping time, I had asked my sponsors about this a while ago and they’d said “Ohhh it’s fine” and then phoned up a few days ago and said, “Oh, um, it’s probably not fine”. They did find me ship though, and a great little ship it was too; Huelin Dispatch sails out of Southampton three times a week, taking general cargo to the Channel Islands, the crew totals nine and there’s no uniform, no calling people Sir, no EDCIS, no ARPA…. it was wonderful, and totally, utterly opposite in every respect to the Balmoral. In the space of 4 days I felt first welcomed, then accepted and valued, and without any wish to sound nauseatingly gushy, it felt like I was part of the family. I wish I’d had the chance to sail on her for longer, navigating without the course laid out on the Radar or AIS cluttering up the screen made watches interesting cos I had to actually think about things, the cargo stayed where it was put, it didn’t ask me anything and it didn’t complain when the weather made life a little lumpy. And when I say lumpy I mean, in a force 7 the ship was moving so much that I started to get a headache and feel that tea rather than coffee was necessary (which is about as close to being seasick as I get), and I couldn’t sleep, which means it’s seriously lumpy. But how devine to actually feel like I was on a ship, rather than having stabilizers take all the fun out of it.

You may have gathered from this that I liked the Dispatch (Pictures are here) , almost as much as I disliked the Balmoral (Pictures are here). I would like to point out that the officers were all perfectly nice to me on there, but I always felt like a spare part, and as for other things…. I’m not going to go into detail about them here, as I think they’ve gotten themselves into a big enough hole as it is, but as I said to the MCA inspector on the day I left, most of what I learnt on there was what not to do. As I said, it’s been interesting….

So with all these experiences under my belt, and the lessons therein tucked firmly into my brain, am I ready? I guess I’ll never feel 100% ready, 100% confident, and will always wish I could have just a bit more time. But on the other hand, I’m looking forward to having my own watch, looking forward to the leave periods, looking forward to the pay,  looking forward to the opportunity to choose the ship I work on, especially as that ship might be a Tall Ship.


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