I was delighted to have been invited to visit Sea Cadets flagship TS Royalist, which is traditional tall ship. Sea cadets and royal marines cadets can spend a week on board this training ship, developing new skills and making new friends.
At one-year and three-months-old I was definitely the youngest on board.
Sister ships TS John Jerwood and TS Jack Petchey can take cadets from 12-years-old because they are powered vessels. The rope handling on a tall ship is a bit more physical so TS Royalist trains cadets aged 13 to 17-years-old.
Given my youthfulness I was a little surprised to be told that I reminded one cadet of his grandma! But he quickly explained that he meant “wise and experienced”. This seems plausible. I am a pretty magnificent moggy. Hello to grandma!
As an experienced prowler of Royal Navy warships, I had never been on board a sail ship or met any sea cadets or royal marines cadets before. I needn’t have worried as they were all very welcoming and most of them were on their first sailing trip too. My cadet shipmates were from units all over the UK and so day one was spent settling in, getting to know their new cabin mates, with the help of the experienced and friendly permanent staff.
I joined for day two which was the first day at sea. We spent the morning learning some essential safety rules, practicing putting on safety harnesses and having our first go at climbing the rigging; which is an important part of setting the sails at sea.
Sailing a tall ship is completely different to being at school and was new to all of us. Some cadets quickly discovered a hidden talent which they didn’t know they had while the rest of us needed a little longer and a bit more practice to master new things. This is fine; there were ten staff on board to assist us and fellow cadets encouraged each other well.
Every small step forward (or upward!) is celebrated. As soon as they climb onto the very first rung of the rigging ladders cadets have achieved something new and with a whole week in which to gain confidence, everyone enjoys personal progress.
I had a few difficulties with my claws getting stuck in the rope but I made it to the ‘first floor’ of the rigging, about a third of the way up. The sea breeze really gets in your whiskers up there – lovely!
Teamwork is an important part of the training. This can be anything from taking your turn as duty mess cadet, helping to serve hot food to those who have been out on deck; making sure that you’re pulling the right rope at the right time to coordinate with everyone else, or heaving heavier ropes as part of a group. ‘Learning the ropes’ is a phrase which has its origins in sailing and with one hundred and twenty “ropes with jobs” on TS Royalist, I can see why!
Lunch, cooked by the full time chef, was soup followed by pulled pork baps. On Sunday evening we had a traditional roast dinner. The smell of turkey had been wafting through the ship all day so it was a relief to finally get my paws on some. Several cadets had vegetarian meals and having let him know in advance, the very nice chef also catered for my feline needs. Purr-fect!
As well as being a lot of fun, TS Royalist provides a very different environment in which to discover and develop your individual strengths and identify and work on areas for improvement. For me a strength was that I am comfortable with heights. It’s a cat speciality. My main area for improvement was team work as I can be quite easily distracted by food and warmth. After my tail had been trodden on a couple of times I learnt to pay more attention to where I was in relation to feet and moving ropes!
All in all, it was a brilliant trip in a fascinating vessel. The staff are wonderful and have years of experience of working with young people at sea; they make sure that everyone is well looked after, including this Ship’s Cat. A big thank you to Captain Sea Cadets for the invite on board, and also to the lovely staff and cadets who made me so welcome. Enjoy the rest of your training season, TS Royalist!
Author: The Ship's Cat
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