Not often do you get the opportunity to write a blog piece for a fellow colleague on-ship, particularly on such a niche subject matter of cadet training – of all the maritime based topics to choose from. However, it is a subject which is often forgotten about, marred by the wayside for more current or frivolous topics of seafaring.
The cadet training scheme, for those under the UK system, is split over the course of 3 years. A long hard and arduous 3-year, in which you see yourself displaced from the niceties and comforts of home, being away at nautical college and most importantly, away at sea – for often extended periods of time. It is both mentally and emotionally testing – for some – whilst also arguably changing and shaping an individual into something that they weren’t on ‘day one’ of nautical college.
You change. That’s a fact. Drawing from a personal anecdote, prior to undertaking this career, I was fresh out of college. I attained a piece of paper which said I was qualified in Petroleum Engineering, and alongside that had experiences in working on offshore Oil & Gas installations. I was frequenting jobs in local boat yards and harbours, in the vain hope I would find something worthwhile, which paid well enough to get me by. I was only 19. Marginally speaking, I was young. I hadn’t a clue what I wanted to do with my life – even looking back to high school. My only salvation, so it seemed, was to run away to sea.
“Why run away from your problems, when you can perform running fixes instead?”
Nautical College in itself was an interesting experience; being away from home for the first time. University was out of the equation – as I rather selflessly declared ‘I was not university material’. The idea of spending 3 years of your life studying for a degree which holds little to no value these days – was one of the many factors. The irony.
Anyway, I digress. Nautical college provided the chance to be away from home, into the ‘real world’ of responsibility and taking control of one’s life – which I was very much eager to do due to the instability back home. I was surrounded by people with the same, or similar, interests and passions. The class functioned as a whole unit – all helping each other and looking out for one another. It seems so surreal and odd how we managed to all get along, have a laugh and get on with the work. The first phase in itself was purely preparation for what lay ahead – another HNC, 12 months of sea time (minimum) and a vast array of short-courses. It would be naive of me to say that I was ready. Because, I wasn’t. Working offshore was a whole different gig to working at sea.
“I like straight lines. It’s just the alterations I don’t like”
The First sea phase. The one which is purported to ‘Make or break’ a cadet. Was a solid 5-month stretch in which would not only test, but also develop every skill imaginable. I’ll admit, I was useless for the best part of 2 months – much to the agreement of some officers – I would always do something wrong, or mess up something at least once a day. Surely there was an agenda against me. The first trip was definitely testing me. It sounds bad, I know. But thereafter something happened. I was not doing things wrong, I knew what was expected of me and I managed to get on with the work and complete it to a high and reasonable standard. I came a long way, I learned and developed over that time, I was trusted to complete jobs and tasks without having to be checked up on, second-guessed or made to feel I wasn’t getting anywhere.
I came back from sea a better person; more respectful, disciplined and grounded. Additionally, to much entertainment, I came back with a more refined and better accent than what I came out with – which I still to this day agree was the product of having to speak clearly and coherently over the radio to shore side personnel, whose’ English is often dialect-heavy and barely understandable… alongside working with officers from more reputable areas of the UK. The first trip, safe to say, made me a better person, and in doing so, broke me- to the extent of changing my mental attitude and approach to everything.
I returned to college, for the next phase. Completed the HNC qualification, and progressed onto additional sea trips. 3-months at a time. This bolstered and refined everything I learnt, preparing me for the final frontier. SQA exams and Orals.
“If it terrifies and excites you at the same time. You should probably do it.”
Now, expectations and anticipations for the future? Too early to tell. I’m in the midst of my final trip, torn between wanting it to end so I can ‘get on with it’ (Exams and additional navigational courses). Whilst also simultaneously not wanting to leave as I’m quite frankly terrified of the intense period of exams and studies which lay ahead. It’s a necessary evil which will have to be addressed in due course. I just hope that 3 years of studying towards a Certificate of Competency was worth it.
Over the course of my training, I’ve been keeping a journal, and with most pipe-dreams and outrageous ideas, I aim to publish it at some point. Perhaps in a few years. Possibly never.
“Chipping, Painting and Cups of Tea – A cadets various trips at sea”.
~by TankerSpanker 😉 Arrr