visited Malmo and Karlskrona in Sweden, Gdynia in Poland, Klaipeda in
Lithuania, Ventspils in Latvia and Roomasare in Estonia.
This of course meant that the sailing was long... very long. Even crossing a sea the size of the Baltic meant that the days could be a total of fourteen hours sailing.
However, this is the best time to meet everyone. The time when everyone is
forced to work together and to ensure that everything goes smoothly. After an
hour of an environment like this, you suddenly find yourself with a group of
new friends of varying skills who you can rely on when you need help.
And then with that comes the good laughs; such as finding an Irish bar in the
middle of Malmo, or relaxing on a boat-turned-bar in Poland or taking a sudden
day trip to Copenhagen- because why not get a train to another country when you
have a free day in one of the largest cities in Sweden, or finding the cheapest
bar in Europe (literally, a pint was the equivalent of 90p) in Poland. While
there were long sails, there was also plenty of free time. There were two days
ashore in Malmo and in Klaipeda, both of which were well spent exploring the
cities and having a nice relaxed night in a bar somewhere, every now and again,
we’d find a decent club and go there for the night- very much regretting it in
the morning of course.
There was plenty of training; and with that there
are of course some boring parts (although still very valuable) - such as how to
“cheese” a rope (basically twist it into a huge circle) or how to best plot the
course: meticulously staring at the same chart to make sure every point is
correct. But there were some great parts of it, such as taking control of the
ship and steering it in order to “save” a life ring that has been thrown
overboard, or being the Officer of the Watch where you were in command of the
ship and reporting directly to the Captain or when the fleet performed
difficult and complex manoeuvres such as bringing two ships close together and
throwing rope across to transfer cargo between them while they travel at speed;
this might not sound like fun, but the number of people involved and the
meticulous planning to do this was unexpectedly high.
We met many people on our journey who would sometimes host important events for us. In Roomasare in Estonia, we sat and had a BBQ hosted by the deputy mayor of the Island and spoke to some of the highest ranking in the Estonian military (one
Estonian commando was a very interesting man who had even got a history with
the SAS). We met some high ranking officials of the Finnish navy as they came
aboard our ship to guide us into port.
Overall, the ten days away were amazing, but also intense- just as
would be expected in any military-style deployment. But it put what was talked
about in a classroom together and gave everyone a sense of how important it
is. And plus, everyone became friends by the end of the phase.
O/Cdt David O'Ryan