When I began my Cadetship, in September 2012, I vaguely recall my imagination going haywire; I had no idea which type of ship I would sail on, or where in the world I would end up. What I didn’t expect, was to be sat around in Fleetwood in 2016, with horrific tan lines on my arms (more on that later). In 2016, I was supposed to by ‘out there’ earning, and learning as a newly qualified 3rd Officer. It was supposed to be the year in which I purchased my little yacht.
Instead, I am here loitering, in the metaphorical land of purgatory, the doldrums if you like. Not quite qualified, and struggling to see the point in dedicating the next 5 weeks of my life, to finish this cadetship, when there’s so many others already qualified, waiting for a job, and the supply of newly qualified officers completely outweighs the demand for newly qualified officers. Of course, I am going to knuckle down, and get these written exams out of the way, because I want to see this through right to the very end.
The shipping company which sponsored me didn’t quite meet the requirements to get me away to sea, which, consequently resulted in me being back phased, and then, I was a week and a half late back for my written paper preparation last September. I managed to pass both papers, but got a stupid section fail, which cancelled everything else out, meaning that I have to re take both Stability, and Navigation. You don’t get to see what the correct answers were, nor do you get to see where you went wrong, and the results take about seven or eight weeks to come through- which is frustratingly archaic.
I did however pass my OOW orals. Long days in college, and even longer evenings attempting to cram as much information into an already battered brain finally paid off. It was an uplifting moment when the examiner said “Right Mr Bibby, you’ve passed”
As for the tan lines, well, My company didn’t manage to get me the full twelve months sea time, to satisfy the MCA requirement for the cadetship, so I was able to go back to College to complete my written exams, and oral exams, on the proviso that I got the remaining seventeen days done before my certificate of competency is released. I’ve just got back from a 17 day voyage on a Barque, which for non sailors, is a big fuck off three masted sailing ship. I wasn’t really looking forward to the ‘experience’ if I’m perfectly honest. I had my own reservations, and ideas on what it would be like, and they were not too far away from the reality. I ended up partially enjoying myself, as we were touring around the Canaries. We started in Tenerife, and went to La Palma, La Gomera, and El Hierro, which was something I’d wanted to do anyway. The pathetic, partially qualified, obnoxious, xenophobes, did not really grate on me as much as I first thought they would. Maybe it was my accent that they didn’t like, or perhaps the fact that, in their little fantasy bubble (the ship) – the rank of Cadet is there to be spoken to like shit. It was only seventeen days, and I’d previously endured the worst that country of India had to offer, in the way of utter bell ends- so a couple of WAFI idiots, with no concept of reality were not going to get me down.
The voyage crew (people who were paying to be there) were a unique bunch! Teenagers looking for ‘challenges’, retired folk with time and money in abundance, physically and visually impaired people, all coming together to ‘experience’ life on a sailing ship. Pretty inspiring stuff. Not sure how much more third rate sexual innuendo, and nautical chat I could take though!
Thankfully, on the second voyage (I was there for two voyages) – I made friends with a retiring GP from Essex, and a tall ships skipper from Derry, the former was sailing as a supernumerary 3rd Officer, and the latter a “Bosuns mate” – and we formed an unlikely alliance (against the snobby cunts) – had some good runs ashore, and discovered that white wine does not give you a hangover, unless of course it’s the £5.00 bottles from Wetherspoons which I am accustomed to.
Six weeks of exam prep (no excuses), and then, the long queue of newly qualified deck officers looking for work awaits me. I always get the impression from some people that I know that they doubt my ability, or that they have some reservations about my abilities at least, and this nagging feeling has been a major catalyst in me seeing this cadetship out.