Skip links

SSN 654 – School Activity Week

Day 1

We arrived at the ship just after lunch and were told our Watch numbers before being shown our cabins. After this we were issued with our kit which included a safety harness, water proof trousers and jacket. During the afternoon we had a safety briefing which included Owen dressing in an immersion suit. It was hilarious, as he looked like a Tellytubby. Later we were informed of the emergency procedures and what the different alarms mean. We were given a lesson in helming. Then we each had a go at using the wheel before learning how to use a compass and reading bearings. This was followed by a session on rope handling and we learned how to haul, ease, sweat and tail, cast away, make fast and coil ropes. All of this was exhausting and we quickly built up an appetite. Our wholesome dinner of steak, mash and vegetables was followed by rhubarb crumble and custard, which we all gobbled down. Finally, we had a team quiz before flopping into our beds looking forward to what the next day would hold.

 Marie, Luke and Tom

Day 2

Today has been a very interesting day. We had our first “Happy Hour” which is not so happy because it involves cleaning the ship. One of the teachers, Mrs Grego, thoroughly enjoyed cleaning the Heads (toilets). After a briefing we put our harnesses on and did an “up an over” which involves climbing up the shrouds and Jocob’s Ladder to reach the platform or tops and then climbing down on the other side of the ship. Then after practising knots we had lunch. The afternoon began with a briefing before climbing onto the coarse yards and practising breaking out and stowing sails. We left the Port of Blyth at 14:00 and James from White Watch steered the ship out of the Port and into the North Sea, heading South. We had a briefing on bracing the yards before putting it into practice. After bracing one way and then the next, we braced square. Then there was the ‘spaghetti run’ which involved coiling the ropes and putting them on the belaying pins.Under engines we headed South. The only sails set were the Outer Jib and Fore Top Mast Staysail. On approaching our anchorage off Skiningrove, we stowed the fore and aft sails. Arriving in mid-evening. We had an interwatch ‘boat race’ in the waist, which White Watch won. This was followed by a quiz, which was won jointly by White and Blue Watches. After an amazing sunset we all turned in for the night.

 Ben, Marie and Lewis

 Day 3

We weighed anchor after bracing square then breaking out fore lower topsail, fore lower topsail and main lower topsail, together with outer jib and fore topmast staysail. After turning North, we set sails and turned off engines. Sailing up the North East coast, we completed the usual daily routine, including our not so favourite “Happy Hour”. During the afternoon we had a quiz on safety harnesses and things to do with the ship, to see if we had remembered the many things we had been taught. Every watch did well but Blue Watch narrowly won. After sailing all day we reached the Northumberland coast. All sails were stowed after bracing square and some of those who didn’t climb went out on the bowsprit. Under engines we travelled a short distance to just off Coquet Island where we anchored for the night.

 Day 4

While at anchor off Coquet Island we had a social climb up the foremast. This took a long time because everyone wanted to climb. Some of the voyage crew climbed right to the mast head, while others climbed to the cross trees, including the two teachers, although Mrs Grego’s knees were trembling and her language was not Spanish or French but more like Anglo-Saxon. Those who were not so comfortable climbing faced up to the challenge, did the “up and over” and got a well done from Kim, the Bosun, which brought big smiles, especially from Ben. We put the long liners (rowing boats) into the water for an interwatch rowing competition. The wind and tide made it difficult to make head way and after Red Watch drifted astern the race was abandoned but White Watch were clearly best at rowing. We weighed anchor and then some went aloft again to break out sails. The ship turned east and we set the sails, upper and lower topsails on the foremast, lower topsail on the main mast and two headsails. This was our first chance to sail through the night and experience the ‘pleasure’ of night watches.

 Sarah, Elsie and Sophie.

Day 5

After sailing east through the night the ship was turned around to head west towards our destination of Newcastle. We had to brace the yards a number of times in order to turn the ship around and the Chief Officer told us that this was called wearing. Then we had to clean the ship, another “happy hour”, before preparing the ship for our arrival in Newcastle. This involved stowing the sails on the yards and bowsprit and when we were approaching the River Tyne, the engines were switched on. The pilot joined the ship close to the mouth of the river to help guide us safely into port. Unfortunately it started to rain and we all had to put on our waterproofs. After we had reached our destination along way up the river close to the City, we did the “egg drop”. Each Watch had to borrow materials to prepare a device to throw from the platform on the Fore-mast into the Waist enclosing an egg. The Watch whose egg didn’t break was allowed to smash the egg on the head of their Watch Leader. Both Red and Blue Watches were successful and so Alex and Elise got an egg shampoo.

Then the Ship’s shop was opened and we were able to buy souvenirs and sweets. We got a Certificate of our Voyage from the Captain. We were all sad to leave after having such good fun.

 Marie-Claire, Sarah and Elsie