All at sea...

Ever fancied trying life at sea? There are numerous possibilities to get sailing with the QARNNS...but it's not all smooth sailing! This article highlights the adventures of some of our nurses earlier this year...

Exercise Nautical Nurses 2015 was first thought of by Commodore Kennedy in May 2015 who, having been contacted by the skipper of HMSTV Endeavour, thought it would be an excellent opportunity for QARNNS to sail the boat back to Portsmouth from Plymouth after the Rolex Fastnet race. Volunteers were needed, whether they had sailed or were novices and the ten man strong crew were put together.

Day One: Plymouth     ‘No such thing as a stupid question’

On our first afternoon we were introduced to our new home, HMSTV Endeavour, which is a Challenger 67 which can go at the top speed of 21 knots - this record being held by the QARNNS! Many dits were spun that scared the rest of the novice crew with stories of sailing at 21 knots, with strong winds, big waves and in the pitch dark. Safe to say, some of us were questioning our choice in AT! In addition knots were practised, terminology revised and the weekly food shop bought - plenty of high energy food and the essentials for morale such as crisps, nutty and plenty of ginger nuts.  

Day Two: Plymouth – Dartmouth     ‘Going well – no-one’s died’

The plan was set to get a good amount of sailing practice in for the irst day, and sail to Dartmouth, with the rest of the week set for France and/or the Channel Islands . With sailing gloves bought and the boat ready to sail, the QARNNS set sail into what can only be described as extremely wet conditions. Unfortunately seasickness quickly set in for many of the QARNNS, particularly when attempting to make tea for the crew in the galley. Ginger nut biscuits, as I’m sure many who have enjoyed RFA Argus would know, were a god send, and were force fed to us by the skipper at any given moment.  

Day Three:  Dartmouth – Weymouth     ‘Never sailing with nurses again’

With day one of sailing successfully completed, the crew very much looked forward to getting to Guernsey the next day and enjoy some tax free shopping after a hard day of sailing. However not everything quite went to plan as the weather had very different ideas. Having set sail at 0600 for the long day of sailing ahead, the weather took a turn for the worse very quickly. A quick change of plan and we were off to…. Weymouth instead and this had it’s own difficulties as we were unable to see beyond the end of the boat due to the dramatic weather en route. Two lifejackets were accidentally inflated along the way - WO1 Durkan and MA Maloney while attempting to take some ‘ally’ pictures on her go pro, and several crew members were having to be held onto at the back of the boat due to the rough conditions and severe bouts of sea sickness.

Day Four: Weymouth – Poole     ‘It’s like caravanning…just worse!’

Unfortunately, after checking and rechecking the weather, France was finally ruled out so we set sail for Poole. While fighting in the wind with the mainsail halyard, Commander Piper showed off his climbing skills and unscrewed the halyard one handed, up the mast whilst tackling some very windy and rocky weather! As if that wasn’t enough and due to worsening weather, both fore sails had to be dropped in very quick succession.   NN(S) Arden and MA Maloney found themselves pinned underneath a sail, although impressively still did their best to grab at what little sail they could to help bring it down!

Day Five: Poole – Portsmouth     ‘Can you stand up in the bilge?’

MA Maloney, after days of begging the Skipper, was harnessed up and winched to the top of the mast! Another fantastic opportunity for ‘ally’ photos on the Go Pro. 

Our final sail was back to Portsmouth and in somewhat pleasant weather we headed to the Solent. We practised man overboard techniques at sea…trying to rescue a piece of bread which we had affectionately named ‘Wilson’. The rescue escalated when a throw line was accidently thrown overboard without being attached to the boat first! 

We anchored near the Isle of Wight and enjoyed a delicious chorizo pasta bake! Showed how far we had come in such a short space of time as, not only were we at sea below deck, but we were also eating without feeling nauseated! Vast improvement since day one! 

Our final night was spent doing the night sail which allowed us to learn about navigational lights and buoys. With a calm sea and little wind, we were able to sit back and appreciate the beauty of sailing at night, with a clear sky and a varied selection of music as a backdrop to our evening. The sails were brought down with ease – we would like to think this was due to our exceptional sailing skills and not the calm weather! On our final morning in true Naval tradition many hours of cleaning were undertaken before saying our goodbye’s and picking up certificates for those novices who were now competent crew. An extremely enjoyable but very tiring week was had by all. And from a personal perspective I definitely pushed myself both mentally and physically while making new friends and having some new dits to spin.

Written by LNN Hopkin and NN (S) Dent