Friday, 10 September 2010

So, what does being a cadet involve?

Ok, I'm still massively behind on this blog, but, I'm not as behind on here as I am on flickr! I am trying to catch up, and to be honest, there's not much more to tell you about, so I'm debating with myself as to whether to bother. In a nutshell, I spent the rest of my time on the QM2 on the bridge for arrivals and departures, doing the same stuff as I've already talked about, but getting better at it. We did the UK cruise, during which I started to learn how to calculate compass errors using the stars. We then went back to New York tracking south to avoid some more bad weather. In New York I got a massage which f*@ked my back up for about a week (tip- when you've had a massage and are on your back, roll sideways to sit up, don't sit straight up!!). After that we did a short 3 day cruise to Boston, Bar Harbour and Halifax before returning to New York where I finally got off and flew home. If there's interest, I will expand on that, but you'll have to ask!

I got off the QM2 in November. I was due to return to college in January, but college, in their infinite wisdom, decided to put our return date back til mid feb. So, with all that time to go I asked my company if I could go back to the THV Patricia, and they obliged. The Pat is the polar opposite to the QM, she's 84m compared to 334m, she does take passengers, but only 12 of them, and she's a buoy tender, going around parts of the UK coast looking after the lights and marks that we all use to navigate by. Quite a difference, but equally interesting and involving!

For now though, something different: Someone I sailed with on the Pelican is thinking about joining the MN, and he asked me what it involved, I wrote back to him with this. It struck me that a lot of people don't know what being a cadet involves, so I thought I'd share...

I'm in the last couple of months of the academic stuff at college, which is pretty hectic- I have 4 assignments and three exams coming up in the next 2 months (which I should be cracking on with but it's friday evening and my motivation is low!). I'm doing the foundation degree course, the other option is the HNC course, the FD covers all the theory for OOW, Chief Mates and masters while the HNC just covers the OOW, this means the FD course is more intensive, but the pay off is that when I have enough sea time to go for my mates ticket I won't have to do a long college stint, I'll just come back to do the orals prep, which is 4 weeks. On the other hand I'll have to remember everything I've learned in college now in a few years time!

It is a big commitment, as you spend several months at college at a time and then several months at sea at a time, the courses don't run like uni terms, and the holidays are less than at uni (2 weeks for xmas, 3 for easter and 4 for summer), plus if you're on a sea phase you don't get the college holiday. You do get some leave during your sea phases though, between trips and if you have something big like a family wedding and you give your sponsor enough notice (ie a year in advance) they will try to arrange your sea trips so you can be home for it. But it's only three years like that, once you're qualified the leave periods between trips are much longer, it depends entirely on the company you end up working for mind, so you could end up doing three weeks on three weeks off, or three months on two months off, or 6 months on 6 months off...

Cadet wages vary according to sponsor companies quite a lot, from about £550/month to £1000/month, some cadets get their accommodation paid for on top of their wage, most of us have to pay for it out of what we get paid. I get an extra bit of money for uniform, some cadets get their uniform provided by their sponsor, which includes being sent a bunch of stuff you're never going to wear, I'll never forget my girly coursemate's tiny white see-through shorts!!

The course covers everything, in the first phase I covered maths skills, introductory ship construction and cargo work, general ship knowledge, buoyage and rules of the road, meteorology and chartwork, tides and sailings. In my sea phase I did Work Based Learning, in which you relate what you did on college to what goes on on ship, to demonstrate you have learnt and understood stuff. You also have a training record book, in which the ship's officers sign off tasks you have done on ship. To back that up you keep a navigation and operations workbook, which is essentially writing about stuff you're done.

This phase we're doing celestial navigation and passage planning, navigation aids, ship stability, engineering, advanced cargo and construction, management, law and professional development (PD involves a 4000 word "dissertation", which we can write about anything we like). In my next sea phase I'll be doing more Work Based Learning, as well as getting the remaining tasks signed off in my training record book.

The HNC course cuts out a few of those subjects, such as the PD, engineering and law, and others are only taught to the OOW level, (stability, and possibly cargo and construction too). The other difference is that you don't do the Work Based Learning when at sea, but you have other reports to write instead.

I've really enjoyed it all so far, well, there have been shit days and the maths in cel nav and stability makes my brain bleed, but I still have my eye firmly on that OOW ticket at the end of it and have no regrets at all.