457 Battery, Royal Artillery
A total of 9 personnel from 457 Battery, part of 106th Regiment, Royal Artillery were invited to take part in Exercise ATLANTIS BARBARA 2013 which sees soldiers from across the Royal Artillery sail to the Atlantic Islands between September 2012 and April 2013. The exercise is comprised of 12 two week legs, and will involve a total of 110 personnel. To ensure that the maximum number of people could attend this unique opportunity, the regiment chose to split the leg in two half’s, each sub-leg lasting a week.
Having left behind a cold, icy and snow covered Southampton on the 24th of Jan, 4 members from 457 Battery, based in Southampton, headed to Gatwick Airport to fly out to Lanzarote. As novice sailors, who’s total number of sailing hours between us you can count on one hand, we did not really know what to we had really let ourselves in for. Tales of huge rolling Atlantic waves, sea monsters, constant seasickness and shark infested waters had done the rounds.
There is a good mix of Full and Part-time soldiers, including 3 personnel from our sister Regiments (12th Regiment, RA and Kings Troop, RA& JGBAD). We stepped off the plane to be greeted by blue sky and sunshine and met up with our skipper and our new home for the next few 7 days.
The yacht, St Barbara V looks rather ‘compact’ for nine people from the outside and from the inside it looked even more ‘compact’, our accommodation composed of a series of bunks/cots and a locker. We were taken through a series of safety and yacht briefs, assigned roles and also introduced to vast array of new terms. Just like being in the field exercise or on Ops to ensure the smooth running a strict ‘do you need it now, if not put it away policy’ is essential.
We left the safety of the harbour and ventured out to sea to begin our RYA Competent Crew syllabus, by the end of the exercise we will have covered: sail handling, helming, trimming sails, knots and rope work, mooring, anchoring, rules of the road and more.
Tasks which you take for granted such as cooking in galley (kitchen) and using the heads (toilets) were a bit more complex than they when on land. Cooking for a crew of 9 was not something we were used too, especially on a very basic 2 ring and oven stove, when at sea, in 5m high swell, while you are strapped to the stove to prevent everything sliding everywhere. Having said that after a few days of finding our sea legs, our competitive natures kicked in and we were able to produce dishes such as a chocolate sponge cake and paella.
Over the course of the next 6 days we were on a strict deadline to sail South to ensure we reach Tenerife to hand over to the next batch of 7 sailors to come out from the Regiment, who are going to sail North back to Lanzaote.
We made brief calls in to Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria and have so far seen sharks, turtles, dolphins and a string ray.
For more information on 457 Battery RA visit http://www.serfca.org/en-gb/reservists/ta/457hampshireyeomanrybatteryra.aspx