Sea legs are hard to come by

Orca crew members

Orca crew members stand ready.

As an Air Force Officer with a background in the Army Reserves, I will admit to being more than a little anxious when I found out this summer I was posted to work for the Royal Canadian Navy at CFB Esquimalt. 

After more than 15 years in the Canadian Armed Forces, I had never seen a Canadian naval vessel up close, let alone sailed in one.

Being always willing to accept a challenge and embark on a new adventure, I began to brush up on my navy ranks and learn some nautical terms before crossing the country to take up my post here in Victoria. 

Before I knew it, the autumn passed in a flurry of training, emergency response exercises, construction projects and community relations, and the New Year arrived with my total “naval” experience being two hours on a Glendale tugboat.

Finding this unacceptable, I immediately began to work to rectify the situation. I began with a morning hosted by LCdr Michelle Tessier and her crew in HMCS Nanaimo in January. Following this, I spent time on Orca-class training vessels belonging to the Patrol Craft Training Section of Canadian Fleet Pacific, which support the Naval Officer Training Centre’s MARS IV course Nabob.

The course teaches basic seamanship and introduces naval personnel to shipboard life. I could not imagine a better introduction to the ships of the navy than spending time in an Orca observing the drive, determination, and level of training it takes to become a MARS officer.

In the short time I spent in Patrol Craft Training Wolf, I was able to gain a basic understanding of what life at sea involves by observing the MARS IV Nabob trainees and Wolf crew during week two of their six-week sea phase carrying out the ship’s routine, emergency response exercises, navigation training, and vessel handling. 

Beyond my observations, there were several aspects to life at sea I experienced for myself.  Expanding my limited naval knowledge, I learned that on ship a “buffer” is not used to shine the floors, “port” is the “red” side, and the “rack” in my “cabin” had a seatbelt for a reason.

More than any single experience I encountered over the three days, there is nothing that can make up for the overall journey I completed while on board. 

I left Wolf with a much greater understanding, not only of naval training and life at sea, but of the uniqueness of the role of sailors in the Canadian Armed Forces, and how much more I have still to learn about the navy.

I eagerly await my next naval adventure.

-Capt Jenn Jackson, Base Public Affairs Officer

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