When you’re about to head out on a three-week sailing adventure, the last thing you want to do is spend three days in port.
That ended up being the first lesson in what turned out to be a great learning experience for Riis Ingalls.
Ingalls, a 16-year-old member of the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets Corps 137 (Kamloops), is back from England after working on the tall ship TS Royalist. The training ship took 12 Canadian and 12 British cadets — along with six officers and two civilians — on a three-week trip in the waters surrounding England.
The trip, which ended last week, got off to a late start.
You see, when the crew got on board in Gosport, England, it was a little windy. Actually, it was very windy.
“Winds were Category 9, getting up to Category 11, which is 50-60 knots, with 10-15 foot swells,” Ingalls says. “It was almost hurricane-force, and it was bad. Luckily, we were in port and weren’t caught out in it.”
It was the first lesson that Ingalls learned, and he ended up with a ton of knowledge — along with four new sailing certifications.
There was some sightseeing, too. The ship sailed past The Needles, a rock formation south of England, and the Isle of Wight, and made stops in Cowes and Portsmouth.
“We saw France, but we couldn’t go across the (English) Channel — it was getting up to a Category 11 again,” Ingalls says.
But Ingalls’ trip wasn’t all wind — there also was some climbing.
The ship measures 96 feet and features masts that Ingalls figures stand over 100 feet tall. Part of the job involved climbing the masts to set the sails or pull them in.
“I climbed 30 metres above the water on the top platform,” Ingalls says. “I wasn’t scared; I thought it was pretty cool.
“You climb on a yard, which is a piece of wood across with lines underneath, then shimmy your way out and . . . the boat would be heeling and you’d look down and there’s nothing but water under you.”
Ingalls spent his first week working as a yardsman, doing normal tasks on a ship. The next week, he was put in charge of the floor deck, meaning he had to oversee everything happening around him.
That’s a big task for a cadet whose previous sailing experience was on a 15-foot boat.
“It was similar, but it was way different,” Ingalls admits. “There’s a lot more lines (on a tall ship). They said they had more than 50 kilometres worth of line for pulling sails up and down and packaging the sails, the mooring lines, the anchor lines. They had a lot.
“And they said they had more than 1,200 square feet of sail that they could put up.”
When weather allowed, the ship would head out to sea, and head back to land at night. On two occasions, the crew dropped anchor and spent the night on the ocean.
Regardless of whether the ship was moored or anchored, the crew had to follow a routine come morning.
The cadets would wake up at 7 o’clock, and had to be on deck at 7:15. They would work on deck, setting up the sails, scrubbing the deck and doing general maintenance, until it was time to get moving.
“When you pulled out, you would go to your sail-setting stations and get ready to pull your sail up or let your sail out,” Ingalls says. “Then we’d have racing stations, which is how you’d move your sails.”
Once that was done, there was a chance to relax, and the sailors would kick back and “enjoy the sea.”
Enjoying the sea involved trying to stay dry.
“It was cold, it rained every day,” Ingalls says. “It would rain, then it would break and be sunny in the afternoon and then rain again and rain through the night.”
And then there were days when the ship would heel and pitch in the ocean. Sometimes, the ship would heel 30 degrees, and the waves would come over the sides.
“We were out right on The Needles, near the mouth of the wide-open ocean and we started getting into some big waves because it shallowed up,” Ingalls says. “Waves were coming up over the bow . . . spraying through the anchor holes and over the sides, coming in and then coming back out.
“You’d be sitting down . . . and just get drenched in water. It was pretty cool.”
Since when did getting drenched become cool?
Well, Ingalls had such a great time, even an otherwise annoying experience can seem cool. The Royal Canadian Sea Cadets paid for the trip.
“I really enjoyed it. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he says. “I said thanks to all of the officers there and thank you to the officers that took us and everyone at our corps here.”
The trip actually started in Ottawa, where Ingalls got to tour all the sites, and included a tour of London, a stop at Stonehenge and a visit to Windsor Castle.
Ingalls would love to return to England, possibly for a square-rigger tall ship race next year. The TS Royalist, in its final ride before being decommissioned, will be taking part, and Ingalls has been asked to be on board.
“I don’t know yet,” he says. “I don’t know yet.
“I told my parents, and I told my officers, but I would have to pay my own way. We’ll see what happens . . . but if I can, I will.”