By Maria Granados
When teenagers think of March Break, they often look forward to hanging out with their friends, staying up late watching movies, and rolling out of bed just in time for lunch. For 58 young Sea Cadets, however, that was not the case this year.
Each year, a small group of sea cadets is chosen from hundreds of applicants to be sent on the Tall Ship Deployment. Cadets live amongst the crew of one of two tall ships owned and operated by S.A.L.T.S. (Sail and Life Training Society) to learn the techniques and skills required to navigate the high seas. The experience allows them to learn new nautical skills aboard one of two ships crewed by a combination of sea cadets, and professional sailors from the Sail and Life Training Society.
“I love being a sea cadet. This Tall Ship Deployment is an experience that most people my age will never have,” says JaeHeon Kim from Burnaby, British Columbia, who sailed on a tall ship this year.
A tall ship is a large, traditionally-rigged sailing vessel, which is propelled without the use of an engine and requires extensive teamwork and discipline to sail correctly. These tall ships are quite the step up from most sailboats cadets are introduced to. And yet, these young sea cadets are integrated in every aspect of life on the water right from their first day, including lookout, safety, navigation, being at the helm, rigging sails and taking part in the 24-hour watch rotations.
While most cadets have never sailed on a Tall Ship prior to this experience, they have spent a great deal of time learning the ins and outs of smaller sailboats. In order to be selected, cadets must write personal essays detailing their past experience and must provide recommendation letters on their overall character and potential for growth on the deployment.
For cadet Zach Wesley, from Prince Rupert, Alberta, this opportunity was not just about sailing. In fact, it was an opportunity to prepare for the future. “I’m hoping to work for the coast guard eventually, so this was a good experience,” he says. Sea cadet Heather Nolis from Brigus, Newfoundland recalls, “I always wanted to join cadets, even since I was younger when I was in Navy League. Sea cadets has lots of opportunities like the Tall Ship Deployment and Orca Deployments. I’ve learned lots about respect and discipline, two important skills that are stressed in cadets that’ll come with me everywhere I go.” Kendra Dawson from Lethbridge, Alberta was one of the lucky cadets on this year’s Tall Ship Deployment and says, “since joining, I have learned so much about leadership and how to work well with people. Tall Ship Deployment gave me the chance to do so many things that I have never done before.”
Many of the skills learned sailing can be applied to everyday life. It requires a certain level of self-discipline, organization, and most of all, teamwork. Nolan Mantel from Sudbury, Ontario, first joined cadets because his sister was involved. While he was initially shy when he first joined, that quickly changed as cadets are forced to work together to accomplish common goals. “I love the camaraderie between cadets. I can meet a cadet from anywhere and we’re instantly friends, which is so great! Cadets has taught me to be a leader and a problem-solver,” says
Ambassadors of their communities, these cadets meet for the first time and quickly become comfortable around one another for the sake of completing a task. “On my recent deployment on Tall Ships, I loved meeting all the cadets who were deployed with me. It’s always fun to hear stories from across Canada and to share my own culture,” said Nolis.
Parents would be surprised to hear that, depending on their assigned watch, their duties could include keeping the ship clean by scrubbing the decks and polishing the brass on the ship to keep it presentable. When the cadets were off-duty, they continued to learn the different aspects of sailing such as navigation, safety on the water, the different technical parts of the ship, and sailing terminology.
Wesley said the experience only deepened his love of sailing. “I’d like to keep working with cadets, eventually become an officer and share this amazing sport with the next generation of cadets.”
The Royal Canadian Sea Cadets is a maritime-themed youth program for young Canadians aged 12-18. Sea Cadets have been present in Canada for 100 years and they will be celebrating their centenary throughout 2018. For more information on Sea Cadets in your area, visit our website at www.navyleague.ca or call the national office at 1-800-375-6289