Exercise Caribbean Endeavour

Exercise Caribbean Endeavour is a Tri-Service Adventurous Sail Training Exercise open to all UK Service personnel, Regular and Reserve, from October 2010 to May 2011. The aim of the exercise is to develop the personal qualities essential to Regular and Reserve members of HM Forces through adventurous sail training in a Service environment.

Endeavour, a Challenger 67 yacht set sail for the Caribbean, via the Canary Islands in October 2010. The yacht is based in Marigot Bay on the west coast of St Lucia for the duration of the exercise. This regular Caribbean exercise is timed at this time of year to avoid the problematic hurricane season.

We had instructions from the Mate (second in command of the yacht) to be at the Virgin check in desk at Gatwick airport, no later than 06:40 on the day of the flight. By 06:30 everyone had assembled and introduced themselves bar one person, the Mate of course. The red faced Royal Navy Officer finally arrived just after 07:00 too much amusement.

On arrival at the yacht, it was the normal grab a bunk and dump your kit period, along with various safety briefs and the stocking of the yachts’ galley. The frequent short showers on the west of the island were a welcome break from the hot Caribbean sun, as the sun tans and sun burn were already starting to make their mark on the crew. When we were ready to set sail, we had no fixed agenda as such, as the weather and other circumstances would dictate our destinations. We left Marigot Bay and completed the last part of training such as man overboard drills etc, in the shadow of the Pitons, the two mountains which are St Lucia’s famous landmarks. Then we headed for Tobago, which is about 150 miles to the South. This was a night-time crossing in rough sea conditions, which had nine of the fourteen crew (including yours truly) feeding the fish over the side. The twenty hour sail felt like twenty days for some and seeing Tobago in the distance the following afternoon was a welcome sight. We anchored up in Charlotte Bay and proceeded to Customs and Excise for the regular booking in and out.

We left Tobago for Grenada the following day, which turned out to be a far better crossing with nobody hanging over the side looking green or pale. We soon arrived in St Georges, the capital of Grenada and parked up amongst the multi million pound super yachts. Staying the night in St Georges enabled us to sample the fantastic local Caribbean cuisine, although fast service doesn’t appear to be in the Caribbean dictionary! The next sail was to Union Island which is part of St Vincent and the Grenadines, where we were attached to a buoy in the bay. Our stay here enabled us to have a beach barbeque with one of the locals looking after us. Amongst other items, we had a full freshly caught lobster each, which went down extremely well.

Part of the challenge of Adventurous Sail Training is to keep the yacht going with the many problems life at sea throws at you, which up until this point we had managed to do. Pumps had been fixed, leaks had been stopped and seals replaced. However our gas hob had now decided to pack up, which basically meant no hot food at sea. Our next point of call was to be the island of Dominica, however we decided to head back to St Lucia and try to get the hob fixed. This was not possible and the only option was to get the next crew taking over from us, to bring a new hob out with them. This limited us to the distance we could travel as we couldn’t cook at sea. We abandoned our plans to go to Dominica and instead opted to go south to St Vincent. We anchored up in Wallibou Bay on the west of the island, which would be recognisable to those who have seen the Pirates of the Caribbean films; quite a few scenes were filmed in the bay. Due to time constraints and the hob problem, our only real option was to go back to St Lucia, so we opted to go to the north of the island to Rodney Bay. We arrived at the marina in the dark which was a challenge to find a birth, but all ended well. The following morning was spent looking around the bay and we set sail in the afternoon for our final destination, Marigot bay. The peace of the afternoon sail was shattered by the cries of “Man Overboard”. One of the crew was in the water, quickly disappearing behind us. Everyone took their posts and calmly retrieved the individual, expecting the Skipper to issue him with a severe tongue lashing. However, the Skipper had asked him to jump overboard to see if we had remembered our training from the start of the trip, which we clearly had.

After birthing up in Marigot Bay, all that was left to do, was give the yacht a thorough clean and carry out any final maintenance tasks to hand over the yacht to the oncoming crew, although they would have to fit the hob themselves when they arrive, as we cross paths at the airport. The two week exercise was very enjoyable, hardwork and also enabled us to see various parts of the Windward Islands. The crew had never met before and had formed into a well honed team in a very short space of time, enabling the exercise to be a complete success.