The Royal Navy’s newest navigators were put through their paces last week as they guided HMS St Albans safely through the rock-strewn waters of the Channel Islands.
The Type 23 frigate, which returned to PortsmouthFriday, provided the ideal platform, and the waters around Guernsey and Jersey, the perfect setting for the new navigators.
Following shore-based training at HMS Collingwood in Fareham, the student navigators joined the youngest of Britain’s 13 Type 23 frigates for instruction across the Channel.
With many notorious submerged rocks and fast-flowing tides, their calculations and plans have to be extremely accurate.
That training reached its climax on Wednesday and Thursday in the confined waters of the Great Bank (off the south-west coast of Jersey) and Little Roussel (between Guernsey and Herm, which is peppered with rocks).
A Ship navigation instructor said:
“If you can safely navigate in these waters in the winter, you can navigate a warship anywhere in the world.
“The students are pushed to the limits, conducting navigation at night time, around rocks, in awkward anchorages and entering harbour.
“Our simulators are brilliant for practicing, but there is no substitute for driving a real ship to add the pressure that will be felt in a few weeks time when they join their ships, as long as they pass the course that is.”
The waters around the Channel Islands are heavily used by the Royal Navy for navigational training, but what made St Albans’ stint unusual was that the students were mostly submariners.
Not only have they have had to contend with the fast paced mental arithmetic but also with the unfamiliar engine controls and wheel orders of a surface warship.
The Saint’s time in the Channel Islands wasn’t devoted entirely to navigational training.
On Wednesday the frigate hosted the Lieutenant Governor of Jersey Sir John McColl and his wife Lady Gene to view the work of trainee navigators and meet members of the ship’s company.
“As the Queen’s representative on the island, and a military man himself, it was a great opportunity for us to keep growing our bond with the Channel Islands,” said Cdr Andrew Block, St Alban’s Commanding Officer.
Naval Today Staff, February 4, 2013; Image: Royal Navy