Sunday, September 24, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #71] I've got a sinking feeling...

Wow, what an exhausting two weeks this has been.  Cass has been very good at keeping us busy - we've had two weeks of orientation & introduction, culminating with Flagship this weekend.

I was not looking forward to it - dreading it, actually.  I hate these corny, touchy-freely corporate team-building type things.  Also, this one's not just a retreat, it's a weekend away at a Naval base ending in a sinking ship simulation.  Well, to my shock, the weekend was absolutely brilliant.  The program was fantastic, I really met several more people on my course, and got to do something I would never even think to do normally.

Friday we arrived at school to be bussed down to Portsmouth where we were greeted, shown our quarters in the barracks on HMS Bristol (which fought in the Falklands war), attended some short simple lectures, had dinner and drank at the Naval bar (£2 pints!), getting acquainted, then off to bed.  I have to say outright, the sleeping situation was... less than ideal.  It was in authentic military triple bunks, 20+ to a room.  And the showers, also not the best as they were open, but I have as a result now gotten over any hangups I have about showering naked around people I don't really know.

Saturday, after being awoken at 06.30, we were broken into teams and spent the day split between tasks, lectures and lunch.  I've been so lucky with teams at Cass; my study group at school is awesome, and my team this weekend was great - it makes all the difference, the day was so much fun.  This was followed by dinner at the Officer's club and, of course, drinks until the bar closed.

But today was the main even - the sinking ship simulation!  This is midsection of a warship attached to hydraulic arms, capable of rotating it up to 20° to simulate waves.  Then you are put inside with your team for a "hit" from an enemy and charged with doing emergency repairs to keep the ship from sinking.  As you are trying to do this, on top of the wave motion, hundreds of gallons of water are pouring through the holes from the missile damage, water's shooting at high pressure from broken pipes and there is a lot of smoke.  And there wasn't like 6" of water - it was at my head at its highest when the ship was level, causing it to reach near the roof on a side as it rolled in the waves.

My first job required me diving underwater to repair a blown out door portal, and then it was on to the holes in the walls and securing the portal door.  After we were done & back up in our starting room, another attack happens and much more damage is done.  This is when the room totally fills and your team and you are bobbing about in 6+ feet of water.  And these holes were big and the water just shot through them.  We were proud when the safety man gave us our review and told us we were one of the fastest teams he'd ever had with the first half of that task.  Which was great since the first half we were a little less cohesive, but we pulled together for the tougher challenge.

I've attached the only picture I could find online of the experience, but of course it doesn't capture it - It was intense!  And exciting and such a great team activity, and something unlike anything I've ever done or am likely to do again.  And as a result, I am exhausted!  It's back to class in the morning.

A great start to what I hope will be a great year!

"Navem servavi" - I saved the ship.


Shaun Coley
Clerkenwell, Islington
London, UK
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