royalnavy.mod.ukTop Class Employer with Top Class People
Royal NavyRoyal Navy

AB (CIS) Andy Reid, HMS Bulwark

AB (CIS) Andy Reid
AB Reid Water Rafting
HMS Bulwark enters Marmaris in Turkey for her port visit, during Taurus 09

Monday 16 – Wed 18 March (Marmaris)

A quiet marina filled with row upon row of expensive looking yachts is not the view I was expected to be greeted with when breaking out of the ship for the first time in 10 days. We’ve arrived in Turkey, the second of many stops on this deployment and I was expecting much more of a scorched landscape. Marmaris out of season is quite a strange place and no where near as warm as I had anticipated (can’t wait for the far east), we seem to have arrived perhaps a month or two before the hordes get here which means that quite a lot is closed although I think 350 odd ships company have swelled the profits of many bars and perhaps also a few tattoo parlours! The visit liaison staff for this trip have managed to arrange many excursions including many cultural and sporting experiences. I signed up for a few of these and on Sunday found myself at the top of a very fast flowing river with about 40 other hardy souls. What the guides didn’t tell us before we set off was that they don’t normally take tourists out on the river at this time of year and it was only because they understood us to be “trained personnel” that they did. A river that had been described to us as a Grade 3 to 4 was now most definitely 4 plus perhaps even scraping the underbelly of 5. Normally I like to think that I’m fairly ‘at home’ in the water; I have after all spent many hours in and on top of the sea, but I’ve never feared for my life in quite the same way as I did when I and five others were thrown out of the capsizing raft at the beginning of one of the most dangerous rapids on the trip. It seemed to take hours to get back to the surface, although it probably didn’t help that it was almost impossible to tell bottom from top when being spun like a very enthusiastic washing machine. I rafted the next few sets of rapids without a boat all the time being flung in to various lurking rocks beneath the surface. Eventually I caught up with AB (CIS) Claire Taylor and was pathetically grateful to see another face. I think I was probably a little bit of a whimpering wreck by the time I got hauled in to another boat further down the river. Though the wait to find out if all the others from the raft were ok is not something I’d want to experience again. My protestations that I could quite easily walk from here fell on deaf ears and before long I was back in the raft. We did go over again before the adventure was over but it was nowhere near as traumatic as we were rescued almost instantly. Scenery was amazing, as was the barbecue. Certainly a day I’ll never forget. Been back to reality since with upper deck maintenance being the main theme for my department although can’t really complain with the current weather we’re enjoying, beats being back in Plymouth. Can’t help feeling it’s going to be a very different story when we sail for the next exercise in Defence watches. Need to make the most of the time remaining alongside, beginning with a Turkish massage tonight!

Thursday 19 March – Saturday 21 March (at Sea)

So one minute you’re enjoying a Turkish night complete with great food (unless you’re name’s Beth and you hate all vegetables), belly dancing, folk music and cocktails and before you know it it’s 0530 and you’re sharply awoken by call the hands over the main broadcast. Action stations an hour later sets us up nicely to fight the "bad guys" on our way out and to allow us to seamlessly slide in to Defence Watches. As we set sail surprise, surprise the main computer controlling our communications to the other ships decides to fail. Such is life in the Communications department, very rarely will anything go wrong when we’re plodding along minding our own business but as soon as we hit a busy scenario and are dependent on the system to talk to other units the main computer decides to throw all of its toys out of the pram. Still it means that I’ve learnt quickly how to deal with the situation, in fact the best way to learn anything in my branch is to be chucked in at the deep end. With the computer fixed and communications restored in short order (in no small part down to my brilliance) we continued to take the fight to the Queen’s enemies. So as I said before we’re now in Defence Watches which in the warfare department means doing 6 hours on watch and 6 hours off watch. This for me is when the new fitness regime goes down the pan. I’m all for doing circuit training during cruising watches when there is more opportunity for spare time but it’s very easy to get sucked in to a constant cycle of work, sleep, work, sleep with the occasional meal thrown in and I always feel that an hour spent in the gym during defence watches is potential bed time wasted. Claire has tried to ban on watch food in an attempt to be more healthy and due to the fact that she’s getting married in the autumn and wants to look her best, but sorry that’s just not going to happen as long as the NAAFI continues to stock biscuits and crisps and especially mint feasts! I’m in the 1-7 (0100 - 0700 and 1300 - 1900 at work) watches which is why I’m writing at what some people would call an unearthly time in the morning. Still, only five hours until I can go back to bed, unless of course they decide to chuck a fire exercise in… fingers crossed!

Sunday 22 – Monday 23 March (at Sea)

So here we are deep in to defence watches, another weekend having passed us by. We’ve only been away for just over a month yet it seems like at least double that at times. It’s really easy to lose touch with what’s going on in the outside world. Bands release albums, Blockbusters hit the screens and football results that would have meant everything to me if I had been at home and could have gone to the game are merely flashed past me on one of the many signals that we receive daily. Great to see that St Johnstone won again though, typical the one season that I’m at sea for as we approach the climax to the campaign they decide to go and get promotion after nigh on a decade of trying.  Having said that I’ve almost certainly jinxed them now. Certainly miss having a daily paper to read although daily news signals give us a gist of what is occurring elsewhere. Have yet to be rudely awoken in my off watch by menacing enemy jets determined to blow us out of the water which is great news, surely it’s only a matter of time though. Fire exercises continue to keep the ships company on their toes, am extremely glad that I wasn’t in charge of the comms line for the last one down on 8 Deck!

The learning curve continues to be very steep and even the newest recruits in the communications department are improving fast although surely AB Allen (Derbs) hopes of being a warrant officer by the time we return to Plymouth are a little bit optimistic! Proving comms with Nato ships can be challenging at times but is all the more rewarding when it works. Its been a week since the white water rafting incident and Beth continues to exhibit symptoms of secondary drowning whilst Matt complains that he has the knees of an eighty year old. That is maybe down to the fact that he is due to take his fitness test sometime soon! Only a few days until our next operational stand down and it’s fair to say that a lot of the talk in the MCO concerns plans for the visit and what water sport to try. It’s easier to endure all that is thrown at you at sea when there is a carrot in the sun at the end of it.