Two Lincolnshire sailors are preparing to bring their own warship, HMS Blazer, to Boston this weekend.
For commanding officer Lt Amie Jackson and second-in-command chief petty officer Ashley Coates, this visit is not only part of their ship’s Easter deployment – it is also a much anticipated homecoming.
The P2000 Archer-Class patrol vessel will dock in Boston at around 9am on Saturday and sail once more at noon on Sunday.
HMS Blazer is the Universities Royal Navy Unit (URNU) ship attached to Southampton and Portsmouth and her four-week Easter voyage will take her and the students to 20 separate ports around England’s east coast.
Although 30-year-old Amie now lives in Southampton, she is originally from Dunston near Lincoln.
A former pupil of Mrs Mary King’s Primary in Martin and then Branston Community College, she joined the Royal Navy in 2006.
“Boston is certainly the highlight of our Easter deployment,” said Amie. “It is the closest I will ever get to bringing my Ship home as there aren’t many accessible ports on this stretch of coast line and Dunston is some distance inland.
“It’s an honour to be able to bring HMS Blazer into Boston and I am looking forward to seeing my family and friends who will make the journey to see me.”
Born and bred in Boston, and still living there to this day, Amie’s second-in-command is Ashley and he is similarly looking forward to his home port visit.
“I think my two daughters have already worked out where they are going to stand and wave as we arrive,” said the 36-year-old former William Lovell School student.
“I joined the Royal Navy in 1994 and this is the first time in all those years that I will have visited Boston on one of my ships – so it’s a bit of a special occasion for me.”
Amie joined the Royal Navy in 2006 and previous jobs in her career to date have include second-in-command of HMS Clyde (Falkland Islands Guardship), operations officer of HMS Severn, and officer of the watch on HMS Somerset. She has travelled far and wide, including Brunei, Malaysia, India, The Maldives, The Gulf, Northern Africa, Mediterranean, The Falklands, South Georgia
In his 18 years in the navy, Ashley’s previous ships have included HMS Monmouth, HMS Grafton, HMS Sutherland and HMS St Albans, visiting countries in many areas of the world including Iraq, the Far East, Australia, South America, Africa, Gulf War. He is also a Royal Navy rugby coach.
Each URNU ship carries a full-time Royal Navy crew of five, which will be joined by up to 12 university students at any one time.
But this is no Easter cruise. The deployment will allow the students to put into practice what they have learned on shorter deployments and drill nights with their URNU throughout the year.
Skills such as seamanship and navigation will be put to the test throughout, perhaps none more so than on the occasional nights which the ships will spend at sea rather than in port.
“Be under no illusion about the intensity of this deployment,” continued Amie. “The students will certainly be put through their paces.
“There is no better experience for them than to get to sea and put theory into practice in whatever situations or conditions are thrown at them.
“We are thoroughly looking forward to visiting so many ports during this deployment,” continued Ashley. “The varied nature of the deployment ensures there’s always plenty to learn.
“But, of course, there should be down time in the evenings for the students to have some fun and reflect on what that day at sea has taught them.”
There are currently 14 URNUs supporting universities in England, Wales and Scotland.
Each URNU is commanded by a Royal Navy lieutenant who is responsible for 51 undergraduates who each join the URNU as RN Reservists for their three or four years at university.
Training is conducted one evening a week in shore units at or near the university and at sea, over the weekends and during holiday periods, by a dedicated Archer Class P2000 20-metre patrol craft.