A young Blouberg Rise man has dreams of becoming a ship’s captain after returning from a four-month adventure through rough sea and icebergs aboard the SA Agulhas.
Alain le Sueur, 28, boarded the training ship along with 19 fellow cadets in November as part of a national cadet programme for merchant seafarers.
The trip was part of the practical component of his Maritime Studies course at Cape Peninsula University of Technology.
His love for the sea and ships, he said, had been nurtured by living close to the sea all his life, first in Melkbosstrand and later in Blouberg.
“When I was 15, a missionary ship called MV Anastasis visited Cape Town, and, of course, I went with my family to go and visit her. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was a massive stepping stone towards my future. I realised then that I want to work on ships,” said Mr Le Sueur.
After matriculating, he joined the crew of the missionary ship, MV Logos Hope, for three years.
“The ship is known as the world’s largest floating bookshop, filled with Christian books, Bibles and other books. During those years, I sailed mostly around South-East Aisa, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Sri Lanka and the Arabian Peninsula,” he said.
In his latest voyage aboard the SA Agulhas, the first stop was Mauritius to pick up scientists from India before heading south to Antarctica.
“I got more and more excited as the air temperature dropped the closer we got to the south. I remember my excitement when I spotted my first iceberg,” said Mr Le Sueur.
Unfortunately they had missed seeing Antarctica as the icy conditions had made it difficult to navigate, but being surrounded by “ice fields” had been a great consolation.
Experiencing rough seas, he said, had taught him the importance of securing cargo properly. And he had marvelled at the endless daylight in the high latitudes of the southern hemisphere.
He recalled seeing how the sun had “touched the horizon” before heading back up again.
“It was amazing to see the sun setting at 11pm and rising again at 1am or not setting at all.”
But one of the greatest pleasures was steering the SA Agulhas through “rough seas and calm seas”.
“The cadets got to see a manoeuvre called the Williamson Turn, which is a manoeuvre used to bring the ship on its reciprocal course, used in the event of a man overboard. And I was steering during this drill. It was great to see how well the SA Agulhas responded and to put into practice the things we were taught in the classroom,” he said.
On February 4, they returned the scientists to Mauritius before heading back to South Africa. Mr Le Sueur was back in Cape Town by March 7.
“It has been a great adventure. I will definitely pursue a maritime career and, hopefully, become a captain one day soon. The trip has also shown me that I really enjoy ice navigation and I would like to work further on icebreakers,” he said.
Mr Le Sueur thanked his two training officers, Steven Paulse and Captain Merwyn Pieters, for their guidance as well as the other cadets for their friendship on board the “remarkable and beautiful South African ship”.