Andrew Coombes
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Andrew Coombes - Moray Sea School, Burghead Scotland, 1974

I attended Moray in April/May 1974. I was at a Civil Engineering College in Norfolk, so was used to being away from home. 8 of us from the college travelled up on the train and I remember buying two cans of Carlsburg Special Brew. Why? It didn't take long for a prolonged spell in the loo's. It was the first time I had been drunk - why didn't I learn my lesson straight away? I must have recovered fairly fast though because by the time we arrived at Elgin station on a tiny train I was feeling fine. Why is it only youth recover so fast?
Our watch was put together and we all got on really well. Regretfully I cannot recall the name of our watch leader, but he was really good. One lad had a bag of Playboy and Penthouse magazines, "for hire". Someone started to read a story out loud, but he got the names wrong, and was really bad, so bad we all thought it was hilarious and he had to repeat the exercise several times over the course of our stay.
Getting up early was OK, a quick run fine, but those cold showers! It didn't last though, and by the end of the second week we were all in there with soap and shampoo, no problem. I remember the instructors getting cross, shouting "you're not in there to enjoy yourselves!" at us.
I loved the sailing and regret not taking it up for many years after. The canoeing was excellent too. Rock climbing - and I hate heights - was brilliant. I was OK so long as I kept looking at the rock! There was one tiny crack in the rock face we had to traverse, down on the beach. The one that got to the end won a Mars bar. It was impossible!
The hikes were great fun, especially the long one, up over the Cairngorms. I recall camping by a cairn in beautiful sunshine. I woke up early, aware that something was wrong. I opened the flaps of the tent to be greeted by a wall of white. It had snowed and we were covered to within a couple of inches off the ridge. We walked up the mountain that day in white-out conditions, and spent the afternoon digging snow holes for the night. One of our team managed to get frostbite the following day and I had to take him off the mountain. When we finally got to habitation he as given a ride down the rest of the way on a ski lift but they wanted me to pay! I ended up running down underneath the lift because we didn't have any money on us.
I enjoyed the solo, staying out for a day by yourself. I found a great spot to bivouac and built loads of gadgets (I had been in the scouts). Some of the group met up and walked to the nearest pub. The landlord served a pint then rang the Centre, who duly came and picked them up. Fail.
The end of the course was also my birthday (that I kept very quite about) and I won the longest run we had done and was told mine was the fastest time ever to date. Fantastic end to a fantastic course.
The lessons I learned on this course have stuck with me all my life. Lessons about how not to give up, how hard and far you can push, how two people can do a job three times as fast as one, and how much a whole team pulling together can achieve, to be prepared to stick up for what you believe. Several of our course did not walk up at the end and collect their badge and certificate. My whole watch was "asked" to consider our worthiness. OK we weren't angels and enjoyed a lark, but this was out of order for us - I was livid, I had worked, learned and achieved the goals of the course. To be asked not to complete it was outrageous to me. I requested an interview and argued my case, and my point was accepted. I collected my certificate, badge and sweatshirt, and I wore them for years after with great pride. I think it was the first time I had ever stood my ground and argued for what I felt was right. Another lesson ticked up to OB.
After all these years I still feel passionate about it. If you are ever in a position to send someone, do it. Do it to help them even if not yourself or your organisation. Outward Bound is a positive, life changing event.