Tectona and the Plymouth School of Navigation

Kindly wiritten and contributed by Andrew Eccleston


Tectona has been on a long and interesting voyage since she was built in India in 1929. Some years before that, the Plymouth School of Navigation was created to provide education and training for Merchant Navy seafarers. In the 1964 when they needed a vessel to give the students some experience of hands-on seamanship, the City of Plymouth purchased Tectona. For the next 16 years she gave hundreds of young cadet officers their first taste of life at sea and the chance to acquire some important professional skills.


When the Plymouth School of Navigation was first formed there was a lot of focus on learning astronomy and the mathematics needed for celestial navigation in the days before GPS, but there was also a requirement for the traditional skills - such as tying knots, understanding weather and simply coming to terms with life at sea. There is no better way to do this than actually going to sea and living it for real – and Tectona proved to be the ideal platform.


Various online forms reflect some of the memories of what life was like on board: “I sailed on the Tectona in 1977 I think. I was sick as a dog on her. While on her we did the old liferaft survival thing where I was the 'casualty' as I couldn't swim.” “There were 12 deck cadets aboard and we had to do an hour's anchor watch each between 6pm and 6am.” “Always nice to manage to tie up again in dear old Mutton Cove, and have a quick fag in the old green corrugated boat house there.”



Tectona in her days as the Plymouth School of Navigation training vessel


When Prince Philip visited Plymouth in 1968, Tectona was dressed overall and anchored off Fisher’s Nose in the Barbican. Shortly after this the School of Navigation became part of the new Plymouth Polytechnic and its students were able to embark on Higher Education courses. The BSc (Hons) Nautical Studies was actually the first degree course offered by what is now the University of Plymouth. Some of the early undergraduates had enjoyed their first taste of life at sea on Tectona before going on to a professional career and often ending up in senior positions around the world in the shipping industry.


However, by the 1980’s the British merchant fleet had shrunk so much that there was not enough demand to fill the professional courses in Plymouth and Tectona was sold. That was the end of her first connection with Plymouth and she went off to continue her adventures, which included some time with a Swiss charity devoted to helping disadvantaged young people,


Then in 2008 Dr Roger Crabtree discovered her laid up in the Mediterranean and</