The Prince of Wales discovered that piloting a ship is like riding a bike – you never lose the knack.
More than 40 years after he commanded a British warship during his Royal Navy days he returned to the bridge – albeit a simulator with a very realistic 180-degree projection of the sea.
Charles, who captained the mine hunter HMS Bronington for 10 months in 1976, joined naval students at the National Maritime College of Ireland near Cork for the trip down memory lane.
At first, Lieutenant Gavin McCarthy, a navigation instructor, called out the manoeuvres for the ship WB Yeats which Charles repeated for those training for a career on the seas.
WB Yeats – a mock-up of a real off-shore patrol vessel – was in waters off the town of Cobh, famous for being the last port of call for the Titanic before it set off on its ill-fated journey.
Charles marvelled at the scene in front of him which gave a real-time feel to the movement of the ship, especially when stormy waters were introduced with the click of a mouse and he said “it’s extraordinary” as the projection outside the windows appeared to make the ship move up and down over the waves.
The prince started making the orders himself, calling out “midships”, an instruction to move the rudder to the middle of the ship so it runs in a straight line, and managed to manoeuvre it into a tight berth.
Lieu McCarthy said afterwards “he did very well”.
Charles was also shown a survival exercise with civilian students training for a maritime career diving into a pool and clambering into a life raft.
Before leaving, the heir to the throne attended a reception for staff from the college and was presented with an ink and watercolour sketch made by Queen Victoria when she visited Cobh in 1849.
The image of Spike Ireland was created when the vessel Victoria was travelling in ran aground and she used the time until she was freed to indulge her passion for art.