Training Ship Esmeralda Fulfills Long-lasting Tradition

Training Ship Esmeralda Fulfills Long-lasting Tradition

By Amitai Nadav/Diálogo
November 27, 2017

Chilean Navy Captain Patricio Espinoza Sapunar, commander of the training ship (BE, per its Spanish acronym) Esmeralda, described the instructional cruise as “extraordinary.” “I met many personal and professional challenges,” Capt. Espinoza told Diálogo. A highlight of the journey, he said, was the opportunity to “lead this marvelous group of people, made up mostly of young people full of energy and anxious to discover and learn.”

After cruising more than 14,000 miles throughout the Americas for five months, the BE Esmeralda finished its 62nd instructional cruise September 30th, 2017, at the port of Valparaíso—and kept up with its training tradition for Navy officers. On board: 290 troops, including 74 midshipmen from the Chilean Navy Academy and 35 sailors from the Chilean Noncommissioned Officers Academy, among others. “I think that my greatest satisfaction is to have returned to the port of Valparaíso without any accidents and with my entire crew,” Capt. Espinoza said.

Daily learning

“Midshipmen and sailors have theoretical classes every day,” Capt. Espinoza explained. “The material is varied, everything from leadership to ethics, including basic naval officer tasks and obligations of a sailor aboard a warship.”

To educate students, the instruction included practical classes on celestial navigation, astronomy, engineering, and malfunction management. “We had to do astronomical calculations, find stars using a sextant, and calculate the vessel's position,” explained Midshipman Francisca Peñaylillo, one of the 38 women aboard the BE Esmeralda. “At the beginning it was somewhat difficult because of the vessel's movement and weather conditions. But with experience, calculations came out better and better.”

Another challenge included overcoming the fear of heights when climbing the masts—a daytime activity for students. “At the beginning, I had a hard time going up the mast,” Midshipman Peñaylillo said of the four 48.5-meter-high masts. “I was scared of climbing, but with time, I overcame it and got used to it.”

One of the great benefits of traveling aboard the BE Esmeralda is the practical experience acquired, such as sailing maneuvers that also reinforce teamwork. “For good teamwork and to be able to have good form during a sailing maneuver, the entire crew needs to work as one,” explained Capt. Espinoza. Sergeant Major Cristián De la Hoz, the vessel's chief petty officer, reaffirmed the importance of cooperation. “Sheeting a sail is not something that just one person does. It’s done as a team, and we take advantage of that.”

Living on a vessel in close quarters for long periods of time was another challenge for the recent graduates. According to Capt. Espinoza, it meant “knowing how to share and maintain a good relationship in places with little space during long periods of navigation, bad weather conditions, and limited communication with relatives.” According to Midshipman Peñaylillo, they overcame that challenge. “We learned to get along with other seafarers [...], to get to know people better, to share in situations other than work,” she said.

School and embassy

On May 7th, the training ship, also known as the “White Dame” because of its white hull, set off from Valparaíso for its instructional cruise. During the tour, the ship visited Balboa and Colón, Panama; Norfolk and Boston, United States; Halifax, Sept-Îles, Charlottetown, and Quebec, Canada; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Cartagena, Colombia; and Iquique, Chile.

During its decades of navigation, the BE Esmeralda—the third largest training ship in the world, which is 113 meters long and 13 meters wide—stopped in more than 300 ports as a training ship and floating embassy. Chile acquired the ship from Spain in the 1950s. The BE Esmeralda entered the port of Valparaíso for the first time on September 1st, 1954.

The ship fulfilled its diplomatic mission and offered students the opportunity to see different cultures and share their Chilean traditions in the countries visited. The BE Esmeralda also participated in maritime events, such as the 100th anniversary of the Norfolk Naval Base, the Sail Boston 2017 naval parade (both in the United States), and the international Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta, celebrating Canada’s 150 year anniversary.

Capt. Espinoza expressed satisfaction at “being able to represent my country along with my people, displaying our flag at sea and in every port we entered, and holding high the good name of Chile and our beloved Navy.” Midshipman Peñaylillo, in turn, was thankful. “I believe this is an experience I will remember for the rest of my life,” she concluded. “I saw new places, made new friends, and one day I hope to return to this vessel as an instructor or as a crew member to tour different places representing my country once again.”