In this paper we study, both experimentally and theoretically, the turn on transient dynamics observed in a long (20m) cavity laser. The laser consists of a ring cavity based on a single mode fiber with unidirectional propagation of light. The gain is provided by a semiconductor optical amplifier (SOA) centered around 1300nm and wavelength selection is provided by a tunable narrow transmission bandwidth Fabry-Perot filter. At high bias current and when the filter transmission sets the laser to operate in an anomalous dispersion regime, the laser exhibits only chaotic oscillations, while in a normal dispersion regime, the laser can exhibit stable operation. At a bias current close to the threshold the laser always exhibits multiple dropouts. In order to record the lasing build up dynamics, the bias current driven to the SOA is periodically switched from the off-state to a high current level. The lasing build up occurs at each roundtrip via a step-wise increase of the laser intensity. The laser intensity is widely oscillating during the first steps and approaches a stationary state after a large number of roundtrips. Recording of the phase evolution of the electric field during each step demonstrates the linewidth narrowing at each subsequent roundtrip. Theoretically, we describe the system by a set of delay differential equations and observe similar behavior. While typically a semiconductor laser exhibits relaxation oscillations before reaching the stable lasing regime, which is associated with class B lasers, our study shows that the long cavity laser demonstrates a different mechanism of lasing build up.