Around The Rock: Training program takes HMCS Harry DeWolf to Newfoundland and Labrador
By Ryan Melanson
Canada’s first Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship (AOPS) spent much of October and November of 2020 at sea, conducting readiness training and trialling new capabilities. For a few sailors, however, HMCS Harry DeWolf’s recent proficiency sail was also a chance to visit home.
The ship departed Halifax on November 13 for waters off Newfoundland and Labrador, where it visited ports outside of Nova Scotia for the first time, beginning with three days at anchor near Conception Bay South from November 16-18.
“It was pretty exciting to find out that our first port visit was going to be in my hometown,” said S1 Ryan Smith, a Marine Technician aboard Harry DeWolf who grew up in Conception Bay South.
“Sailing in, I spent hours on the bridge taking in the sights, and all kinds of memories came flooding back… As the ship got closer to shore, I could see my house where I grew up, and saw my parents parked at the end of the road watching as we sailed by.”
Some sailors from the area, including S1 Smith, were able to head to shore via small boats and spend time with their families. With the COVID-19 pandemic making travel and family reunions difficult this year, the short trip was especially significant, he added. No members of the ship’s company had travelled outside of the Atlantic Bubble prior to sailing, ensuring the visit complied with public health orders in effect at the time, and sailors underwent additional screening from the ship’s medical personnel before disembarking.
Those without a personal connection to Newfoundland were still able to enjoy the coastline and scenery as Harry DeWolf circumnavigated the entire island, and the upper decks offered views of dolphins, whales and other marine life throughout the sail.
Of course, the time at sea was about much more than sightseeing – Harry DeWolf is continuing with an intensive trials and training program that has it on track to be commissioned and fully deployable by the summer of 2021. One focus on this particular trip was to introduce the long range over-the-horizon capabilities of the new Multi-Role Rescue Boats and the ship’s landing craft.
“This is establishing a new “Away Team” concept that will give significant reach to any domestic patrol,” said Cdr Corey Gleason, HMCS Harry DeWolf’s Commanding Officer. He added that these successful trials were in addition to ship handling, turning and speed trials, along with crane and rigging tests, that were completed earlier this fall.
The two-week trip also included a chance to work with members of the 5th Canadian Ranger Patrol Group while sailing near the community of Bonavista, as well as an at-sea memorial for the victims who died aboard SS Caribou, a passenger ferry sunk by a German submarine just off Port-aux-Basque in October of 1942. There was also a short stop in St. John’s on November 24 to embark Cmdre Richard Feltham, Commander Canadian Fleet Atlantic, before returning to Halifax.
For the crew, an extended sail in Harry DeWolf also meant time to fully appreciate the modern accommodations that are so unique to the AOPS platform.
“Life on board is a complete 180 compared to our frigates,” S1 Smith said. The new class of ships offers more comfort and privacy to sailors, with increased storage space, individual cabins, and new gender-inclusive washroom facilities, designed in part using the Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) analytical process.
“It all helps make day-to-day life on board better, and it also helps with the mental health aspect of being away from home for extended periods of time,” he added.
The ship returned to Halifax at the end of November, but won’t be staying in its homeport for long. Next up for the crew will be trials focused on landing and recovering a helicopter from the flight deck, to be followed by cold weather and ice trials in early 2021. Cdr Gleason said he expects both his crew and his ship to continue to impress as they continue sailing and bringing capabilities online.
“We remain incredibly honoured to have the responsibility to help enable the RCN’s transition to the future fleet in this new platform.”