Friday, 20 November 2015


The first RCN ship I saw this morning (November 20) was HMCS KINGSTON, which I assume has just returned from a refit elsewhere, based on the way the towing gear was rigged and the emergency tow line running down the port side with the float trailing aft.

HMC Ships HALIFAX and ATHABASKAN, and ATHABASKAN's two embarked (I assume) Sea Kings, also returned to Halifax this grey and blustery morning. Both ships, along with other RCN assets (a submarine and minesweepers), departed around September 8 to participate in the NATO Joint Warrior (UK waters) and Trident Juncture (off the coast of Spain and Portugal) exercises. Excited family members were waiting at HMC Dockyard for their homecoming. One person I spoke with on the waterfront was waiting for a sailor on HALIFAX who had previously deployed on FREDERICTON, and had spent most of the past year at sea away from home. 

The two ships represent two RCN extremes: although 20+ years old, HALIFAX is newly refitted with the latest in sensors and weapons, while ATHABASKAN is 40+ years old and principally filling the role of a training platform at the moment. The RCAF Sea Kings are older than both.

HALIFAX was already on her way in when I got my first photos, with the small general cargo ship Dinkeldiep in the foreground.
An RCAF CH-124 Sea King also soon appeared.
CH-124 Sea King, airframe #429
I'm pretty sure the crew hanging out the door waved, but my hands were full with the camera and I didn't manage to return the wave. ATHABASKAN carried two Sea Kings, which is somewhat unusual these days, as the second hangar is often used as a gym. 

CH-124 Sea King, airframe #419
CH-124 Sea King, airframe #429

CH-124 Sea King, airframe #429
#429 did two full circuits of the lower harbour, while #419 did one, before returning to Shearwater.

HALIFAX rounding George's Island.

Sea King #419 flies past HALIFAX.

A ferry passes HALIFAX.
The wind was fairly blustery, and blowing up the harbour, as illustrated by the spray being kicked up by the ferry. HALIFAX maintained this station for some time until two tugs came out to greet her. 

ATHABASKAN passing the light on McNab's Island.
When I first checked the Marine Traffic website this morning, HALIFAX was in the lead doing 15 knots with ATHABASKAN some way behind. By the time I arrived on the Halifax waterfront, ATHABASKAN was doing 20 knots, which increased to 25 knots for a while, before slowing back to 15 knots or so when the above photo was taken. Her exhaust plume was visible over the horizon before she was.

ATHABASKAN passing the light on George's Island.

The old warrior showing her age.
As mentioned in previous posts, ATHABASKAN is the last of her class in service (and to be serviceable at all, for that matter), and presumably doesn't have that much time left. It will be interesting to see if she remains in commission long enough to see the return of the last of the frigates from their FELEX refits, or if she will pay off before then. 

All the while I was waiting between HALIFAX's arrival and ATHABASKAN's appearance, a large contingent of sailors ran and walked past me on the boardwalk, for what I later discovered was a Navy 5k run along the waterfront. It seemed like the entirety of the east coast fleet personnel were running past.

Note: Updated on 29 November 2015. 

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