Commander Turner and I both found the HMNZS Canterbury online, he from a chilly Scotland looking for his next career move, and I was looking for an end of summer holidays treat for the boys. What could be better than clambering over a Navy ship and a picnic in Sandy Bay with The Argentinians? With the boys on board we headed through the tunnel to Lyttelton.
The HMNZS Canterbury is the Royal New Zealand Navy’s Multi-Role Vessel. In a nutshell (according to one of the friendly sailors) when the army need to go somewhere they take them there with all their equipment and supplies, and when they run out, they take more out to them. It also responds to humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations.
As we approached the HMNZS Canterbury my first impression was that it’s a rather monstrous unattractive ship, purely from an aesthetic point of view of course. Given its role, it’s entirely practical. The boys were somewhat disappointed as they were hoping for guns, cannons and mines (I should perhaps have done a little more research on it’s fire power). To my surprise there wasn’t much of a queue and we headed up the gangplank to be very warmly welcomed aboard and the boys were given stickers and a guide of the ship.
En route we’d come up with a range of different questions to ask and the boys got down to task straight away:
What’s this part of the ship (the flight deck) used for? For launching and landing helicopters, and for playing touch rugby…
Where are the guns? There was one gun, logically positioned on the Gun Deck and the gun is fired from the bridge. And no, this particular sailor hadn’t fired it!
How many people does it take to make the ship sail? A minimum of 70, but normally 120, and they don’t have hours of work, they work 24/7 while at sea.
How many people can you take on the ship? 120 sailors and 250 embarked forces, oh and 2000 tonnes of cargo.
Where was the last place you went to and where are you going next? The Solomon Islands and the next place they’re going to is Noumea later in the year.
Being a closet fan of the Australian Naval drama Sea Patrol, it was great fun to nose about the bowels of the ship. Canterbury has 11 cabins that sleep 12 (12!!) for embarked forces, who are the personnel that join Canterbury to be transported. The ship can carry up to 250 embarked forces. Frankly, the cabins are tiny and five days at sea in teeny bunk room with 12 wouldn’t be for me. The Forecastle (front deck) had the most wonderful anchor patterns made from their ropes which I personally would have liked to see the sailors construct. We passed the Gun Deck (with the single gun) on our way up to the Bridge. The charming Commander Turner was here proudly showing how he used a remarkably small number of brightly coloured buttons and levers to control his monstrous ship. There were of course a bank of screens with all sorts of other information, but the actual manoeuvring of the ship looked fairly simplistic, but he assured me that it was of course very high tech. The Commander is the Captain of the ship and he was very obliging in having his photo taken with the boys and letting them try his hat and seat. Back down numerous steep stair/ladders and into the bowels of the ship we passed the hospital passageway which looked like it could be part of any ED. Our last stop was the Cargo Deck which has an area about the size of a rugby field, providing storage for supplies and equipment during voyage.
Happy and clambered out, we left the HMNZS Canterbury with genuinely warm thanks for having us aboard. If you ever have the chance to go aboard a Navy vessel I can’t recommend it highly enough, the sailors were friendly, informative and happy to chat, the ship is fascinating and it didn’t cost a penny. End of summer holiday treat – job done!
Willing the sun to fight through the clouds we met up with The Argentinians and drove round a few bays from Lyttelton to Sandy Bay, a hidden gem of a beach at Governors Bay. So hidden in fact that I drove right past the lane that heads down to it, and the The Argentinians missed it twice! We de-camped with our picnics, and the boys (and girl!) of the two families happily played in the sand, hunted for crabs, squelched in the mud and threw frisbee.
Not a bad end to the summer holidays.