HMCS Ottawa hosts Lion’s share of Christmas

Kateryna Bandura, 
Lookout Editor

Christmas cookies crumble onto HMCS Ottawa’s deck as seven daze-eyed children observe Sailor First Class (S1) Deryck Kent, a Marine Technician, in the Machinery Control Room (MCR).

“This is what makes the ship run,” he says, pointing into a hole in the floor. Beneath – a propulsion system that can take the Halifax-class frigate up to 30 knots (56 km/h).

A little boy bravely peeks into the void, his cookie in hand, and returns with a silent ‘wow’.

While S1 Kent describes the ship’s pneumonic mechanism, Lieutenant (Navy) Luis Lemus, Ottawa’s Assistant Logistics Officer and event’s organizer, says the crew is excited to have the children onboard.

“The aim was to make this a fun day,” he says. “Some of the kids might come from disadvantaged families, and today might be the only time they get a present.”

Twenty-five children arrived here on Dec. 12 for an early Christmas celebration, courtesy of Esquimalt Lions Club. Thirty-five years ago, the Club helped HMCS Protecteur host a children’s Christmas onboard. Then HMCS Calgary took over the ropes. This year, the honour fell to HMCS Ottawa.

Lin McPhee from the Esquimalt Lions Club says the Club cherishes opportunities such as this one.

“It’s wonderful the Base steps up every year to help us continue this tradition,” McPhee said. “We can’t do it without them and it’s definitely a thrill for these children.”

She reached out to elementary schools in the Victoria School District 61 for a list of presents, and then coordinated with the Base to get them delivered to the ship. The Ottawa was responsible for 50 per cent of gifts costs, acquired from the ship’s fund. Some presents already await under the Christmas tree in the Junior Ranks Mess; others will arrive with Santa.

The ship opened up four spaces for the children to visit: the MCR, the After Section Base (ASB), the Bridge, and the Operations Room (Ops Room). Four groups of youngsters rotate throughout the spaces every 15 minutes with a pipe call.

Each space has something unique. The children try on firefighting gear and take pictures with the diving equipment in the ASB. The Bridge offers a spin in the Captain’s chair. They giggle and ask silly questions while the staff try to keep them from pressing buttons on an active Canadian warship.

But the most exciting space is the Ops Room. Here, the children learn how HMCS Ottawa uses its high-tech equipment to track an incoming target.

“We announced a contact from the North heading straight towards us. As it gets closer, more information comes in and we have a clearer picture,” Sailor Second Class (S2) Vance Bergen, Weapons Engineering Technician, says. “It seems pretty logical who it might be.”

S2 Bergen says Santa is coming to the ship within half an hour. While the children wait for his arrival, they enjoy a dinner of hot dogs and fish and chips, freshly prepared by the Ottawa’s skilled cooks.

Soon, a voice comes on the speakers.

“North Pole onboard. I repeat, North Pole onboard,” S2 Bergen says.

A portly white-bearded man in a red suit comes into the Junior Ranks Mess with a hefty bag. Happy children swarm the couches and surround Santa Claus with songs and cheers. They will leave HMCS Ottawa with a warm, fuzzy feeling a week before Christmas with wonderful stories about their visit to a Canadian naval base.

Happy holidays!

Filed Under: Top Stories

About the Author:

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Comments are closed.