New ships mean improvements in quality of life at sea

Lt(N) Joseph Chen works on the bridge of HMCS Harry DeWolf.

Lt(N) Joseph Chen works on the bridge of HMCS Harry DeWolf.


Have you ever wondered what life at sea is like aboard the Royal Canadian Navy’s (RCN) newest ship?

Equipped with the latest in cutting edge technology, soon-to-be commissioned Harry DeWolf, the first of six Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships, is not only a state-of-the-art warship, it is also designed to significantly improve the comfort and well-being of its crew members.

Harry DeWolf’s 65 sailors recently completed their first cold water and ice trials off Labrador and Newfoundland. This gave them the perfect opportunity to experience first-hand just how advanced the Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships is in both operational capability and quality of life while at sea.

Harry DeWolf and the rest of the new Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships offer facilities that create a better environment for their crews. Modern amenities include an all-ranks cafeteria, gender-inclusive washrooms, individual crew accommodations, internet, exercise equipment, and the flexible use of common spaces such as the briefing room, wardroom, and boarding party room to serve as a silent space for various religious practices.

“Harry DeWolf is on the leading edge of technology, convenience and comfort that the RCN’s future fleet will provide,” says Lieutenant-Commander Jim Little, Executive Officer. “Whether it’s being able to keep in touch with friends and family, eating in the all-ranks cafeteria, or operating any of the modern equipment on board, Harry DeWolf has something for everyone.” 

The all-ranks cafeteria shows just how much morale is affected by being able to eat with other crew members.

“The Coxswain (senior non-commissioned officer on board) and I are able to pay close attention to how people are feeling and what they are happy or not happy with,” he says. “The quality of the food on board is very high and the fact we are able to enjoy it together is a huge bonus.”

Sailor First Class Raymond Kwan, Naval Combat Information Operator, agrees.

“It’s the most modern cafeteria I’ve eaten in. The addition of the serving buffet and self-serve salad bar right next to the drink dispensers make the dining experience more convenient and comfortable. The cafeteria overall is well laid out – it feels like you can see most of the space no matter where you sit which greatly improves camaraderie amongst the crew.” 

Like most warships, there are still three messes aboard for officers, chiefs and petty officers, and junior ranks. One noticeable difference for sailors in Harry DeWolf is that the messes all have portholes so they have natural light.

The cabins are also an improvement. Officers, and chiefs and petty officers all have double occupancy cabins, while master sailors and below have six to a cabin. Each cabin has its own private bathroom, and the racks (beds) are slightly wider with a privacy curtain.

For Lieutenant (Navy) Joseph Cheng, Naval Warfare Officer, the number one priority for morale and comfort from his perspective is the increased space.

“Space to work, space to live, space to organize kit and supplies, and space to train. This is even more imperative given the diversity of operations and the range of zones the Harry DeWolf class is expected to visit in the future,” he says. “I have found the cabins to be a great step forward and a real improvement in comfort and rest, so I can ensure I am at my best for watch and duties. Additionally, a high quality, full-function gym rounds out my list of important new features for morale and comfort. I hope this trend continues, as I believe over the long term this contributes to both our health and mental well-being in order for us to be the best sailors possible.”

Like all sailors at sea, Harry DeWolf crew members want to communicate with family and friends while they are away from home. Although there are still a few kinks to work out in terms of WiFi and bandwidth, the ship has had internet from the beginning.

Another innovation is an enclosed fo’c’sle and cable deck, which protects machinery on the foredeck and personal workspaces from harsh Arctic environments.

The Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships, with all their improvements, are contemporary and multifunctional ships that will be at the core of an enhanced Canadian Arctic presence, and will effectively and strategically complement the capabilities of the navy’s current and future warships through critical reconnaissance and surveillance operations.

However, they are also home to sailors for weeks or months at a time.

For this reason, the RCN is committed to the continued improvement of those shipboard amenities that ensure the physical and mental well-being of crew members.


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  1. David Dunlop says:

    Great to see todays sailors are being looked after in a much improved ship environment! This will get recruiting up and make the pointy end of the ship (Wives and Family) feel much better about their loved ones going to sea. Hopefully the CSC Frigates will have that same feeling or better! “A Sailor’s Place Is At Sea And Land Is Just A Nvigational Hazard!” Cheers!

  2. WAYNE REARDON says:

    Six junior ranks in a mess deck is like going on a cruise ship. I enjoyed my many years at sea in the DDE and DDG class where we were messing in sardine cans with never any complaints. Whine enough and the taxpayers give you luxuries you have not earned.

  3. Donald Wilcox says:

    Life at sea has sur changed since this Stoker said on the Lauzon and Bonnie between 1958 and 1963. It is a great time for todays sailor. Safe seas and God Bless.

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