Patrolling the Straits and Narrows: how HMCS Nanaimo is ready to help

Leading Seaman Kayla Ruiz and Lieutenant (Navy) Miguel Perez conduct a maritime domain awareness patrol. Photo by Leading Seaman Brendan Gibson, MARPAC Imaging

Leading Seaman Kayla Ruiz and Lieutenant (Navy) Miguel Perez conduct a maritime domain awareness patrol. Photo by Leading Seaman Brendan Gibson, MARPAC Imaging

Lt Chelsea Dubeau, Public Affairs Officer ~

It’s around 10:15 a.m. on a chilly morning at sea, day seven for HMCS Nanaimo since rejoining Task Group Exercise (TGEX) 20-01 following a week of rest.

At around this time most days, depending on the ship’s position, the pipe is made to close up boats’ crews and lowers in preparation to launch the RHIB.

The sweep deck is a hive of activity as the key players step into their roles. The boat coxswain delivers her brief to the boat crew. The Officer of the Watch flips through her charts. The mission: Nanaimo’s RHIB will conduct Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) patrols in the narrow inlets of the remote areas of the B.C. coastline, those parts inaccessible to the ship itself.

“MDA is, basically, knowing what’s in your waters,” says Commander Jason Bergen, Commanding Officer of Nanaimo. “You have to establish a baseline, go through and understand the pattern of life, see what’s just the normal tug and tow, fishing vessels, and Canadians out here sailing, versus stuff that’s out of the ordinary. So you have to establish that baseline first, which is what the task group has been doing.”

Besides establishing what’s out of the ordinary, the patrols are also treated to sights that feel distinctly extraordinary. Black bears foraging for food, seals languishing on the beach, and, probably the most spectacular, Orcas breeching in the distance.

The RHIB’s engine is immediately cut when the presence of the marine mammals is known so as not to disturb them, and the crew floats, able to enjoy the moment. When the whales have safely passed, the RHIB continues the mission. There are still places to go and people to see. The patrols aren’t just about vessels, they’re also about people.

“We’re out here for Canadians” says Cdr Bergen. “We’re doing wellness checks. People really appreciate it when we launch the boats and go up to them and say, ‘Hey how’s it going? Everything okay?’ Because we’re in some remote areas, people don’t see other people unless we come around. It’s nice to see a friendly face.”

While the patrols take up an important part of the daily flex, they are but one piece of the overall mission, which is to stay ready to help.

Readiness covers all manner of activities and includes daily lectures, drills, and demonstrations that take place to help the crew maintain their edge.

“Readiness is the job. So that’s nothing new to us,” says Lieutenant Commander Dave Schmidt, Executive Officer of Nanaimo. “As long as we’re here and at sea, we have the ability to train and be ready. In the midst of chaos, we are order. I think it’s critically important that we are able to reassure Canadians there is a force out there ready to help them, and that if things go sideways, we’re ready to help.”


Filed Under: Top Stories

About the Author:

RSSComments (1)

Leave a Reply | Trackback URL

  1. Ron Hopper says:

    very proud to be involved with the Friends of HMCS NANAIMO since 1997 commissioning. Fair winds and smooth seas.

Leave a Reply

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a Gravatar.