Prairie sailors go to sea

LS Kotelko stands duty as a lookout

LS Kotelko, an RMS clerk from HMCS Unicorn stands duty as a lookout on HMCS Yellowknife.

What better way to spend spring break than leaving the shovel behind and bidding “adieu” to Saskatoon’s knee-deep snow for plus temperatures and liquid water? 

This was the experience for members of the naval reserve division HMCS Unicorn who were in Victoria sailing in HMCS Yellowknife and conducting tours from Feb. 16-24. 

This is the second year Unicorn took out a contingent of its ship’s company to sail as part of a combined ship’s crew on a Kingston class vessel.    

Unicorn sailed in Yellowknife just days after LCdr Corey Gleason assumed command of the ship. The two crews from Yellowknife and Unicorn  went right into the week’s program with a man overboard drill shortly after slipping. They continued the day with manning checks and drills, followed by .50 caliber machine gun shoot for the Deck Department, and message processing and modem configuration for naval communicators.

This sail supported Unicorn sailors in several ways: for working on on-the-job performance record, maintaining skills, giving sailors in support trades the opportunity to sail on a MCDV and to see what could be achieved in a week on board ship.

“What wasn’t a success?” said LCdr Karen Wallace, Commanding Officer of Unicorn. “From the non-qualified naval environmental training program, ordinary seaman to the bridge watch keeper qualified, maritime surface and sub-surface officer, each learned or honed skill sets.”

Exercises continued through the week with boatswains conducting a timed deliberate firing on the .50 caliber machine gun – which had everyone in good spirits as their final times were announced; a pyrotechnics lecture and demonstration; light line approaches and transfer with HMCS Saskatoon; and preparing for a Cormorant helicopter with flying stations. 

It turned out the Cormorant was not able to participate, but after the evolution was cancelled Yellowknife was tasked with a “no duff” search and rescue (SAR), with Yellowknife and Unicorn working together to secure the exercise and prepare to assist a vessel in distress. Although Yellowknife was relieved of assisting with the SAR, it demonstrated how quickly a crew is able work together in a common goal after only five days of sailing.

Bookending the week on board Yellowknife, Unicorn sailors toured HMCS Calgary and learned more about the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in HMC Dockyard.

As the week ended and planes were boarded for the return trip, what remained was a general feeling of success from members of Yellowknife and Unicorn, and optimism on the benefits of this type of sail happening in the future.

-A/SLt Alicia Fraser, PAO HMCS Unicorn

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