Preserver’s final farewell

Preserver’s final farewell

Ryan Melanson, Trident Staff ~

As current and former sailors, along with friends and family, gathered to say goodbye to HMCS Preserver after nearly five decades of service, RAdm John Newton made it clear Oct. 21 was not a day for sadness.

“There’s no sadness in my mind today, only celebration of 46 years of world-class capability sailing the globe,” said the Commander of Maritime Forces Atlantic to the crowd gathered on the jetty, Preserver in the background.

The day marked the paying off ceremony of Preserver, the last of the Royal Canadian Navy’s Protecteur-class auxiliary oiler replenishment ships.

When Preserver was commissioned in Saint John, New Brunswick, on Aug. 7, 1970, it and sister ship, HMCS Protecteur, were an example of cutting-edge technology and modern underway replenishment procedures.

As RAdm Newton described it, “They allowed our navy to act big. These ships gave the navy global reach, sustainability, fast deployment when called to action by the government, and a great utility in coalition for food, stores and fuel, which were and are always in short supply.”

Among the crowd were a few who made up the very first crews to board the ship.RAdm Newton mentioned retired sailor Gerry Curry, who made it a point to be there see the ship out, just as he saw it ‘in’ back in 1970.

“I spoke to Gerry and what I took from his words is that Preserver inspired him from the first time he stepped aboard it in 1970, and it continued to inspire him throughout his career and into retirement, like it did for so many.”

The ship deployed and supported Canadian and allied task groups on missions around the world through its life, beginning in the Cold War years and continuing well into the 21st century. Some of those were highlighted during the paying off, including UN peacekeeping efforts in Cyprus, enforcing sanctions in the former Yugoslavia in 1994, the response to the crash of Swissair Flight 111 in 1998 off Peggy’s Cove, and Operation Apollo in 2001, in support of American operations in Afghanistan.

“We can all take something from the stories of accomplishments and operations and friendship that get told when a member retires, and for just a few hours we slow down enough to celebrate a shipmate, or in this case, a ship itself,” RAdm Newton said, before encouraging those in attendance to share their own stories and a few laughs about their times on board.

For LCdr Vicky Marier, the final Commanding Officer of Preserver, the day was about reflecting on the difficult job handed to her and her crew to prepare the ship for its decommissioning. And while she gave a heartfelt thank you to those who helped make Preserver the outstanding ship it was through the years, she focused a special shout out to those who served under her command and marched off the ship for a final time at the ceremony.

“Without them, I would not have been able to accomplish the mission that we set out on,” she said, adding a reference to the ship’s motto as she prepared to say goodbye to the tanker ship.

“If a frigate is the eyes, ears and hands of the Royal Canadian Navy, then surely Preserver was the heart of our fleet.”

Official aspects of the paying-off ceremony included a sail-past from HMCS Ville de Quebec and the ceremonial passing of the commissioning pennant along the deck. The crew then marched off the ship, followed by their Commanding Officer.  The commissioning pennant, jack and ensign were presented to LCdr Marier, who then in turn presented them to RAdm Newton.

With the paying off official, the crew marched past the Guard of Honour and down the jetty, to loud cheers from all those in attendance.

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