Small boat, big difference for CFMETR

new range patrol boat, the Egret

Canadian Forces Maritime Experimental Test Range has a new range patrol boat dubbed the Egret.

It’s not going to change the balance of power in the Pacific, but the newest addition to Canada’s Navy has her crew breathing a little easier nonetheless.

Egret, a 14-metre, 22-knot patrol craft landed at Nanoose Bay Nov. 9, ushering in a new era of range patrol at the Canadian Forces Maritime Experimental and Test Ranges (CFMETR).

And if ever there was a time for a new era this was it. The Egret’s predecessor, the Canadian Forces Auxiliary Vessel Pelican was a used 1970s fresh-water crash boat, ill-suited to the rigours and risks of life on the ocean guarding CFMETR’s torpedo range. Her roll-happy hull, ageing diesels and threadbare insulation made a day at sea an uncomfortable, noisy and noxious experience.

“We’d come home cold, tired, and a little dizzy,” admits MS Rich Loy, engineer on the Range Patrol crew known as “Ranger 1”. “The Egret is leaps and bounds above the Pelican. We’re isolated from the environmental hazards, she’s much more stable, and she’s got air-ride seats. It’s an entirely different boat.”

Built by Kamma & Blake Industries in Port Alberni, Egret is powered by two 501-horsepower Caterpillar engines driving a pair of Alpha Power water jets. The jet boat design means she’ll not be as vulnerable to stray logs as was Pelican, whose holing by an errant Douglas Fir in 2010 finally condemned her. Egret’s arrival also heralds a return to Ranger 1’s passenger carrying role, which had ended years ago due to stability concerns with Pelican. The new vessel can carry six passengers in addition to three crew, a capability very much in need during ranging operations.

Egret’s prime role, however, begins once she’s landed her passengers on Winchelsea Island, home to the Range Operations Centre. From there she heads out into Area Whisky Golf, CFMETR’s 200-square kilometre torpedo range, to support test events and ensure civilian boaters stay well clear of the ships, submarines or air-dropped weapons that could ruin an otherwise pleasant day at sea.

For the Petty Officer in charge of the Ranger 1 crew, Egret’s new capabilities are all about establishing presence on the range.

“I think she’s going to be taken much more seriously by the public,” says PO2 Kevin Hall. “She sits higher in the water, she’s much more capable and she can stay out there longer. Egret looks like she means business. That’s going to help us keep the range clear which in turn will make our operations run smoother.”

For PO2 Hall, it’s a point of pride that Egret’s arrival ends an uncomfortable dependency on borrowed vessels. A Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat, a former Port Security vessel and even a commercial whale watching boat were all called upon to bridge the gap after Pelican was taken out of service.

“Now that Egret is here we want to start making it our own vessel,” says Hall. “Not just something given to us for the short term. She’s going to be a great boat. The whole crew looks forward to getting her up to snuff and out on the water as soon as possible.”

Capt Jeff Manney, CFMETR

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