Students discover navy life from the vantage of the sea

LS Edward Gates gives visitors a tour of PCT 62 bridge. Photo by Peter Mallett, Lookout

LS Edward Gates gives visitors a tour of PCT 62 bridge. Photo by Peter Mallett, Lookout

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

A typically blustery and rainy Pacific coast winter day didn’t dampen the spirits of area students who boarded an Orca-Class patrol training boat for a day sail.

Sixteen special needs and special education students, ages 11 to 13, from Victoria middle schools (Grades 6 to 8), were accompanied by five adult chaperones as they sailed the waters of Southern Vancouver Island aboard PCT 62 Moose. The Nov. 30 event was organized by the Esquimalt Lions Club.

As heavy rains pelted down for most of the day, and strong winds made for choppy seas, guests were given a taste of what life is like aboard a navy training vessel.

“I was really excited to be here today because some of my family members have served in the navy and it was really cool getting my own dog tags,” said a Grade six student from Dunsmuir Middle School. “I know I want to be part of the navy someday, but am not yet sure what I want to do for a job.”

Activities onboard included a full guided tour of the vessel, a demonstration of its maneuverability, a man-overboard exercise, and an emergency firefighting demonstration.

Lieutenant-Commander Todd Bacon, Commanding Officer of the vessel, welcomed his visitors to the bridge and showed off the ship’s instrumentation, watch operations, and the captain’s seat and helm.

“It was our duty and our pleasure to have them here today,” said LCdr Bacon. “We truly enjoyed taking them out to sea and showing them what our sailors do on a daily basis. It gives the sailors onboard this patrol craft training unit an ability to showcase what we do on behalf of the Fleet and also teaches them what ‘right’ looks like in terms of basic seamanship.”

After their visit to the bridge, the young visitors retired to the ship’s mess for a lunch. Prior to their meal, Leading Seaman Clayton Morrell, a Marine Systems Engineer, presented each students with personalized dog tags and an RCN baseball hat to commemorate their visit, which proved to be a big hit.

Master Seaman Roger Robicheau, a Marine Systems Engineer, helped organize the event with the Lion’s Club. He became the student’s ambassador and tour guide for the day.

“We knocked it out of the park and you can tell that by looking at the smiles on the faces of these kids,” said MS Robicheau. “Being a father I know it’s hard to keep a bunch of kid’s attention, but not with today’s event. I used to take special education speech therapy classes when I was a student growing up in Digby, N.S., and I know where some of these kids are coming from.”

Several weeks ahead of the event, MS Robicheau organized a meeting with his crewmates to gauge interest in hosting the students and got a unanimous “full-speed ahead”. MS Robicheau says he and fellow Lions Club members are now hoping to make the day sail an annual tradition.

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