On the long road home is HMS Argyll which crossed from the Pacific to the Atlantic in a day via the world’s greatest man-made waterway.
The frigate sailed through the Panama Canal after a spell of counter-drugs work in the eastern Pacific.
Pictures: LA(Phot) Pepe Hogan, HMS Argyll
IN A break in the tropical rain – much of her upper decks are still damp from a lashing – HMS Argyll prepares to enter Lake Miraflores, having been lifted 54ft above sea level.
And thus the Devonport-based frigate begins the long road home – a 5,000-mile journey from the Pacific to the Hamoaze as her seven-month South Atlantic and Pacific deployment nears its end.
It takes about ten hours to negotiate the 50 miles (80.47km) and three locks of this man-made ‘path’ between two oceans – plenty of time for the ship’s company to row the same distance on the electronic machines aboard.
It’s standard practice for any RN ship using Suez to have a crack at rowing the distance. Panama passages are less frequent, but that’s no reason not to give it a crack.
Spurring his shipmates on was Argyll’s clubz, LPT Baz Chambers.
Approaching the locks at Pedro Miguel with Panama’s Centennial Bridge spanning the canal in the distance
“This event was put on to inject some fun and competitive spirit into our Panama Canal transit,” he said.
Because, otherwise, let’s face it, sailing down a canal isn’t that exciting.
Anyway... 67 sailors (about one third of the ship’s company) volunteered to row 1,000 metres each (some rowed two kilometres) to see whether matelot power was faster than two Rolls-Royce Speys generating over 30,000 shp.
“The rowers beat the ship by two hours, eight minutes and 26 seconds – which shows the commitment and the levels of fitness onboard,” said clubz.
The Panama passage came after an intensive period of counter-drugs patrols in the eastern Pacific – a laborious, rather monotonous task livened only sporadically.
Clubz checks the progress of one of his shipmates as crew row the 80.47km of the Panama Canal
One highpoint: a village fair, for which the ship’s company have to thank clubz once more as the organiser.
He and shipmates in Argyll’s 39-man mess arranged some traditional style entertainment, turning the flight deck into a village green (well, grey) for some good family fun games such as Splat-the-Rat, a (fiercely-competititve) strongman contest and the stocks, accompanied by some standard village fayre fare: candy apples and a hearty barbecue.
Not all the apples were quite so tasty. At the ‘challenge’ stall, punters were invited to munch their way through an entire chilli apple (among other ‘delicious’ treats on offer) to win a prize.
By the day’s end, all aboard had enjoyed themselves and, equally importantly, swelled the coffers of the ship’s welfare fund by £300.
Argyll is due home in Devonport next month, while her duties on patrol in the South Atlantic and environs have been assumed by her sister HMS Richmond.