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A NAVAL CAREER IN THE EYES OF COLIN ROSS – Pt. 46

As previously indicated I had been enticed back to rugby.  The Navy Water Rats were playing in the local Presidents grade and the Ancient Mariners were set up to take part in the Air NZ Golden Oldie Festivals.  As I have related I first attended the one in Perth in 1991.

The next one was in 1993 in UK and the cost was too much for most of us to attend, however in 1995 the festival was in Christchurch.  To reduce the cost we undertook all sorts of fundraisers.  From barn dances to stock taking and even laying a concrete drive.

We flew to Christchurch in beautiful weather arriving the Saturday afternoon that Auckland had taken the Ranfurly Shield off Canterbury.  This was announced just before we landed so one of the things we did over the next week was to ensure we related to everyone we came from North Harbour not Auckland. The welcoming event was held in a hangar at Wigram.  It was beautifully done out and it was a great night.  When we arrived at Wigram the night was still and starlit.  Four or so hours later we emerged after being well entertained by great music and bevies to be greeted by a howling gale and rain almost horizontally driving along the runway.

Our first game was not too bad, along with the required after game party we had an enjoyable time and even the weather wasn’t too bad.  In these Festivals they had a mid-week BBQ.  This was to be held at Mt Hutt Station.  There were over a hundred buses required to get all the competitors etc. up there.  They had buses from far and wide, Nelson, Timaru and Ashburton amongst others. Because of the number of buses required they had sent series of buses on different routes to ensure no traffic issues.  We were in a convoy of about fifteen buses and when we turned off the main road towards Mt Hutt there was a roadblock.  The Traffic Police were out doing spot checks on vehicles.  So here we were fifteen buses all stopped in a line, full of raucous rugby players so the Constabulary were given a rousing welcome as you can imagine which they took in good grace.

At Mt Hutt Station there were an amazing array of activities set up to entertain the local and foreign visitors, from crop dusting and fertiliser displays, dogs rounding up sheep and many other activities.  Unfortunately as we travelled up there it started to snow so this forced the cancellation of many of the displays.  However as a lot of the teams had not experienced snow it was a great treat for them.

The other downside of the snow was that as 5000 people trudged around the snow became slush and areas became very slippery, also some of the areas were set up with live music so you can imagine the scene when hundreds of people in differing states of sobriety started dancing or should I say slip sliding in some sort of time to the music.  By the time we climbed on the buses for the return journey there was mud everywhere including on most of the participants.

Our second game I well remember was at Belfast.  The weather was cold and wet.  As an added bonus there was a large mud puddle in the middle of the field.  Of course this became a target to try and tackle people into it.  One had to be careful no one drowned, as it was quite deep. Finishing the game and hilarity we trudged off to the showers only to find there was no hot water.  It took us hours to get warm afterwards and considering there were 70 & 80 year olds involved this was not ideal.  After a third game and an excellent final dinner we returned home and some sort of normality.

Returning to my tale of ships and real life.  RESOLUTION in 1998 went into maintenance and required docking for the fitting of the fibreglass pod under the keel, which housed the fansweep sonar array.

The procurement and design of the fibreglass pod was a Naval Staff project.  The pod was being developed and built in Whangarei.  We of course were very interested to see what was proposed to be fitted but were in no uncertain terms told we were not to visit the construction as it was all in hand and would be delivered for us to fit.

Luckily the company in Whangarei asked if we could supply one of the transducers to ensure that the proposed method of securing the transducer and cabling would all come together and fit comfortably in the designated area.  So I was tasked to take one up for them to test fit.  Luckily I asked if the Dkyd Engineer would like to come up for a sneak preview. We arrived on site and were impressed with what we saw.  It was a pretty complex design and construction.  While we were there the Dkyd Engineer decided just to check some of the facts and figures they had been supplied to fit the pod.  He discovered that the pod was actually 100mm higher than the figures that had been given. This was really good discovery as without finding this out we would have struggled to get the pod under the keel to fit and so the discovery allowed us to raise the ship another block and ensure it would accommodate the pod.

The fitting of the pod was a major undertaking.  It required ten holes to be bored through the keel to accommodate all the cables from the transducers.  Into these bored holes was welded thick walled tube to ensure the keel strength was maintained.  Internally there were also big changes to accommodate the equipment required and a lot of cable was run from the lower decks to the Operations Room and Bridge.

I remember a lot of hours spent in the bottom of the dry-dock, it was cold and damp and we were sometimes working after dark and weekends to meet deadlines.  It was pretty satisfying to see the ship float up and come out of dock ready for its full role as a Hydrographic vessel.

It was even more impressive when the results of the system were observed.  Whilst MONOWAI was a single beam echo sounder, which basically allowed depths to be put on a chart, the fansweep system produced a topographical map of the ocean floor.  It was in colour and very impressive.

So after all these changes and heavy involvement my life slowed down to a normal pace of looking after any issues whilst they were away and doing forward planning for the next maintenance period.  It was therefore something of a surprise when I was invited along with my family to attend the ship and be awarded a Chief of Naval Staffs Commendation.  It was actually quite humbling and the recognition was something I will always remember.

It was enjoyable dealing with the ship and her crew, as their Ship Manager I was almost treated as one of the ships company.  Another highlight of this was being invited with Kerry to go out on RESOLUTION for the start of the Auckland section of the Volvo Round the World Yacht Race.  A very pleasant day in fine weather and a mass of small craft everywhere to see the yachts off on their next leg.

One of the best advantages of RESLUTION is the ship and fittings were well documented.  So any issues we had it was not difficult to find replacement parts.  Of note though I must say it was a disconcerting feeling when we discovered a lot of the Caterpillar main engine parts were being sourced out of Mexico or Singapore.  I guess it is a fact of life now that most equipment is supported out of areas that can produce parts cheaper than the company’s home country.  I guess this was what Mr Trump has been on about over the past few years and encouraging industry to stay home.

Because of the ship’s operating profile it was decided in my spare time I could look after the RNZNR boats and this I will address in the next issue.

To be continued

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