The Royal Navy warship HMS Portland treated families and friends of the crew to experience a day in the life of a sailor at sea.
The special event was a welcome chance for the sailors to show off the ship to their guests, demonstrate how they live and work at sea and to show their gratitude for the support of their families when the ship is deployed away from home.
Families embarked on board in Devonport Naval Base in Plymouth where they were welcomed by the commanding officer, Captain Simon Asquith, who also had his wife and two of his daughters with him.
Captain Asquith said: “It is a real pleasure to be able to welcome so many people onboard and show them how their family members contribute to the defence of the United Kingdom. For the ship’s company to be able to recognise the sacrifice their families make is a real privilege.”
Despite heavy rain and strong gusts, which did not dampen spirits, the ship sailed across Plymouth Sound and along the South West coast. On the way the families were shown round the ship and saw how much effort it takes to get a warship safely to sea.
Displays arranged for the visitors, including an air-defence exercise and a ship’s protection force exercise using the smaller ship’s boat during which a mock firing demonstration was given using the ship’s machine guns.
The highlight of the day for many was the display by the ship’s helicopter, a Merlin from 829 Naval Air Squadron based at Culdrose, piloted by Lieutenant Mike Cooper and commanded by the observer Lieutenant Alexandra Kelley.
The air crew demonstrated use of the sonar, which is dipped into the sea, to interrogate underwater contacts and also showed how they could recover a person from the water using the air crewman as a winchman.
Sub Lieutenant Jamie Brotherton, who has only been onboard for five weeks said: “Today has been a wonderful opportunity to show my family what we do. For them one of the highlights was seeing the ship’s helicopter put on a memorable demonstration.”
The ships returned to the docks and the guests and crew were hosted by the China Fleet Club for a BBQ and a continuation of the celebrations, with a magic show, balloon modelling and a bouncy castle to entertain the children.
At the BBQ the captain presented the ship’s Technician of the Term award to Leading Engineering Technician Cox for his unstinting and reliable service.
A second award was made to Regulating Petty Officer Scott Cantillon, the ship’s policeman, to mark his dedication to supporting the ship. RPO Cantillon also managed to find the time to manage the ship’s football team to one of their more successful seasons.