Riding the waves
HMCS will 'fly' through the water

by Chris Meyers Almey
Northern News Services

NNSL (Feb 21/97) - Her Majesty's Canadian Ship Yellowknife might have shared cabins for the hands, but the crew sure as heck won't hear the pipe "Up Spirits" over the shipboard public address system.

And some of them will need the 2.5 ounces of 150-proof rum that sailors used to get in the Canadian navy.

For HMCS Yellowknife is not particularly large at 55 metres in length and 11 metres in breadth.

Which means she will probably spend more time riding above the waves than in during storms, like the Second World War corvettes did while battling the seawolf packs.

That tot of rum was quite a buzz and it enabled seasick prone matelos to keep their noon lunch down, but the federal government pulled the plug on that old naval tradition in the 1970s.

Hammocks slung from deckheads disappeared from most Canadian navy ships with the conversion of Second World War frigates and the infusion in the last half of the 1950s of what were then called "Cadillac" destroyers of the St. Laurent class.

Just three of the 20 ships built in that era survive, one being HMCS Terra Nova, which served in the war with Iraq.

Nevertheless, until now only officers had cabins, with everyone else living on bunks stacked three high, so old sailors will look upon their modern counterparts in ships like the Yellowknife with envy.

Canada built four destroyers of the Iroquois class in the 1970s and until the frigate program of 12 ships was started a few years ago, our ships were getting long in the tooth.

So these 12 new ships like Yellowknife of the Kingston class while small, will enable our navy to have a greater presence on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

For as HMCS Yellowknife's designated commanding officer, Lt. - Cmdr. Doug Bancroft says, our blue water ships are expensive to operate.

That's due to the size of the crews -- a couple of hundred versus 36 -- and fuel consumption necessary to drive warships capable of speeds almost reaching 30 knots. HMCS Yellowknife is rated for 15 knots.