Orca Training Weekend
On the evening of 20 March 2009, I flew out to Sidney, British Columbia to join other members of HMCS Tecumseh, my Naval Reserve unit in Calgary, for a weekend training exercise aboard two Orca-class vessels--the Orca (Patrol Craft Training 55) and the Renard (PCT 58).  I was assigned to the Renard, and after spending the night at Van Isle Marina in Sidney, the two ships set off the next morning (21 March 2009) through the Gulf Islands en route to Nanaimo, BC.  Along the way, the crews practiced sea maneuvers and emergency procedures.  Being a musician in the military, I felt a bit like a fish out of water, but under the watchful guidance of my fellow shipmates, I quickly learned some simple seamanship skills including handling lines and being a lookout.  By the time we arrived in Nanaimo late in the afternoon, I was starting to feel like a seasoned sailor.  A short visit to a local pub that night capped off a tiring but rewarding day.
Going to sea at last! Leading Seaman (LS) Sonny Bou stands on the port side main deck as the Renard pulls away from the Orca.
You're gonna need a bigger boat. The Orca leaves Tsehum Harbour.
Looks like it will be a nice day... The morning sun rises above Tsehum Harbour.
Paul used to be an engineer officer in the army. LT(N) Joseph Banke and LT(N) Paul Blakeney man the radar screens on the bridge of the Renard.
Just like driving a car, right? LS Russ Middleton mans the helm while LT(N) Eavis gives the commands as Officer Of The Watch.
Might not be too bad for water skiing! Petty Officer 1st Class (PO1) Carlyon and LS DeWitt check out the wake of the Renard.
Kris is a pretty decent hockey player and a big Oilers fan too. LS Kris Singer demonstrates how to set up a heaving line.
Another high one on my to-do list! The Lions come into view across the Strait of Georgia.
The Orca-class ships have a top speed of 20 knots. The Orca goes full throttle through the Strait of Georgia.
And the ship feels roomy even with a full crew. Orca-class ships require a minimum crew of four but can accommodate as many as twenty-four.
Although the ship is unarmed, a 0.50 caliber machine gun can be optionally mounted on the foredeck. Here is a profile view of the Orca.
Joseph is currently the Attractions Officer at Canadian Forces Recruiting Centre Calgary. LT(N) Banke carefully scrutinizes one of the radar screens.
Aaron did a great job preparing delicious meals on board the Renard all weekend. LS Aaron Deadman barbeques pork chops on the jetty in Nanaimo.
Shore leave! The Renard and the Orca are moored side by side along the jetty in Nanaimo Harbour.
On the morning of 22 March 2009, both ships left Nanaimo and retraced their route back through the Strait of Georgia toward Sidney.  At one point, I was given the opportunity to take the helm and steer the Renard under command of the Officer Of The Watch--definitely the highlight of the weekend for me!  Shortly after going through Porlier Pass between Valdes and Galiano Islands, the two ships dropped anchor beside each other, and both crews had lunch before taking some group photos.  A number of us from the Renard then transferred over to the Orca in order to be dropped off later at Patricia Bay in Sidney and catch flights back to Calgary (the remaining crew would head to Saltspring Island before returning to Victoria the following day).  Although this weekend was definitely a trip outside of my comfort zone, I gained a better appreciation of what my fellow shipmates do in the Navy, and I felt a certain pride in working alongside them as well.
Amazing that it still floats! The jetty party, which is responsible for casting off the hawsers (big ropes) mooring the Renard, returns to the ship on a rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB).  Note that this RHIB is partially punctured!
Hard to find action here on a Saturday night... This is Nanaimo as seen from its namesake harbour.
Just call me Mr. Sulu! LS Bou takes the helm!
Boatswains get all the hard but fun jobs on ships. Ordinary Seaman (OS ) McManus and LS Ogle pull on a hawser to secure the two ships to each other.
Besides playing oboe and composing music, Aura also works part time at the Naval Museum in Calgary. LT(N) Aura Pon watches all the mooring activities from the bridge deck of the Orca.
Aaron used to be a logistics officer in the army! LS Deadman takes a break from his galley duties on the Renard.
"Renard" means "fox" in French. Here is one last look at the Renard.