The Royal Navy’s HMS York on the last leg of her five-month deployment to the South Atlantic on Falkland Islands patrolling is heading for Britain after having shifted oceans to the Pacific.
Her first challenge was a safe transit of the Magellan Strait and Patagonia Canal taking her from the Atlantic to the Pacific. With two Chilean Naval pilots embarked for two-and-a-half days of 'interesting' and 'challenging' navigation, York's Navigator Lieutenant Tim Langford put his extensive planning into practice with extra sailors 'closed up' or posted for the entire passage to critical areas around the ship - the bridge, cable party and steering gear compartment.
For particularly narrow bits there were also extra sailors manning the engine rooms and machinery control room. Meanwhile, for those not closed up, the passage afforded some of the most stunning views known to seafarers on the planet.
And while sailing the canals, Chile celebrated Naval Day, a national holiday commemorating victory at the Battle of Iquique in 1879. With two Chilean pilots aboard it was only right and proper that the event was marked with a winter warmer on the bridge wing with toasts and speeches.
Out in the Pacific and after a week or so at sea the Royal Navy’s fastest destroyer met two Chilean vessels for replenishment at sea (RAS). Chilean tanker Almirante Montt which was simultaneously supplying Almirante Williams - formerly Type 22 frigate HMS Sheffield, also provided HMS York with 350,000 litres of fuel transferred during an 80-minute RAS.
Operational methods within the two navies are similar; the Chilean Navy's modelled to a considerable degree on the Senior Service and many Chilean sailors have experienced Operational Sea Training off Plymouth.
Recognising that a Type 42 Destroyer needs a regular pit stop, the Chilean Navy was nothing but excellent from the moment the request for this RAS was submitted, said York's Commanding Officer, Commander Simon Staley.
Next stop for HMS York was Callao in Peru for a four-day break.
On arrival there were the all-important official calls carried out by the captain as he paid courtesy visits to senior Peruvian officers, whose port authority laid on buses for the ship's company so they could move between the harbour and the sights of nearby Lima.
A dozen officers from the Peruvian Naval Academy visited York for a discussion about dealing with the scourge of drug-running at sea.
Exercises complete, York made for Panama and the world famous canal. It takes ten hours to cover the 77 kilometres from the Pacific to the Caribbean, where York emerged and switched to counter-narcotics duties as she made for Kingston, Jamaica.
The destroyer arrived in the Jamaican capital to find tanker RFA Wave Knight, Britain's current counter-narcotics warrior, in port, taking a breather from her search for drug-runners. HMS York then left Kingston in company with RFA Wave Ruler to conduct her last deployment RAS allowing her to top up prior to her final leg homeward.
After stops in Key West, Bermuda and the Azores, the fastest 42 is due in Portsmouth on 8 July 2011. (RN).-