Monday 11 July 2016

Maritime Coastal Defence Vessel HMCS KINGSTON (MM700)

I felt like a kid again on Canada Day weekend as my son Drew and grandson Jose and I waited in line to tour the Royal Canadian Navy's Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels (MCDV) HMCS KINGSTON (MM 700) and HMCS GOOSE BAY (MM 707) which were tied off beside each other near the Toronto Island ferry docks for the Redpath Waterfest. While Jose was getting to tour his first navy ship at age 5, I was 7 years old when I got to tour my first warship which was actually a boat, the American submarine USS QUILLBACK (SS 424). As mentioned in my earlier post about Tench-class QUILLBACK  (, the big black boat was one of many U.S. warships (and possibly Canadian, though I don't recall seeing any) that toured the Great Lakes for the first time due the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959. I still recall the day like it was yesterday, passing through the many hatches, climbing steep ladders and seeing torpedoes for the first time other than on a John Wayne WWII movie at the show. It was a lot of fun just like when my boys and I checked out the KINGSTON on July 1st. Since both ships were to  shove off soon to participate in a harbour sailpast which also included various tall ships that were in port for the harbour front festival, like the American topsail schooner PRIDE OF BALTIMORE, and two other replica boats that were sailing on the Great Lakes for the first time, the Spanish galleon EL GALEON ANDALUCIA and the Norwegian built Viking ship DRAKEN HARALD HARFAGRE, we were actually the last group to board the 181.5' Canadian warships. and due to time constraints, we were only able to tour the KINGSTON. That was Cool c):-))
In case you didn't know, the designation Her Majesty's Canadian Ship (HMCS) is applied as a prefix to each of the Royal Canadian Navy's 29 surface ships and their reserve bases located in 24 cities across Canada. For each of our submarines, HMCS stands for Her Majesty's Canadian Submarine. Incidentally, at about the same location where the KINGSTON and GOOSE BAY were parked, we also got to tour the Canadian submarine, HMCS OKANAGAN during her Great Lakes tour in 1990. She was an Oberon-class boat and if you want to read about her "not so pretty" next visit into the Great Lakes, check out this link: ( c):-o

I was able to get down to the St. Lawrence in time on June 27th to see the two upbound MCDV's as they approached the Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge and then later motor by the Battle of the Windmill National Historic site while on their way to Toronto. Built at Halifax Shipyards between 1995-98, the RCN has 12 of these multi-role vessels which are equally divided between both coasts and are manned by both Regular-Forces and Naval Reserve personnel.

HMCS KINGSTON (MM 700) was the first MCDV to be commissioned on September 21, 1996 and because they were initially designed with a minesweeping role, they became classified as mechanical minesweepers, hence the "MM" being included with each ship's numbers, as shown above. These flexible little ships can easily adapt for rapid role changes for any of their many missions  which include conducting coastal surveillance and patrols, general naval operations and exercises, search and rescue, law enforcement, resource protection, and fisheries patrol.

With a compliment of 47 including officers and crew, the MCDV's have a range of 9,260 km without refuelling. They are equipped with towed high-frequency sidescan sonar and remote-control mine hunting systems. They also have rigid-hulled and zodiac inflatable boats which are useful for boarding operations and extra big binoculars to identify the foe far far away on the horizon. c)8-b
Their armaments includes two M2 machines guns and a Bofors 40mm forward deck cannon which was removed during this tour as it is in the process of being replaced with a gun similar to what is used on Canadian Army light armoured vehicles (or LAV's).
Unlike the traditional propulsion systems that we see on lakers or salties and use of a rudder for steerage, the MCDV's are equipped with two Z-Drive azimuth thrusters that can rotate to any horizontal angle making a rudder unnecessary. Also, instead of using a ship's wheel to turn the vessel, each pod is controlled by "joystick-like" levers (below) which are used to control the direction of the vessel as well as its movement forward or astern. Oh YAAA!! c):-)

While first in her class, the KINGSTON has been busy especially in recent years where in 2011 & 12 she participated in Operation Caribe, a multinational effort to eliminate trafficking in the Caribbean Sea and eastern Pacific Ocean. In 2012 alone, 125 tons of cocaine and several million dollars were seized. This is not the first venture in the the Great Lakes for the KINGSTON. In 2013, she accompanied sister MCDV, HMCS GLACE BAY during a seven week tour up the St. Lawrence Seaway and North America's inland seas. During the winter of 2014, KINGSTON rejoined Operation Caribe and later in the summer, she ventured to Victoria Strait in Canada's Arctic region to joined the Canadian Coast Guard Ship SIR WILFRED LAURIER and two private ships to search and and discover the HMS EREBUS which was lost during Sir John Franklin's 1845 quest for the Northwest Passage. Earlier this spring, KINGSTON got to sail up the Hudson River along with the destroyer HMCS ATHABASKAN at New York City's "FLEET WEEK", while this past weekend, she hosted many visitors at the her namesake, Kingston, Ontario.
Meanwhile, after a port visit at Cobourg, HMCS GOOSE BAY conducted an "Open House" for the residents of Prescott and the United Counties of Leeds-Grenville during her weekend visit at the Port of Johnstown and from what I've seen from the photos posted on Facebook boat groups like The Prescott Anchor, the event was a "BOOMING" success!! c);-b
It is expected that later today when the KINGSTON arrives from her namesake, both of the MCDV's will commence their journey downbound to the Atlantic Ocean and then  Halifax, their homeport. Perhaps I'll get to tour the frigate, HMCS MONTREAL (FFH 336) when she ventures up the St. Lawrence for her Great Lakes deployment later this fall. I can hardly wait!!! c):-D
Tours over, HMCS GOOSE BSAY sits idle as Algoma tanker ALGOCANADA approaches the International Bridge at Johnstown.

Ceremonial cannon
...on a sadder note, while thousands had a lot of fun or enjoyment snapping or touring the various replica sailing ships and Canada's two warships during Toronto's Redpath WaterFest, the presence the three Great Lakes veterans tied off on the other side of the harbour, didn't get unnoticed by at least myself and my son Drew. Though their destinies remain bleak, having them there offered perhaps a subliminal reminder that Toronto wasn't always primarily a port of pleasure, but an active cargo moving gateway to the world. Regardless, I suppose it is what it is.

ALGOSOO, SPRUCEGLEN and ALGOSTEEL's stern in the background.

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