Canadian Navy’s oldest vessel in Ucluelet this weekend

Looking for something to do this weekend? How about checking out a nearly 100 year-old ship.

The Canadian Navy’s oldest vessel arrived in Ucluelet on Thursday and will be shining on display at the outer boat basin all weekend.

The HMCS Oriole was built in 1921 and the 31-metre vessel was signed into the Canadian Navy in 1952.

Her Captain, Lieutenant Commander Jeff Kibble, encourages locals to come experience the ship’s iconic history before she leaves town Monday morning.   

“They’re welcome to come onboard, have a tour of the upper decks, meet the crew and find out about the ship,” he said. “We welcome and encourage people to come down and visit.”

He said the vessel is open to the public Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to sunset.

The Oriole set sail from Esquimalt on Sept. 8 and was brought to Ucluelet by a roughly 20-member crew comprised of Canadian Rangers, Junior Canadian Rangers (JCR), and members of the Canadian Navy.

Kibble said the three-tiered sailing team traveled through the Juan de Fuca Strait to Port Renfrew then on to Bamfield and into Barkley Sound where the crew spent a few days exploring before landing in Ucluelet.

“Our mission for this trip is to conduct adventure training with the Rangers and Junior Rangers and give them an experience at sea where they can learn about themselves, the Navy, sailing, and the environment of Barkley Sound,” he said.

He said the Oriole’s storied history and iconic recognition makes her a dynamic outreach tool in coastal communities like Ucluelet.

“The ship is easily recognizable and very, very, well known on the Coast. Her unofficial nickname is ‘The People’s Boat’ so it’s a very good platform to connect and let people know about the Navy,” he said.

“We also like to reach out to other units in the military, including the Rangers, and give them an experience onboard this ship to help the different units connect with each other and for them to do a bit of leadership and teamwork training.”

Chris Patterson is the Canadian Ranger who coordinated the adventure training exercise and said the “old-school naval vessel” provided an opportunity to venture beyond comfort zones.

 â€œIt makes people come out of themselves and adapt to a different way of thinking, a different way of operating, and it boosts confidence and allows people to realize their own limitations and push past them,” he said.

Patterson was one of six Canadian Rangers onboard and said the weeklong sailing experience was a positive one for all.

“You will not find somebody that will say a bad thing about this trip,” he said. “This trip has been remarkable.”

Ucluelet’s Canadian Ranger Patrol Commander David Payne was thrilled to welcome the Oriole to his local harbour.  

“We’re all proud to live here, we enjoy living here, we love showing it off, particularly on a day like today,” he told the Westerly onboard the vessel on a sunny Thursday afternoon. “To be able to offer support to the Navy, and particularly this beautiful ship, is a bit of an honour.”

He said Ucluelet’s Canadian Ranger Patrol has seen a significant increase in interest going from roughly 10 active members in 2009 to about 35 members in 2014.

“We have just about reached the ceiling with our patrol membership at this point in time but we are always looking for qualified, interested, energetic, individuals,” he said.

Four Junior Rangers from Manitoba were also part of the crew and were chaperoned by JCR 4th Patrol Group Company Commander Scott MacDonald.

MacDonald said the Manitoba youth had never been to the West Coast before.

“One of our aims is to try and take kids out of their comfort zone,” he said. “We expose them to the ocean environment so they get a chance to learn new things and get them out of their comfort zone which helps them grow and learn as young people.”

He said the youth also learned about the Oriole’s rich history.

“The crew was fantastic in helping everybody understand the historical significance of the ship,” he said.

Local Junior Ranger Everett Watson was at the dock on Thursday to welcome the Oriole and was excited to meet the Manitoban Junior Rangers.   

“What they accomplished is quite amazing,” he said.  

Ucluelet’s JCR chairperson Jennifer Adamson said meeting youth from across the country is an important part of being a Junior Ranger.

 â€œIt’s really neat for our kids to know there’s different opportunities they can have,” she said adding she would lobby for a similar Oriole based experience for Ucluelet’s youth.

The local Junior Rangers meet every Thursday at 7 p.m. and anyone interested in getting involved in encouraged to drop in.

Registration is free as are uniforms and experiences.

Ucluelet’s Junior Rangers traveled to Vernon B.C. this summer to experience outdoor activities like rock climbing and white water rafting and Adamson said the group is planning an October trip to the Bamfield Marine Science Centre.

“They’ll be other opportunities for bigger events throughout the year,” she said. “Tons and tons of opportunities for our kids to meet kids from all across Canada and to do some really neat things.”

reporter@westerlynews.ca