UK: University Patrol Boats Leave Mersey

University Patrol Boats Leave Mersey

University patrol boats HMS Biter and Charger linked up with submarine HMS Turbulent and rescue fliers of HMS Gannet during their spring deployment. The two Mersey-based patrol craft, which serve the universities of Manchester/Salford and Liverpool, took their students on a tour of North-West England and western Scotland.

The two patrol boats serve the universities of Manchester/Salford and Liverpool respectively and left their traditional home on the Mersey to give their students a more in-depth insight into life in the RN.

Given the make-up of their crew – five experienced RN sailors and cadets, for whom the spring deployment was their first in many cases – and the short range of the P2000 boats, the duo put into fresh ports every day.

That means as well as a new harbour daily – and often ones which rarely see the White Ensign.

So first stop for Biter and Charger, the Lancashire ‘port’ of Preston where the ships carried out berthing exercises in order to get the students up to speed with the rope work.

Across the Irish Sea next to Douglas on the Isle of Man, before back to the west coast of England and the tiny port of Silloth in Cumbria – Biter’s affiliated town – where several local school classes were invited on board.

As the deployment continued northwards, Biter was invited to escort HMS Turbulent which was making a rare appearance on the surface – an ideal opportunity for a few shots for the photo album.

Barely had Turbulent disappeared beneath the waves than a Sea King from HMS Gannet appeared overhead for some search and rescue practice (not that Gannet need too much of it as Britain’s busiest SAR unit…).

The rescuers winched two students from Biter’s very small deck providing some useful training for the fliers… and an unforgettable experience for the cadets.

Before the crew change in Glasgow, students from Manchester and Salford URNU were given a guided tour of the final Type 45 destroyer, HMS Duncan, in the final stages of completion.

The second crew enjoyed the delights of the Glasgow nightlife before sailing for the small Scottish town of Troon (famous for its links golf course which fairly regularly hosts the Open) then on to the isle of Islay on the edge of the Inner Hebrides.

The students hosted members of the local community with a cocktail party, which gave them the chance to learn the art of spreading the RN word to the wider public – and to learn about a close-knit island community.

With Biter and Charger enjoying a ‘harbour day’ – general maintenance – in Islay, the students helped out at Islay House Community Garden, performing some of the more laborious tasks. The weather was kind, and their efforts were rewarded with homemade cakes from the volunteers.

In the afternoon, there was a visit to the Bruichladdich whisky distillery, in front of which the two ships were berthed. As well as whisky, Bruichladdich also produces the artisanal gin ‘The Botanist’, samples of which were greatly appreciated.

The next port of call was due to be Portrush in Northern Ireland – a journey of just 40 miles from Islay – but the heavy swell in the Atlantic/Irish Sea proved to be too much for the patrol boats, which decided the more sheltered waters of Campbeltown were the better bet.

That proved to be the end of the rough weather for the ships, which was blessed by clear skies and sunshine for the remainder of the deployment through the Irish Sea, past the Isle of Man, from Bangor to Holyhead.

The return journey to Liverpool also provided an opportunity for a number of machinery breakdown drills to show the students how to react in such circumstances.

Naval Today Staff , April 27, 2012; Image: royalnavy