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May 2010 - Volunteer Reserve Watchkeeper on ROTOITI

Andrew Morgan

By SLT Andrew Morgan RNZNVR

During May 2010 I had the opportunity to spend three weeks in ROTOITI during a coastal customs patrol. This allowed me to maintain my bridge watch-keeping skills and work towards my IPV platform endorsement, as well as participate in operational activity. The patrol also meant a good opportunity personally to see the Commanding Officer, LT Andrew Hogg and the Navigating officer, SLT Rachael Docherty, with whom I had joined the Navy in 2005.

Right: SLT Andrew Morgan on ROTOITI.

Orion Support

On Monday 17 May we left Devonport and started our passage north, After passing Great Barrier Island, an RNZAF P-3 Orion joined us briefly as we headed for Whangarei. Over the next few days we inspected different bays for visiting yachts, and also carried out a number of training exercises before anchoring in the Bay of Islands.

Next, we patrolled north to Cape Reianga, but on rounding North Cape the Customs officers decided the visibility was too low and the poor sea state and weather did not make it feasible to ‘clear’ the coast. With those off watch piped down, we turned around and back to the Bay of Islands for a sheltered anchorage.

Bay of Islands Patrol

We enjoyed the weekend alongside at Opua, returning to sea on the Tuesday morning (22 June). The continuing inclement weather saw the Customs team work among vessels within the Bay of Islands, while our ships company undertook a training day. Various evolutions were conducted and Midshipman Humble (newly off his Officer of the Watch Alpha course) and I were put through our paces with some anchorage approaches and pilotage training, along with engineering drills. It didn’t take too long for me to clear the rust from in my head and settle into the standard professional pilotage style.

We anchored overnight but the next morning, due to the persistent poor weather conditions, a decision was made to head straight back to Devonport. Entering Auckland, I executed a successful pilotage from a standard set of ships notes prepared by the Navigating Officer.

For our third, and my final week, we proceeded north again to revisit the areas, patrolling along the Northland coast. Again we encountered less than ideal weather and headed for shelter at the southern end of Doubtless Bay. After a rocky night at anchor we returned to the Bay of Islands for another Customs sweep of the area.

Fire, Flood, Gas

The next day the ship held a major engine room fire exercise before we continued south to Great Barrier Island to clear the western side of GBI. In doing so, we also conducted OOW training, before proceeding back tyo Auckland.

During those three weeks, I was able to gain extensive experience: launching and recovering the sea boats; eight sets of Engineering Casualty Control Drills, and pilotage. My goal remains to earn the IPV endorsement, and this patrol brought me that much closer.

Learning the IPV

Navigationally, now with a good understanding of the bridge layout and the use of the bridge equipment, it is a pleasure to control the ship for various operations. However, gaining the endorsement depends on understanding how the engineering systems are integrated with bridge systems, as everything is computerised. With Unmanned Machinery Spaces and full computer integration of navigation and engineering, there is a lot to get your head around!

Then there are the additional things:

• reminding the Quartermaster to change the stabiliser settings for a change in vessel speed
• checking the generator load on the engineering computer console for sea boat operations and knowing how to bring another generator online.
• knowing that the satellite compass can be several degrees out compared to the gyro-compass—the Quartermaster might not be steering what you are conning! (The ship’s head mark is behind a big metal bar in the middle of the bridge windows in front of the centre line Pelorus—who put that there?)
• using the headset touch screen communications console and getting the right person!
• and figuring out the various engine modes and how lever settings forward and astern relate to power.

As a VR watch keeper IPV’s are great ships to bridge watch-keep on, but they do take a bit of figuring out!

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