22 March 2012

2012 Simons Town Navy Festival

This year I decided to make my way to the annual Navy Festival on Friday, instead of Saturday or Sunday, in the hopes that I would avoid the masses. And avoid them I did. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to avoid the rain.
Rain drops keep falling on my head...

Murphy, you are cruel. A meeting I attended in the morning meant that I only arrived in Simons Town after 11am, and I was hunting for parking as the Lynx did its display. Parking spot found, I set off to see what there was to see... at the sea. . . After an hour of standing on the German Frigate, F214 Lübeck (a BREMEN-class Frigate apparently), while waiting for a South African submarine to demonstrate a dive in the harbour, I was pretty much soaked to the bone.

My camera got a wash, and had I brought some soap with, I could’ve had a wash too. I later found out there was a covered spot on the Lübeck that I could’ve stood under, instead of being rained on. Too late now.

The submarine dive was hardly spectacular. In fact, my favourite part was when a German sailor walked past me and said “They are sinking, they are sinking!” I grinned, and wondered if he’d seen that video clip with the German Coastguard.
Going down...

Coming back up...

There was meant to be a Hawk display, but due to the weather, it was reduced to a (very loud) fly-past, and that was it.

I go to the Navy Festival to see the aircraft, and any foreign ships. This year, we had the Germans (as I’ve already mentioned), as well as an Indian hydrographic survey ship, the INS Darshak .

I’ve never been aboard an Indian vessel before, and I was suitably impressed. Upon boarding, I was smartly saluted by one of the sailors. Unsure of how to respond, I nodded, smiled and said “Thank you”. Another sailor then came toddling along and asked if I wanted a tour of the ship. With nothing better to do, I accepted, and I was shown the HAL Chetak helicopter (essentially an Indian-built Aloeutte III) that lives in a foldable hangar on board the ship. I can’t remember much of the ship, but I do remember the bridge, the room where they do all their plotting and stuff and make maps and other hectic stuff, and the lower deck where they store their gym equipment (amongst other things).
Chetak Cockpit

View from the bridge

Down below, "gym"

Look! A proper, great big wooden wheel!

What was quite interesting was that everything on the ship was labelled in English (whereas on the Lübeck, almost everything was in German). After the tour, we were given a firm handshake, and thanked for looking around their ship. Now that’s top-notch treatment!

After that I grumbled that the South Africans don’t bother greeting you, let alone salute you. However, a Warfare Officer aboard the SAS Mendi gave us a decent tour of the ship, including the sick bay (which was ice cold), and the bridge (very modern and neat).

After hours of walking in the rain, I was sore and frozen to the bone. With the Silver Falcons display cancelled due to the weather, I wondered if staying for the little “anti-piracy” display would be worth it. The display was the usual, with the “pirates” boarding a ship, the good guys shooting at them, and the South African MRS doing their thing.

But what happened at the end of the display made my day; the MRS team was lifted from the ship (I think it’s called a “Hot Extraction”), and flown to the SAS Drakensburg. They were meant to be lowered to the deck, but as the Oryx slowly descended, we saw that they were actually to the right of the deck, and heading straight towards the water.

The pilot stopped descending at what looked like about 2 feet from the water, the guys on the end of the rope flailing around in an attempt to evade the choppy water below them. The Oryx pulled pitch, climbed, and plopped them on the deck. Oryx pilot and crew, whoever you may be, that was some incredibly accurate and funny flying. Thank you!

Oh, I also got to take a peek in the cockpit of the German Lynx, and I bought some patches.