Victoria leaders taste navy life at sea

No matter how often Cedric Steele witnesses the Canadian Navy in action, he always revels in the excitement.

CFB Esquimalt’s honourary captain, who by day is president of a Victoria real estate company, recently invited a group of professional leaders from Greater Victoria to come aboard three Canadian naval vessels off the coast of Hawaii.

“Whenever I get on board I get like a little boy again with a big smile, and it’s just a wonderful feeling,” said Steele, who divides his home life between Saanich and Oak Bay.

More than a dozen business, education, legal and health profession leaders from Greater Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg made the journey. They met up with warships HMCS Winnipeg and HMCS Vancouver and supply ship HMCS Protecteur, which were taking part in anti-submarine warfare training with U.S. navy vessels.

“It’s an opportunity to show Canadians their navy at work,” said Gerald Pash, navy public affairs officer.

The civilians paid their own way to Hawaii to get an intimate feel for Canada’s navy in action, as part of the navy’s Canadian Leaders at Sea program.

“It’d be great if we could do it for every Canadian,” Pash said from Hawaii.

The civilian group was flown Feb. 14 by helicopter to witness two action-packed days, including mock sea rescues, a boarding party taking control of a ship, gun training and tactical operations, among other exercises. They stayed aboard HMCS Protecteur overnight.

“In many ways it was moving,” said Victoria lawyer and Oak Bay resident Keith Reed, who also participated.

He was touched by the level of enthusiasm and pride the Canadian sailors, helicopter personnel and army soldiers have for their work.

During one unforgettable adventure, Reed was hoisted over the water between moving ships in a jackstay drill.

“It was a hoot,” he said. “It was just fun.

“I think everyone came away enthused about what they were seeing and … (to) take part in the actions and traditions of the navy.”

emccracken@vicnews.com