Orca-class vessels visit northern Vancouver Island communities

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By Sub-Lieutenant M.X. Déry

There were many firsts during recent community events undertaken by the Royal Canadian Navy on northern Vancouver Island: the first time Orca-class vessels fueled in Port Hardy, the first time they came alongside in Port McNeill, and the first time many youth in these communities met sailors in uniform.

Approximately 500 residents came out to tour two Orcas that were open to the public over the March 30, 2019 weekend, with over 40 people embarking on a day sail, including the mayor of Port McNeill, Gabriele Wickstrom.

“It’s a great buzz around town having you come in and I notice there are a lot of people on the docks. So it’s great that you were well received in our community,” she said.

Commodore Angus Topshee, Commander Canadian Fleet Pacific, sailed for a few days during the visit and connected with local representatives, including Chief George Alfred from the Namgis in Alert Bay.

“It’s always interesting to see the perspective of a small place that depends so much on the sea for their livelihood. Also, it was wonderful to go out on a beautiful day like this and see the incredible scenery that Canada has to offer,” he said.

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Along with the ships, a recruiting bus showcased careers in the Canadian Armed Forces, members of the 4th Canadian Ranger Patrol spoke with the public, and Sonar, the Navy mascot, entertained children up and down the jetty, posing for photos and giving high-fives.

At the same time in Port Hardy, Lieutenant-Commander Todd Kennedy visited the Sacred Wolf Friendship Centre to donate, on behalf of Boomer’s Legacy, knitted tuques, dolls and blankets to assist in their parenting programs. Boomer’s Legacy is a charitable organization named after Corporal Andrew “Boomer” Eykelenboom, a dedicated soldier and a Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) medic killed by a suicide bomber in 2006.

“This particular donation is going to be immediately useful to our programs. We do a lot of family programming and parenting programming for expectant mothers. It has been a distinct honour and privilege to receive this donation from Boomer’s Legacy,” said Garth Holden, acting president at Sacred Wolf. He also remarked that he was a medic in the CAF and had met CPL Eykelenboom.

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