One week after HMCS Toronto pulled into its homeport at the Halifax Dockyard in an early arrival, another ship and crew are setting sail.
HMCS Halifax, with 252 crew members on board, set sail at noon on Friday for a six-month deployment in NATO’s Operation Reassurance.
In a regular deployment, the dockyard would be filled with families holding signs, hugging their loved ones and waving them off as the ship departs. But with coronavirus measures still in place, everything’s had to change.
“COVID challenges us to adjust our training, technical and personal management in ways we had never imagined,” said Cmdr. Christopher Rochon, just before the departure.
The crew will be spending a lot more time on board the ship, as visiting port cities in Europe won’t be an option.
“When we come alongside along a foreign port, we don’t get to go ashore anymore,” said Petty Officer First Class Joyce Farmer.
“But, we as a family, we will be able to keep ourselves entertained. We’ll be able to work out, have a lot more time to ourselves, show more of our family what we’re doing, how we’re staying healthy how we’re staying safe,” Farmer told Global News.
HMCS Halifax took over the NATO mission from HMCS Toronto, which docked last week, just before Christmas.
“Operation Reassurance is Canada’s commitment to our NATO partners, that we will continue to work with them and be a committed partner now and in the future,” Rochon said Friday.
The Canadian Navy and the Atlantic fleet are still grieving the loss of the six members who died in the tragic cyclone helicopter crash off of the HMCS Fredericton in April.
While family members of the crew couldn’t say goodbye moments before departure, dozens of families headed to the Halifax boardwalk to watch the ship pass by and give a final wave.
“It’s a bit tough, it would be nice to actually see him and give him a hug,” said Phil Snow, family of one crew member.
“The way things are, it is what we have to do you can’t risk you know illness getting on the actual ship itself because that would be devastating.”
While the mission only just began, families are already counting down days for the ship’s return in six months’ time.