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RFA Gold Rover returns to operations

Gold Rover returns to sea
15 April 2016
Gold Rover hit the high seas again at the end of February after completing an extended maintenance period in Simon’s Town, South Africa for major rectification work.

The RFA ship headed North to the Ascension Islands to pick up a detachment of 14 Royal Marines to take part in a coastal exercise with West African navies called “Obangame Express".

Obangame means “togetherness". Over 70 vessels and aircraft from 32 Nations were participating in the exercise.

To help the RM detachment settle in and integrate into the ship’s company a BBQ and horse racing night was arranged and a successful evening ensued. £83 was raised from the horse racing meeting for CHICKS children’s charity which provides free week long respite breaks for disadvantaged children in the UK.

The ship headed east towards the West African coast. During the passage the ship undertook internal training to exercise our defence organisation and emergency actions to fires and structural damage.

During the exercise, Gold Rover acted as an illegal fishing boat and as a tanker that had been taking over by pirates.

There was a requirement to replenish fuel to the French ship FS Commandant Blaison whilst both ships were underway at sea. This meeting provided an opportunity to exchange two officers (crosspol) to view the RAS (replenishment at sea) from different perspectives and also to have a look around the respective ships. 

The two French officers visiting Gold Rover remarked how big the public space areas are on board and were well impressed with the engine room on their tour – remarking how clean it was !

Gold Rover also hosted 6 American sailors from USNS Spearhead for lunch. A traditional British Sunday roast which was enjoyed by all. 

After the exercise was complete, it was decided to hold a quiz and a charity auction of USNS Spearhead memorabilia, T-shirts, baseball caps, zippo lighters etc. The auction raised over £700 to put towards the CHICKS children’s charity the ship is supporting.

Gold Rover then visited Sekondi in Ghana for the Easter period for a little bit of rest and recreation. Sekondi is the Naval port and transport was provided to take the ship’s crew to the main town of Takoradi which was about half an hour away. During our time in Ghana personnel took advantage of various sporting events including Surfing and football.

Commanding Officer Philip Hanton called on the FOC(W) Commodore Yawson and Tribal chief Omanheneof Essikado, Nana Kobina Nketsia V. Gold Rover’s officers attended a Cocktail Party held by the Ghanian Navy on the ship’s last night in port.

The ship then headed around the West African coast to Sierra Leone and anchored off the capital Freetown for a 3 day visit. As part of OUTREACH the ship offered to assist with minor repairs at the Milton Margai School for the blind. 

Volunteers from the ship’s crew and RM detachment were tasked to assist with painting the walls of 2 classrooms and general maintenance within the school area. Some classroom desks and chairs were in need of some repair work and shutout blinds were fitted to some sun facing windows. 

Various sports equipment, footballs, plastic toy baseball bats and balls were purchased for the children, the swings were repaired and a see saw built. Chocolate bars, sweets, soft drinks and fruit were especially well received as was a big RFA Ensign flag which proudly hangs on the wall of one of the classrooms.

On completion of the work the headmaster Didymus Kargba invited us all in to his office to thank us personally for all the work and the treats provided for the school children. This was followed by a group photograph with him and some of the school children.

The ship also hosted 10 personnel for a ship’s tour and on the final evening the Commanding Officer held a dinner for 7 guests which included Peter West the High Commissioner.

After the visit to Sierra Leone it was back to the Ascension Islands to disembark the RM detachment, but not before King Neptune bestowed the Freedom of the Seven Seas on those novices who were entering his realm. 

Every vessel, since man first went to sea, has only been allowed to cross the equator by King Neptune’s good grace. To appease King Neptune, all sailors must attend court to allow them to gain entrance into his mighty and majestic kingdom. 

King Neptune was welcomed on board by Captain Philip Hanton to which the King thanked him.

20 petitioners in all (including 12 marines) were presented to the court by the police where they were given a 'shave' and 'truth drug' before having their crime charges read out by the Clerk of the Court. 

King Neptune’s entourage of Shellbacks were in the viewing gallery shouting their 'guilty or very very guilty' verdicts. The petitioner was then thrown to the bears in the pool to loud cheering.

After the crossing the line ceremony was satisfactorily concluded the ship held a Royal BBQ as the ship continued on it’s passage to Ascension Island.

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