Navy 75 years
As part of the Royal New Zealand Navy 75 years celebration, there is a massive open day in the city. Over 10 ships from Navies from a whole range of counties are here in Auckland, and most of the ships are open for the general public to visit which is great.
This was to great an opportunity to miss, so by 10am I was parked up in the city and walking down to Queen's Walk with the family to see what was going.
Auckland is so lucky to be right on the water front - not many cities could put so many navy warships right bang in the middleb of Downtown.
As we approached Queens Wharf we could see the first of the ships and the boys got quite excited (me included I suppose).
First up was the ROKS Chungbuk - a frigate from South Korea. This was a really detailed visit where we got to go though the ship at one level and then up through the bridge itself and back along another level. Also the ROKS Chungbuk was only launched in 2014 so is only several years old. It looked very modern with a slick design to reduce it's footprint on radar.
After leaving the ROKS Chungbuk we walked around Queens Wharf and the queue's were just amazing at that time of the day, with well over an hour to get on the ships. With such long queues it was clear that we were only going to get on another 3 - 4 ships. So I decided to head all the way down to Wynyard Wharf which is a bit of a walk but down here were some really interesting ships to see. the JDS Takanami - the only destroyer present and the PLAN Yan Cheng from China.
During the walk we came across the marching band from Indonesia, and they look fantastic and nothing like a typical English band with people dressed as sharks and divers who were all moving and dancing their heads in unison - wow what a neat surprise.
Again the queue's were very long but we just had to bite the bullet and accept it. First up there was a sign at the entrance of Wynyard Wharf which said all queue's were full and people couldn't join them - I of course didn't believe a word of it, while Julianne was sure they were all closed. After going all the way down Wynyard Wharf past the Chinese frigate I came across the JDS Takanami with the NZ frigate Te Mana berthed on the other side.
So we all joined the queue and settled down to have launch while waiting. It took just over an hour to get through the queue and the boys were really good. Luke was stuck in a pram the while time and didn't couldn't cause a fuss - boy has he really matured lately, couldn't have done even a few months ago. Robin of course was his normal good self but it was a long time standing in a crowd of people for him.
But finally we got through the queue. First up it was onto the JDS Takanami, we were not allowed inside which was a shame but it was actually more interesting to stand on the bow of this large destroyer and look across at the much smaller Te Mana frigate right along side. I really got to appreciate the size difference between a frigate and destroyer close up and personal which is something I found really fascinating for some reason. So we took a number of photos and also ended up in the background of the TV1 news reporter who happened to be making the 6 o'clock news item on the bow of the JDS Takanami and hunted for Julianne's hat which went missing somehow. And no the hat was not found.
We eventually moved on to the Te Mana across the gangplank. I have been on our NZ frigate's a few times so it was a reasonable short time spent looking around. The corridors on the Te Mana seemed very narrow after the new Korean frigate.
The walk included a walkway along the edge of Te Mana and here the size of the destroyer really stood out. Same when again I was back on the JDS Takanami the size of the destroyer was clear. Then back down to the wharf to get back into the mass of crowds and we walked down to the PLAN Yan Cheng. There was a mass of Chinese who were keen to get on board and staff around were telling everyone that there was no one else allowed on-board the PLAN Yan Cheng and we were being asked to move on. The queue that was in place was allowed to continue but the entrance way was fully fenced off. Julianne at this point was tired and wanted to head home, whereas I was keen to get on the Chinese frigate - how cool would it be to actually be on a communist warship!
So i insisted we hang around for a bit in the crowd, I am the eternal optimist. After about 15 minutes the queue had completely gone and nothing was happening. So I slowly began to move away. I had gone down around 100 meters when on looking back I saw they had opened the entrance-way again for a small number of people to do a final visit - so calling the family I rushed back at full steam with Robin on tow, and we were in!
So we were among the very last people to get on board the Chinese Frigate - PLAN Yan Cheng and I was very pleased we managed to get on.
Again this ship was quite new at around 10 years old. Julianne noticed that the female crew were wearing white high heels - which just goes to show that practically only goes so far in the Chinese military.
The first thing I noticed inside the PLAN Yan Cheng is the size of the corridors, they were easily twice the size of the corridors on the Te Mana - they were huge. Also there was communist propaganda posters along the walls which was amusing to see, nothing like that on the other ships.
The sailors were very friendly and helpful, through unlike the other ships not many spoke English. Also the sailors were very formal standing at attention at the entrance of the gangplanks, unlike the other ships where the crew were relaxed and interacting the crowds - not so on the Chinese warship.
Also according to the programme the PLAN Yan Cheng was not supposed to be open to the public but maybe the Captain changed his mind, but I am glad he did.
By the time we got off the PLAN Yan Cheng it was around 3pm. We walked back to car and passed all the other wharf's and there were still huge queue's for the other ships.
Along this walk we came across several more marching bands, first up from the Royal Marines in the UK - good and very traditional and then the best band of the day, from Chile with them all wearing sunglass, no hats and brilliant south America music which not just me liked but the whole crowded loved it. So much so, that when they had finished the crowded wanted more and they ended up doing an encore.