Van der KROGT en Van der KROFT
Disposal officer Lt.-Cmdr. Greg van der Krogt in engine room, explaining how the ship's boilers and machinery were monitored from this control panel
"Finished with engines!" Those three words ended the career of one of Canada's few remaining navy steamships.
The HMCS Annapolis is now on a set course to a scrap-yard's cruel oblivion following a 32-year career canying Sea King helicopters and keeping its underwater ears alert for foreign submarines.
"When a ship conies into this drydock, it's the beginning of the end," says disposal officer Lt.-Cmdr. Greg van der Krogt. "When we're finished, she'll be floated to a dock called Death Row to await final disposal."
Disposing of an unwanted warship is a lengthy, labour-intensive processof de-militarization. Following decommissioning ceremonies In 1996, Annapolis was no longer used, its crew was dispersed to other ships and by 1998 was paid off the navy's rolls. She then languished alongside a pier in Esquimalt awaiting her fate, until die disposal authority began its grim task in 2001.
Thus far, about 80 tons of material have been removed from Annapolis, including weapons, hazardous substances and equipment usable by other ships. Myriad inspections and reports have been required to satisfy environmental concerns. "So far, we've put in 8,000 hours over about six months, says van der Krogt. "But it took nearly three years to get to this point due to a lack of available people."
Since she is no longer a functional ship, Annapolis is expected to be offered for sale as scrap. Speculation is that her barren hulk will fetch only a scant fraction of the steamer's original cost. Scrap is the most common end for a warship," says van der Krogt, "But artificial reefs are becoming popular."
Ironically, it took only a little longer to build the destroyer escort.
Conceived and built in Canada, the $31-million steamship was commissioned in 1964, four years after the start of its construction and took her name from an earlier vessel. The original Annapolis began life in 1919 as the American warship USS MacKenzie, that was transferred to Canadian ownership in 1939. During the Second World War the destroyer ushered convoys across the Atlantic Ocean and along the North then ended service as a training ship. In 1945 she was decommissioned and scrapped.
This new Annapolis was designed to carry the Canadian-built Sea King helicopter for a variety of roles in anti-submarine, anti-surface and anti-air war-fare. Landing onboard the ship was aided by a Canadian-developed haul-down system, known as the Bear Trap, which enabled safer touchdown on a rolling, pitching and heaving flight deck.
The 3,000-ton ship was self-contained, with complex mechanical and electronie systems. Her two boilers produced superheated steam to drive geared turbines, which turned twin propeller shafts.
Her 30,000 horsepower resulted in speeds over 28 knots. Her cruising range was nearly 5,000 nautical miles.
Annapolis's main electrical power was produced by generators considered capable of supplying light, heat and power to a city of 18,000 people. The ship carried about 60,000 litres of fresh water, and the desalinator could replenish the supply at a rate of 2,000 litres per hour.
The bridge of UMCS Annapolis at left, now gutted for scrap. She was a state-of-the-art destroyer escort when built, designed to have no steering on the bridge. Instead, there was a helm station in small, windowless room on a lower deck.
The vessel's seemingly large outer dimensions (112-metre length, 13-metre beam, five-metre draught), camouflaged a cramped interior. A 250-person crew squeezed into tiny working and,living spaces connected by interior corridors, with very low headroom.
"Taller sailors sported permanent creases across their foreheads," laughs van de Krogt, himself over six feet. An oddity of the meagre bridge was the absence of a helm station. Steering was done from a small, windowless room on a lower deck.
The ship was capable of operating in nuclear, biological or chemical warfare environments, and utilized an intemal positive-air-pressure design feature. Personnel exposed to hazardous contaminants could be quickly cleansed at special stations and the ship itself could be rinsed of contamination. Her rounded contours speeded the rinsing process, and helped counter ice accumulation in winter seas.
Although the Sea King helicopter, with its sonar equipment and homing torpedoes, was considered the ship's principal weapon, Annapolis's arsenal also included deck guns, torpedoes, counter-measure devices and sonar apparatus. A twin-barrelled three-inch gun was mounted on the ship's foredeck for anti-aircraft defence, but its 12-kilogram projectile was also usable against surface targets and for shore bombardrnent. The ship could launch torpedoes capable of 40-knot speeds, able to home on vessels six nautical miles away. To deceive incoming enemy missiles, chaff and infra-red decoys could be deployed.
To aid in its search for foreign submarines, Annapolis had big underwater ears. A large dome was mounted on the underside of the hull through which multi-frequency sonar provided active search, attack and bottom target classification. Distinctive openings and brackets on the ship's stern denoted the use of CANTASS - Canadian Towed Array Sonar System. CANTASS, still used by our navy, is a long cable consisting of a series of passive hydrophones streamed astern of the ship.
Lots of deep water passed beneath her keel during three decades of service. Annapolis (Hull No. 265) was based first at Halifax, then Esquimalt, and practised her craft with other navies of the world in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans; in the North and Irish seas and the English Channel.
The ship's company conducted patrol and boarding operations in the Caribbean Sea, enforcing United Nations' sanctions against Haiti in 1994, patrolled the British Columbia coast supporting the RCMP and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and generally showed the flag in aid of Canadian sovereignty. Her crew visited far-flung ports of call - Norway, France, Jamaica, Panama, Mexico, to name a few - and hosted countless thousands of visitors aboard the warship.
Eric Manchester lives in Sooke. Photos by Eric W Manchester