THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The Canadian ship HMCS Protecteur is towed into Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam after suffering an engine fire aboard the ship while at sea, Thursday, March 6, 2014, in Honolulu. The ship got help from the U.S. Navy after the fire broke out last week, leaving 20 sailors with minor injuries, the Royal Canadian Navy said.
Annette Guy never once lost her cool when she was aboard a stranded Canadian navy warship hundreds of kilometres from shore.
Guy, a resident of Carroll, south of Brandon, was one of 17 family members on the HMCS Protecteur when an engine fire broke out in February during a seven-week voyage. At the time of the fire, the ship was on its way back to its home port in Esquimalt, B.C., following extended operations with the U.S. navy in the mid-Pacific.
The fire crippled the ship and rendered it dead in the water for two days, about 650 kilometres off the coast of Hawaii.
With a retired army husband, a son in the Royal Canadian Air Force and a daughter in the Royal Canadian Navy, Guy was always the one who stayed home.
"This was going to be my big adventure and have a sail with my daughter," a regular seaman who was stationed aboard HMCS Protecteur. "It turned into a bigger adventure than I was thinking, but I got an adventure all right."
Drills and exercises took place nearly daily since the ship set off on Jan. 6, so when the massive engine room fire on Feb. 27 triggered the alarms, Guy didn’t think much of it.
"Everyone just thought it was another practice," she said.
As 20 crew members battled the blaze — some of whom sustained minor injuries — Guy and the other family members were kept in a large area in the belly of the ship.
"I wasn’t afraid, they all knew what they were doing," she said. "It was very organized and they handled it like they were trained."
The crew put out the flames and the ship was stabilized, though it had limited power and the 172-metre vessel was left bobbing in the Pacific Ocean for two days before it was towed.
The ship was carrying 279 crew, 17 family members and two civilian contractors.
"We were drinking bottled water and the cooks did an awesome job keeping everybody fed, using the barbecues and whatever cold foods that could be eaten," Guy said. "We were well taken care of.
"It was very nerve-racking, but nobody panicked, nobody freaked out."
After two days with limited power, family members, including Guy, were evacuated to the USS Michael Murphy, to curb the depletion of food. There were lingering safety concerns relating to the fire, Guy said.
While dead in the water, Protecteur needed the assistance of three U.S. vessels to be towed to Pearl Harbor, where it arrived March 6.
Guy and other civilian family members who docked in Hawaii were flown to British Columbia, paid for by "friends of the military who wish to remain anonymous," Guy said.
"It was very generous of them."
The Department of National Defence said having family members on board for the final part of such a voyage is common practice with navy ships returning from extended operations and exercises.
"The idea behind it is they’re seeing what life is like in a ship," Commodore Bob Auchterlonie said. "They experienced more life on a ship than they probably wanted to experience again."
The fire-damaged supply ship will be towed from Hawaii to Esquimalt, B.C., for any repairs and further assessment.
Navy spokesman Lt. Paul Pendergast said after a damage assessment, officials decided it was not feasible to repair the vessel in Hawaii.
He said the tow will take about three to four weeks and a skeleton crew will likely be aboard during the return trip.
» email@example.com, with files from The Canadian Press
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 22, 2014