HMAS Stuart wrapped up 2014 in style with a families' cruise on 18 December to thank those who had supported the ship over what was a long and demanding year for the ‘Tartan Terror’.
Nearly 200 visitors joined the crew of Stuart for a short day of sailing through Sydney Harbour and off the NSW coast near the northern beaches. During the day, the crew put on a range of activities including a machine gun firing, small arms display, and ships tours. The ship’s chefs put on a massive feast for all, with a combination seafood smorgasbord and BBQ keeping everyone happy.
Whilst not everyone managed to find their ‘sea legs’ in time to keep their lunch down, every agreed that the day was a great opportunity for the families and friends to see what their loved ones actually did onboard Stuart and see the inside of a warship. The arrival of Santa on Stuart (thanks to a very cheery Chaplain Grant Ludlow) was a definite crowd pleaser for the younger visitors as well, with a showering of toys momentarily taking the focus off the ship as wrapping paper soon covered the deck of the hangar.
The family of Sub Lieutenant Rory Lea-McLaren, one of the Assistant Weapons Electrical Engineer Officers on Stuart, was definitely impressed by their insight into Rory’s ‘other family’.
“The whole day was just really exciting,” said Ms Toni Lea-Howie.
“The Navy really welcomed us onboard and were so generous, they really made us feel part of the Navy family. It was a really interesting insight into the Navy life and makes us feel proud of everyone.”
Sub Lieutenant Lea-McLaren said it was fantastic to have his family onboard for the day and gain an appreciation of his life at sea.
"It was a shame my little sister got sea sick, I didn’t think it was too rough but obviously it was for her. But I was really happy to be able to show off the ship and all the systems I have been learning about over the past six months,” he said.
Another family on the attending on the day was that of Able Seaman Electronic Technician William Gilbert, who had his mother, girlfriend and her family onboard for the day.
“The whole day was just awesome,” said Mrs Melissa Gilbert, William’s mother.
“It was so well organised, it was just fantastic.”
Able Seaman Gilbert was excited to be able to show of his ship and what he did onboard.
“It was really good to get my family and partner onboard and show them what I do. It was their first time onboard a Navy ship and they are really looking forward to doing it again in the future,” he said.
Prior to sailing, Commanding Officer HMAS Stuart Commander Aaron Nye took the opportunity to present the ship’s charity, Redkite, with a cheque for $3,000, which along with other donations from Stuart in 2014 made a total of $4,200 donated for the year.
Ms Deearn Hughes from Redkite thanked the ship for the donations.
“The support from Stuart is really appreciated, the donations you have made are enough to support activities for two families for an entire year and really makes a difference," she said.
The day wrapped up what had been a very long and demanding trip for HMAS Stuart, which had encompassed an Operation RESOLUTE deployments, Exercise KAKADU operating out of Darwin, Exercises SINGAROO and BERSAMA LIMA out of Singapore, a port visit to Port Klang in Malaysia, commemorative activities in Albany, support to the G20 off Brisbane and a Warfare Assessment Week. This hectic schedule had the ship away from Sydney for nearly 300 days over the year, so it was fitting to end the year by saying thank you to the many people who had supported the crew whilst deployed.