Rankin catches Leeuwin home

This article has photo gallery Published on Ashleigh Tapper (author), Ashleigh Tapper (photographer)

Sub Lieutenant Allan Dennis, Commanding Officer Doug Theobald and STS Leeuwin II Relief Captain Colin Jones. (photo: Ashleigh Tapper)
Sub Lieutenant Allan Dennis, Commanding Officer Doug Theobald and STS Leeuwin II Relief Captain Colin Jones.

Dirk Hartog Island off Western Australia was the backdrop to a maritime rendezvous in June when Sail Training Ship Leeuwin II encountered Royal Australian Navy submarine HMAS Rankin returning home from a South-East Asian deployment.

More than 30 young people aged 14–25 were pleasantly surprised by the chance meeting; many of the trainees with a prime vantage point of the submarine, from aloft in the Leeuwin’s rigging. 

HMAS Rankin had conducted a boat transfer in Carnarvon earlier in the day and was transiting to water deep enough to dive in when Leeuwin II was sighted slowly making her way south in the light breeze. 

After sighting the sailing ship, Rankin’s Officer of the Watch, Sub Lieutenant Allan Dennis hailed the Leeuwin II on VHF and arranged to circle her at high-speed before positioning on her starboard beam at approximately 500 yards and diving.

No stranger to the sailing vessel, Sub Lieutenant Dennis had previously joined nearly 30 other young people in January 2014 to participate in a Leeuwin II voyage.

“I found it rewarding to give something back to Leeuwin because the Foundation is about providing experiences and the opportunity to see a submarine is rare enough let alone interacting with one at sea," he said.

“The opportunity to see a submarine diving is one which even most submariners haven’t seen, as they’re always on the inside!”

Captain Colin Jones, ex-Navy Commander and current relief Master of the Sail Training Ship said he had never seen a submarine dive alongside throughout his entire 39 years in the Navy.

“It was quite unusual to come across a submarine out at sea, the trainees were quite excited,” he said. 

Leeuwin II was half way through a youth leadership voyage to help young people develop key life skills through the unique medium of tall ship sailing. 

Sub Lieutenant Dennis said he enjoyed his Leeuwin voyage and hoped to return in future as a volunteer crew member. 

“It was more of a personal interest spawned through my job,” he said. 

“I wanted to learn the mechanics of traditional sailing ships.”

The Leeuwin crew welcomed Rankin's Commanding Officer Doug Theobald and Sub Lieutenant Dennis onboard exchanging plaques and providing a tour of the vessel. 

Leeuwin's Chief Engineer, Alf Green, had also worked in the Navy for 24 years before he joined the Leeuwin Foundation.

Leeuwin Foundation CEO Anne-Marie Archer said they looked forward to continuing warm relations with the Navy community.

"We hope to see more young Navy Personnel aboard Leeuwin and young Leeuwin Volunteer crew touring submarines," she said.