Maintaining morale in 'roughers'

Published on LEUT Kara Wansbury (author), ABIS Richard Cordell (photographer)

Location(s): Rabaul, PNG

From left: Able Seaman Combat Sysytems Operator Mine Warfare (ABCSOMW) Alex Lebrun-Footman, ABCSOMW Dale Timbs, ABCSOMW Ryan McDonald and Leading Seaman Medic Rob Schwartz enjoy a game of Uckers during a quiet period onboard HMAS Yarra. (photo: ABIS Richard Cordell)
From left: Able Seaman Combat Sysytems Operator Mine Warfare (ABCSOMW) Alex Lebrun-Footman, ABCSOMW Dale Timbs, ABCSOMW Ryan McDonald and Leading Seaman Medic Rob Schwartz enjoy a game of Uckers during a quiet period onboard HMAS Yarra.

Life on the high seas in a Huon Class Mine Hunter can be a little 'rough', but only due the ship size and design allowing for rolling and pitching in even the smallest swell. During HMAS Yarra's recent three day passage to Papua New Guinea, the sea state three conditions were a test for morale for the 45-strong crew.

But a traditional navy approach of good food, the board game ‘uckers’ and finding alternative ways to get their heart rate up were a great success said Executive Officer Lieutenant Commander Richard Brickacek.
 
“When it’s rough it is more difficult to do your job, daily tasks like cleaning stations or even just moving around the ship. So when you sit down to a great meal cooked by Navy chefs you tend to forget, albeit briefly, about bracing yourself in the shower and holding on to the bulkhead as you walk down the passageway,” he said.
 
“The food on this trip has been phenomenal; calamari, BBQ ribs and stroganoff. Meal times are a great way for everyone to touch base in the mess and you can gauge how everyone is doing. We also plan the uckers teams for the night,” he said.

HMAS Yarra moves into position near the Montevideo Maru Memorial, Rabaul, Papua New Guinea, in preparation for the AE1 commemoration being held there the next day.

HMAS Yarra moves into position near the Montevideo Maru Memorial, Rabaul, Papua New Guinea, in preparation for the AE1 commemoration being held there the next day.


 
Uckers is a traditional Navy board game played in messes and wardrooms across the fleet but it has been embraced onboard Yarra with inter-departmental and even inter-mess matches playing out during off-watch time Lieutenant Commander Brickacek said.
 
“Some say it is a game of chance but onboard Yarra it is a game of skill; ensuring you work with the roll of the ship so the dice stay on the table.
 
“Each of the messes has embraced the game and whilst always friendly there is a lot of pride on the line in these matches,” he said.
 
When there is a break in the swell the crew head to the upper decks to partake in some physical training. Body weight circuits on the sweep deck were a favourite to incorporate resistance and cardio training.
 
“If we wheel over to a course where there is less pitch and roll, the sweep deck becomes our outdoor gym. We use the pull up bar, the deck and even the weights bench to maintain our fitness at sea. The sweep deck is too small to run so we skip to incorporate cardio into the circuits. It is great to get the heart rate up with the feel of the ship pushing through the waves and the sun shining,” he said.
 
With that kind of output it’s no wonder they enjoy their food so much onboard Yarra.
 
The crew have just undertaken a search off Papua New Guinea for HMAS AE1, a Royal Australian Navy submarine lost in the First World War, and participated in commemorative events ashore in Rabaul marking 100 years since the start of the global conflict.

Imagery is available on the Navy Image Library in the following galleries: