This is something no-one has seen in more than half a decade – HMS Clyde, high and dry. The patrol ship has been almost constantly on duty in and around the Falkland Islands since her last overhaul in 2011.
Those patrols have taken their toll of the hull and machinery inside, so the ship made the 4,000-mile crossing of the South Atlantic to Simon’s Town in South Africa.
The Falklands’ permanent guardship the Southern Ocean to undergo a comprehensive overhaul after a five-year battering from the elements.
The passage took the patrol ship past the most remote of Britain’s South Atlantic territories, Tristan da Cunha, which rises spectacularly out of the endless ocean rather like Skull Island in King Kong and is home to home to one volcano (Queen Mary’s Peak) and just 265 people.
The weather in Tristan – which lies 1,800 miles west of Cape Town – prevented any of Clyde’s sailors setting foot, sadly; conditions in the tiny harbour were too rough, and the ship has no helicopter to call upon as a substitute.
The Atlantic crossing threw gale force winds and high seas at the 2,000-tonne warship, but during calmer moments, Clyde’s crew were able to brush up on their birdwatching skills courtesy of a variety of avian visitors, including Tristan and wandering albatrosses.
Once in Simon’s Town, home of the South African Navy, Clyde was manoeuvred into dry dock where divers made sure she lined up with large blocks on the dock floor used to support the ship once the water was pumped out.
There’s no dry dock facility in the Falklands, so there are five years’ worth of algae and marine growth to remove from the hull; it creates ‘drag’ in the water, reducing the ship’s top speed of 20kts.
Clyde will also have maintenance work carried out on her upper deck and a host of engineering systems to ensure that she is ready for operations.
The ship’s company are working side-by-side with staff from ARMSCOR, who run the dockyard, on the overhaul, but there’s also downtime to explore the Cape peninsula, including a visit to Boulders Beach and its colony of African penguins – distant relatives of the Magellanic penguins the sailors are used to seeing around the Falklands.
While Clyde is undergoing maintenance, her place is being taken around the Falklands by survey ship HMS Enterprise which, in addition to providing reassurance to the islands’ residents, is updating charts used by seafarers.