REVIEW: Field Trip – Naval Simulator Tour

This past March, more people signed up for the VMNC Field Trip Activity Group’s visit to Work Point Naval Simulator than could be accommodated. As a result, Glenn Soares kindly arranged for a second opportunity to take part in a Naval Simulation Exercise at the Esquimalt facility on September 25th. A contingent of 27 club members arrived at the Collier Building and assembled in the lecture theatre at 10:00 where we were introduced to Peter Watts who spent the next half hour providing us with a very interesting description of the background and history of the Naval Simulation training facility which came into being approximately 20 years ago. Prior to having this facility, virtually all hands-on training was conducted at sea in navy vessels of all sorts of sizes and functions. As Peter pointed out, such real-world training was very expensive and time consuming. Now, with the six simulators at the Work Point facility, much more basic and introductory type training is now possible for more navy personnel at a much reduced cost. The sophistication of the simulators allows personnel to train on a variety of different sizes and classes of vessels at any one time. The simulators not only create and duplicate the characteristics of each and any type of vessel in the fleet; they can also simulate location and environmental conditions under which a Canadian Naval vessel might be found performing its duties.

Following his introductory talk, Peter took us into the Naval Simulator control room and introduced us to Ken Watson and his colleague. These two gentlemen would be creating the virtual environment and navigational challenges we would be facing during our training exercise in the simulator.

Our Simulator Experience

We were airlifted by helicopter from an undisclosed location in the Strait of Georgia and were on our way to board our vessel moored in Burrard Inlet near the Second Narrows Bridge. Once onboard the ship, we were tasked with getting underway and carrying out a number of duties under a variety of weather and sea conditions. Despite the fact that the simulator room itself did not move about, the sensation of movement was very much present thanks to the sophistication of the simulator and the expertise present in the control room. We could “feel” the vessel we were in pitch and roll with the waves.

A number of the members had an opportunity to “take the helm” and control our ship’s movements both in and beyond Burrard Inlet. The weather we were exposed to changed frequently giving those at the helm the experience of trying to navigate under a variety of sea and visibility conditions.  In the course of travelling through Burrard Inlet we were exposed to sunny day sailing, snow squalls, driving rain, thick-as-pea-soup fog, and full-on gale force winds with what looked like three to four metre waves. Then night descended to add to the helmsman’s navigational challenges.

Some of the exercises we were requested to do included coming alongside a supply ship, meeting up with a US Navy aircraft carrier, and docking at and then leaving from the Canada Place cruise ship pier.

In the course of our sea duties and travels during our naval simulation, club members who were at the helm managed to collide with only one supply vessel, run over just one Burrard Inlet Seabus, and do only minor damage to the Canada Place pier while docking.

Following our Naval Simulation exercise, we had a very nice lunch at the Nelles Block Cafe, CFB Esquimalt.

Article written by Michael Lawrence.