On Monday the Royal Navy's HMS Manchester docked in Valparaiso. A few weeks ago, one of the crew had contacted me after finding this blog and asked about organising a wine tour for some of the guys (and girls) on the ship. As this was a large group, I sent them over to Michael at Wine Tours Valparaiso who organised tours over two days for junior and senior officers. By all accounts, they had a pretty fantastic time. After being stuck on board eating, quiet frankly, awful food, a gourmet lunch and wine tasting tour was apparently the highlight of their journey so far.
After going out for drinks with some of the crew on Tuesday, we were invited aboard the ship on Thursday morning. I actually thought it would just be a quick half hour walk around the boat but the guys gave us a complete tour of pretty much every part of the ship. We even had lunch in the mess hall (which is how I know the food is rubbish...). And on top of this, they gave us a huge bag of tea, bacon and sausages. I love the Royal Navy :)
What I found interesting is that on board life reminded me so much of going to boarding school. The banter between the people, the smell of the living quarters, the food, the atmosphere, the drills, the punishments for stepping out of line, the respect shown to superiors and also to each other...It was all so similar. The difference is, obviously, that these people are adults. I loved boarding school as a kid. But going to boarding as an adult would be a nightmare...
When US Navy ships have come to Valpo in the past, I've always noticed a rather large increase in referring traffic to this blog for Google searches for ladies of the night. This time, not a single search of that nature. I found that interesting.
In fact, the British sailors were all remarkably well behaved...with one exception. Two crew members made national and international news after stealing a Ronald Mcdonald statue, throwing it in the harbour and getting fined about 300,000 Pesos for their troubles. Whoops.
Our fantastic guide and his living quarters (along with another 30 guys).
The RN still press-gangs children into active service.
But I'm not sure this should be encouraged. Children and machine guns are not usually the best combination.
Then again, the same could be said about adults with GPMGs and SA80s. I should probably add that I'm really not a fan of guns and if this thing had been loaded I'd have almost certainly run away terrified.
This Lynx helicpoter comes from Westlands factory in Yeovil. Yeovil is one of the most unpleasant towns in England. The service crew who live on base at Yeovilton when in England all agreed with me. When back home, I live in lovely Sherborne, just 5 miles from Yeovil but a world away in terms of quality of life.
These three boats are all old Royal Navy vessels sold to the Chilean Navy. Britain and Chile maintain strong naval ties and many Chilean officers are sent over to Portsmouth for training. The Manchester would have been a candidate for sale a few years ago but is now so old and in such poor condition overall, the crew all seem to think it'll just be scrapped. It was built in 1978 and is showing its age.
The RN is a very welcoming bunch.
The boat to the right is from the Brazilian Navy, also in Valpo for a few days.