Turtle recall for Penzance and Chiddingfold

Eighty Gulf-based sailors took a break from the rigours of minehunting operations to get close to nature.

One week’s adventurous training was organised for the crews of HMS Chiddingfold and Penzance when the pair were stood down from operational duties for seven days when they put into Muscat in Oman.

The sultanate is by far the lushest of the Gulf states and a favourite of the AT instructors at HMS Temeraire who organise various adventurous/team building activities.

Wadi Shab, a couple of hours’ drive down the coast, is one of the country’s most popular natural attractions: a steep sided gorge with turquoise pools and streams running all the way to the Gulf of Oman.  

Groups from the two ships trekked the length of the gorge in the scorching sun until the pools and streams became a deep river and there was only one way to continue – by getting wet!

Under the guidance of the AT instructors, the teams swam through a fissure just large enough for head and shoulders to squeeze through and found themselves in a deep natural sinkhole with an impressive waterfall.

This week has also served as a reminder that the Royal Navy cares about its people and that ‘life in a blue suit’ is not just a job but a way of life.

Lt Cdr Neil Griffiths

“This was the chance of a lifetime to see the real side of Oman, away from the hotels and shopping malls” said Chid’s AB(MW) Daniel ‘Digger’ Gardner.

“Jumping and diving into the deep pools at Wadi Shab has been the highlight of my career so far, it was like something you would see in a recruitment video!”

Hiking, swimming, sea kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding were all on offer, with the sailors taking it in turns to lead groups around the rocky cliffs and headlands surrounding Muscat.

“The wildlife we saw while close to the rocks was a highlight for me, in particular the turtles and paddling in the middle of a huge shoal of flying fish” said ET(ME) Joe ‘Spike’ Hughes, also from Chiddingfold.

“The whole experience was a welcome break from the engine room and a good bit of free physical fitness!”

The crews topped off the week with a joint sports afternoon at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, as the ships went head-to-head in stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking and beach volleyball. HMS Penzance seized the glory with her engineering team ‘The A-1 OPDEFs’ taking first prize in the combined competition.

Penzance’s CO Lt Cdr Neil Griffiths said after a week of fun and exercise “two happy and well-rested crews” would be taking charge of their vessels – and would be “much more effective as a result”.

He continued: “With the requirement for our teams to be at such high readiness at all times, it’s important to grab these opportunities to ‘decompress’ with both hands. 

“This week has also served as a reminder that the Royal Navy cares about its people and that ‘life in a blue suit’ is not just a job but a way of life.”