New survey ship Magpie debuts on the Dart - and in Salcombe

Late summer holidaymakers watch as the Royal Navy’s newest vessel makes her way up the Kingsbridge Estuary on her maiden visit to her affiliate.

Catamaran HMS Magpie has spent three days at sea under the White Ensign for the first time as her crew get to know how the survey ship handles.

A replacement for HMS Gleaner which retired earlier in 2018 after 35 years’ service, Magpie was commissioned in June – the first of numerous new small craft the RN is acquiring to replacing aging work/support boats.

Among the craft to be exchanged, the familiar blue picket boats at Dartmouth, so cadets at Britannia Royal Navy College were eager to look around when Magpie debuted on the Dart.

Officer Cadet Jacob Gibson said, “We’re 14 weeks from passing out and to see the opportunities that are provided with the new vessels that are coming into the Fleet, at one end of the spectrum you’ve got Magpie and the other end you’ve got HMS Queen Elizabeth. The survey potential within the Royal Navy is really exciting.”

We’re 14 weeks from passing out and to see the opportunities that are provided with the new vessels that are coming into the Fleet

Officer Cadet Jacob Gibson, BRNC Dartmouth

Magpie spent two days on the Dart before calling in on the picture postcard resort of Salcombe – her affiliated town where Mayor Nikki Turton was waiting to greet Lt Cdr William Alexander and his small ship’s company, before being given a quick tour of the 18-metre catamaran.

It’s Magpie’s task to survey the places other parts of the RN Hydrographic Squadron cannot reach thanks to her size and shallow draft.

That chiefly means updating charts of UK ports, harbours and waterways – in the final months of her life, for example, Gleaner was used extensively to survey the exit from Rosyth… allowing Britain’s biggest warship, HMS Queen Elizabeth, to safely leave to begin her sea trials in the summer of 2017.

In addition, she acts as an extra pair of eyes in home waters for anything untoward happening.