Navy Festival 2009Date: 30 March 2009
By Dean Wingrin
The SA Navy held its annual Navy Festival at Simon's Town from Friday 27 March to Sunday 29 March 2009.
The Festival, which has been running for about ten years, was officially opened by the Deputy Mayor of Cape Town, Mr Grant Haskin, and the Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Mosoeu Magalefa on Saturday morning during the Freedom of Entry Parade in Simon's Town.
This was the last time R Adm Magalefa will address a parade in Simon's Town as he is due to retire at the end of April.
During the Festival, the public was encouraged to visit the large naval dockyard and view the naval vessels on display. These ranged from the small Lima class boats to the large Valour Class Frigates and the Navy's largest ship, the SAS Drakensberg, which was in the dry dock.
As Lt (SAN) Sam Khasuli said, "it is important for the people of South Africa to know what their Navy looks like and what they can expect from the Navy".
"The oceans play such a crucial role in the lives of all of us and the SA Navy must provide a safe environment for trade to take place".
Visitors could board the various ships, submarines and watch numerous displays, such dog shows, gun runs, Manning the Mast display, cannon firings, diving demonstrations, etc. A popular attraction was the cruise around the dockyard aboard one of three tugboats.
This year, not one but three submarines were open to the public, two of the new 209 submarines (S102 and S103) and SAS Assegaai (S99), the later raising funds for her preservation.
This year's festival was the first in which the new Maritime Reaction Squadron (MRS) participated as they were only commissioned in December 2008. The Operational Boat Division (OBD) is equipped with 10 Namacurra-class harbour patrol boats and six Lima-class utility landing craft.
Each day, the OBD demonstrated their ability to repel "pirates" who had attacked a ship at sea. A very topical subject indeed!
The demonstration involved numerous explosions and bangs, during which the Namacurra boats secured the perimeter and troops aboard the Lima boats boarded the "hikacked" mooring lighter and subdued the pirates. Some pirates managed to jump overboard and escape, but their speedboats were intercepted.
Another highlight was the Super Lynx Air/Sea rescue display. A single Super Lynx maritime helicopter, operated by 22 Squadron, SAAF, was displayed on the flight deck of SAS Mendi (F148). The Super Lynx would land aboard the frigate each morning after a brief flypast and leave for AFB Ysterplaat after performing its air/sea rescue display in the afternoon. The rescue display included participation by rescue swimmers from the NSRI and was well received by the public. Unfortunately, the Sunday afternoon air/sea rescue display was cancelled due to a technical fault.
It was just a pity that another Super Lynx and an Oryx could not have been put on static display.
Although not included on the official program, a welcome surprise was the daily performance by the SAAF Silver Falcons aerobatic team.
One of the most eagerly awaited events of the annual Navy Festival is the spectacular night gunnery shoot on the Saturday night. This is conducted from the Lower North Battery (alongside the main road leading into Simon's Town). It is not often that the public has easy access to a live gunnery shoot, particularly at night.
The shoot had to be postponed for ten minutes when a commercial aircraft flew over the Battery after taking-off from Cape Town International Airport and then again a lengthy interruption followed as a result of fishermen being stranded on rocks not far from the target area. The latter inadvertently participated in the show when the fired a red distress flare to indicate their predicament.
Despite the delays, the gathered crowd were enthralled by the sound and sight of 12.7mm and 20mm guns being fired at flares shot into the sky via mortar.
The Festival has commenced with the SA Navy band performing for the public in the Dry Dock on the Thursday evening.
The Navy is to be congratulated on a well organised and run event, one of the few in which access is free and so much entertainment is available.