Hearty ahoy from a Belfast boy: Royal Navy Commander sails HMS Richmond into native city
As a child, Commander Mark Anderson watched the ships making their way up Belfast Lough with longing. Yesterday he proudly sailed his Royal Navy vessel through that same channel.
HMS Richmond, a Type 23 frigate recently returned from patrolling the Atlantic, arrived in Belfast yesterday morning.
It is a multi-purpose ship, one of the workhorses of the Navy, equipped with enough weapons to operate in a full conventional war, but is also used for disaster relief and counter-piracy missions.
The Belfast Telegraph experienced the thrill of life as a sailor, transported from Bangor marina onboard a RIB to the warship as it entered the lough.
The stately vessel slipping majestically through the waters in the morning sunshine was a truly stunning sight.
After speeding across the bumpy waves, I was hoisted up to deck to be warmly greeted by Lieutenant Commander Mark Quinn, a Banbridge native.
As he showed us around the ship, he revealed that he joined the Navy comparatively late at the age of 27, after working in IT.
First port of call was the ship's galley, where head chef Craig Piper explained the challenge of providing tasty meals for the crew around the world when fresh supplies can be uncertain.
His kitchen can feed up to 200 people three times a day.
The most popular meal of the week is steak on Saturday nights, closely followed by fish and chips on Fridays.
The menu is varied, from Thai green curry to beef bourguignon.
Lieutenant Commander Paul Irving confessed that while he enjoyed the food on board, one of his favourite things about going onshore was having so much choice about what he can eat.
Officers and crew generally eat seperately, but on Christmas Day they come together, with the officers serving the crew their lunch. Commander Anderson even carves the meat.
Speaking yesterday, Commander Anderson told of his intense pride at bringing his ship to his home city.
He joined the Royal Navy as a teenager and served in Hong Kong and India, as well as on mine hunter HMS Ledbury, as he worked his way up the ranks to commander.
"I signed up for the Royal Navy at the age of 17; growing up in Belfast it's hard to get away from the maritime influence," he explained.
"I never thought that one day I'd be sailing a ship like this up Belfast Lough."
Commander Anderson recently discovered that his great-grandfather had been a riveter who helped build Titanic, and said he was greatly looking forward to visiting Titanic Belfast, as well as catching up with some family and friends.
"Sitting here in Pollock Dock looking over to where Titanic was built does have a certain resonance," he added.
"I am looking forward to welcoming members of the public onboard, so we can provide an insight into life at sea in the 21st century."
- HMS Richmond will be open to the public from 12-5pm today and tomorrow at Pollock Dock as part of the Belfast Titanic Maritime Festival 2014.
HMS Richmond is a Portsmouth-based Type 23 frigate.
She recently returned to the UK from deployment to the Atlantic Patrol Tasking where her passage included stops in Cape Verde, Ascension and South Georgia. The ship recently saw service in the Falkland Islands. She will be in Belfast all weekend and open to the public from 12-5pm today and tomorrow.
The Irish Naval Service's LE Roisin is also in Belfast this weekend.