Nova Scotia

HMCS Preserver officially gets to rest

After 46 years in the fleet of the Canadian navy, HMCS Preserver officially reached the end of her commission on Friday.

46 years after she was commissioned, sailors walk off supply ship one last time

The crew of HMCS Preserver prepares to leave the ship for the final time during the official paying out ceremony on Friday. (CBC)

Margie Heard stood on a jetty in the rain on the Halifax waterfront and thought of her dad.

Heard was one of several hundred people gathered for the paying out ceremony for HMCS Preserver. After 46 years, the auxiliary oiler replacement ship was reaching the end of her commission, and the crew was walking off the ship for the final time.

For Heard and her sisters, Anne McKennirey and Catherine Woodman, Friday brought back a wash of memories — their dad, Mark Mayo, was Preserver's first captain and they were there in Saint John on Aug. 7, 1970, for the ship's commissioning.

Long and distinguished service

The ceremony was "very much a reminder to us of the fact that this ship was the heart of the fleet, much like the Canadian navy is the heart of this community here in Halifax," said Woodman.

Sisters Anne McKennirey, Margie Heard and Catherine Woodman were at the ceremony on Friday. Their dad, Mark Mayo, was the first captain of HMCS Preserver. (CBC)

During her time in service, Preserver participated in missions and operations around the world, including the United Nations peacekeeping effort in Cyprus, helping to enforce sanctions in the former Yugoslavia and as part of the recovery mission following the crash of Swissair Flight 111 off the coast of Peggys Cove, to name but a few.

And through the years the ship delivered more than 800 million litres of fuel and was home to more than 8,000 sailors.

Gerry Curry was one of the first.

The Yarmouth County resident was there for the commissioning in 1970 and served three years on board Preserver. He was part of the crew that did the first replenishment at sea north of the Arctic Circle.

"It was really, really important to me that I was here to see her out," he said.

Gerry Curry was there in 1970 when HMCS Preserver was commissioned and served for three years on the ship. (CBC)

The ship was cutting edge at the time and it was a great learning experience to work aboard her, said Curry.

'It was my home'

For old sailors such as himself, Preserver also represented home. Curry was in the navy at a time when the ship literally was where sailors hung their hats.

"You didn't just sail on this ship when it went places, you lived on it," he said.

"When we came into harbour, I didn't go anywhere; this is where I lived. I'd go ashore and go and eat or see girlfriends or whatever, but when I came home at night this was where I came; it was my home."

It was the crew who made the ship what it was, Lt.-Cmdr Vicky Marier, the ship's final commanding officer, told the crowd Friday.

"A ship is not glorious in itself. It is all the work and education of men and women who man a ship that make it outstanding."