Warmer weather in the U.S. brings out a host of military-related festivals, and in recent years more and more cities around the nation host Fleet Weeks, widely seen as good for morale, good publicity for all, and serious money-generating events for the hosts. The U.S. Navy normally is happy to oblige, sending one, two or as many as half a dozen warships to bask in public affection. Air shows by the Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Team are also a frequent feature of the parties.
But not this year. The Big Bad Sequestration Grinch, according to the service, leaves no money for such frivolous visits, and the Navy has been cancelling its ship and aircraft visits left and right. Even the biggest Fleet Week – New York City’s festival – has been dropped. The service is working hard to make sure the local media is fully aware there’ll be little Navy at this year’s Navy Week; the underlying message — call your congressman and let ’em know sequestration is bad. And it’s working, with dozens of stories appearing in the mainstream media about the cancellations.
But while Americans around the country won’t see much of their Navy this year, the party still goes on: in festive Canada! Vancouver, British Columbia, is hosting an event called Vancouver Port Visit this weekend, featuring a number of Canadian warships from the Maritime Forces Pacific base at nearby Esquimalt BC. This weekend at least, Vancouver has something most American commercial ports don’t have: a genuine U.S. Navy warship, an Aegis missile cruiser no less: USS Lake Champlain (CG 57).
The cruiser and its crew of about 330 sailors is up from their home base of San Diego, which will still hold its Fleet Week in September. This year, however, even though the public piers in Sunny SD are literally only a short jog up the waterfront from the sprawling 32nd Street Naval Base, the Navy has announced it will not “reposition” any of its ships to take part. Harrumph!
The Navy, responding to this post, noted the Lake Champlain’s visit to Vancouver isn’t the same as taking part in “outreach events” like Portland, Oregon’s Rose Festival, Seattle’s SeaFair or Los Angeles’ Navy Days — none of which will see a U.S.Navy ship this year.
“USS Lake Champlain’s Vancouver port visit is being conducted in conjunction with their participation in a Canadian-led, bilateral exercise, Trident Fury,” Lt. Lenaya Rotklein, a spokesperson for the San Diego-based Third Fleet, said Sunday in an e-mail.
“During the port visit, the ship and its crew will be participating in pre-exercise coordination meetings with Canadian forces as well as hosting other events that support theater security cooperation,” Rotklein added, accurately pointing out that deployed U.S. ships continue to make port calls.
Still, what a nice coincidence that Vancouver’s party weekend took place around an exercise that included an Aegis cruiser. Perhaps, one might wonder, similar exercises could have been scheduled to allow ships to visit SeaFair — just down Elliott Bay from the Navy’s base at Everett, Wash., and a ferry ride across Puget Sound from Bremerton, or San Diego, where the Navy’s grey-hulled warships daily go right by the public piers to leave and enter the naval base.
So party on, Vancouver, and know you’ve got something particularly special this year!
Canadian Navy press release on Vancouver Port Visit weekend
Vancouver Port Visit Facebook page
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