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  1. #1
    MembersZone Subscriber MalahatTwo7's Avatar
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    Talking Ooohhhh Cheeffiiieeeeeeee

    Chef-in-a-cupboard: Being cook on board the naval vessel Oriole is a job with long hours and very little space

    Eric Manchester Special to Times Colonist March 20, 2005

    Swain, Buffer, Stokes and Shack are not people's names. Within an organization famous for vowel-less acronyms, they are job titles -- coxswain, chief bosun's mate, stoker (engineer) and cook, respectively -- concocted and perfected through endless navy generations.

    While each has unique duties aboard ship, the one around which the entire crew gravitates is Shack. For it is the cook who fuels the ship's crew and whose talent directly affects morale. And it is the cook's watch that lengthens in inverse relation to the ship's size, as leading seaman Wayne Melville discovered aboard HMCS ORIOLE. There, Melville is the chief (and only) cook, and regularly works from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. with few breaks in between.

    Melville, from Sooke, hadn't been on a sailboat before joining ORIOLE last year, but quickly learned to cope with life leaning to one side or the other when the ship set sail two days later. "I was overwhelmed by the compactness of the space I had to work and live in," recalls Melville. "The stove isn't gimballed (to stay level), so cooking while sailing is a challenge."

    Oriole's combined galley and cook's quarters is not for the claustrophobic. The size of a walk-in closet, crammed in are stoves, fridges, freezer, scrub-sink, microwave oven, pots, utensils and bunk. "I can stir the soup from my bunk, if I lie just right," jokes Melville.

    Unlike cooking aboard larger frigates, which is a team effort led by someone several ranks higher, Melville alone deals with all aspects of his culinary domain. For variety to his tedious day, he can also be called to help on deck. "Here I have to think for myself. Meal planning and ordering supplies had a high learning curve. The biggest challenge was figuring how to use the diesel stove without smoking us out," said Melville.

    Even best-laid plans can run afoul, as Shack discovered during one lengthy voyage featuring few pre-arranged replenishments. "Coffee orders were shorted, so we had to ration it -- which is never popular," recalled Melville. "For a while we traded and begged for coffee with everyone we met -- so much that we thought the word would spread to avoid ORIOLE."

    The boat was born Oriole IV, a pleasure craft owned by George Gooderham in Toronto. The George Owen-designed ketch was to have been built in Toronto, but labour strife caused it to be completed and launched in Neponset, Mass., in 1921. Two decades later, the vessel was willed to the Navy League of Canada. It saw Royal Canadian Navy training duty during the Second World War. ORIOLE was based on the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Coast before sailing to British Columbia in 1954. Having been commissioned HMCS ORIOLE in 1952, the craft bears two longevity honours in the Canadian Navy -- the oldest vessel, and the longest serving ship.

    ORIOLE is also one of the busiest craft in the Canadian Navy. While ORIOLE doesn't usually go on long-range deployments over extended periods, the ship follows an endless course of short voyages around the British Columbia coast, in addition to countless training and public relations daytrips throughout each year.

    It helps many coastal communities raise money for worthwhile charities, who auction day-sails aboard ORIOLE. "It's a way for us to give something back," said ORIOLE's skipper, Lt.-Cmdr. Gary Davis. "We often go to communities that otherwise may never have contact with the navy."

    Indicative of the old boat's youthful spirit, ORIOLE regularly competes in regattas, including Swiftsure and the Victoria-to-Maui endurance event (which she won). Her 2005 sailing schedule is ambitious -- again racing in Swiftsure and the Van Isle 360 (around Vancouver Island), and participating in Victoria's Tall Ships event in June.

    Occasionally ORIOLE undertakes major coastal expeditions, such as the one in 2004 that spanned 51 days and covered more than 3,000 kilometres. That voyage, which included 25 ports of call along the British Columbia mainland coast, Vancouver Island and the Queen Charlotte Islands, was sailed in celebration of the boat's half-century of West Coast service, and to do some low-key recruiting. "The ship serves as a calling card that maybe triggers curiosity about a naval career," said Cmdr. Roger Girouard, the navy's commander, Fleet Pacific, under whose auspices Oriole sails.

    ORIOLE is an impressive calling card. With a decent breeze she is sprightly, belying her 84 years. Her 32-metre height and 31-metre steel-hulled length are majestic in proportion and elegant in form. Devoid of powered winches, her 1,458 square metres of sails are controlled by the brute force of a 22-person crew. HMCS ORIOLE -- Canada's only navy sail training vessel -- teaches seamanship and Spartan living to those who hope to one day command modern warships.

    But it hasn't all been smooth sailing. Support for the yacht ebbed and flooded with the tide of navy command changes through the decades. Its continuing role was sometimes questioned, particularly since few of the world's navies still have sail training ships in service. For the foreseeable future, ORIOLE continues to have its place in our Pacific fleet, according to Girouard. "In our resources-constrained environment, Oriole represents such a teeny, tiny amount -- especially considering her high worth as a unique, successful outreach mechanism. And she's an icon, symbolic of our roots."

    The ship's cadre is the skipper and four non-commissioned officers who serve ORIOLE for fixed tours of duty, namely Swain, Buffer, Stokes and Shack. The remainder of the crew, comprising various ranks, are aboard for weeks or months awaiting other assignments -- who sometimes are a challenge, joked navy and sailing veteran. "Being cooped up with a gang of 20-year-olds can be an adventure all its own."

    Eric Manchester lives in Victoria when not out on his own sailboat.

    © Times Colonist (Victoria) 2005
    If you don't do it RIGHT today, when will you have time to do it over? (Hall of Fame basketball player/coach John Wooden)

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    Get it up. Get it on. Get it done!

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  2. #2
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    Talking nice story Rick

    Chef-in-a-cupboard

    Is that like rice-a-roni, only better?

  3. #3
    MembersZone Subscriber MalahatTwo7's Avatar
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    Default Re: nice story Rick

    Originally posted by superchef



    Is that like rice-a-roni, only better?
    Now there is only one way that an assessment like that could be made.....
    If you don't do it RIGHT today, when will you have time to do it over? (Hall of Fame basketball player/coach John Wooden)

    "I may be slow, but my work is poor." Chief Dave Balding, MVFD

    "Its not Rocket Science. Just use a LITTLE imagination." (Me)

    Get it up. Get it on. Get it done!

    impossible solved cotidie. miracles postulo viginti - quattuor hora animadverto

    IACOJ member: Cheers, Play safe y'all.

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