Sometimes The Boss and I do things that seem a world away from our peaceful daily life in rural Mallorca. In recent weeks we’ve been to see singer George Benson in an outdoor concert in the superyacht marina Port Adriano; I didn’t expect to be doing that when we moved to the island.
Last Saturday we attended a gala dinner and concert at the beautiful 5-star Castell Son Claret hotel near the small village of Es Capdellà. Six young singers from the Salzburg Festival performed on the hotel’s huge terrace to an appreciative international audience; that’s something else we never expected to be able to do here.
Drinks on a NATO warship
But last night’s experience was as remote from rural living as any I’ve had since we moved to Mallorca in 2004: I was a guest at a reception on the British warship HMS Duncan, which docked in Palma on a stopover on Monday. The ship had just led a NATO task force through one of the largest naval exercises staged in the Black Sea. HMS Duncan is the flagship for Standing Maritime Group 2 – one of two task forces for larger warships operated by NATO.
I must confess I hadn’t heard of HMS Duncan – not being very well informed when it comes to matters military. A few minutes’ research later and I discovered that this was in fact the seventh Royal Navy ship to be named after Adam Duncan, the 18th-century Viscount Duncan of Camperdown, who defeated the Dutch fleet in the Battle of Camperdown in 1797.
This latest incarnation of HMS Duncan is a Type 45 Destroyer, although it looked quite benign under the early evening sunshine in Palma’s port, docked opposite a cruise ship. It has a crew of around 200, led by Commander Eleanor Stack (quite a few of the ship’s senior officers, including the Logistics Officer, are women). We guests (sadly, The Boss wasn’t on the invitation list) were able to chat and mingle with officers and crew, as well as each other. Oh and there were drinks (although I didn’t spot a drop of rum) and canapés.
Surprises all around
I had no idea what to expect of this evening, never before having been on an active Royal Navy vessel. Dress code for guests was ‘smart’. I avoided anything navy blue or white and opted for a long summer dress – perfect for the warm night. Luckily common sense prevailed in the shoe department and I shunned the strappy high-heeled numbers for something flatter: ever tried walking up a naval ship’s metal gangway? It’s slippery…
Fears that I might accidentally knock a button or switch and launch something of an anti-missile nature were allayed shortly after wandering around the deck. It seemed surprisingly devoid of controls and equipment – apart from a rather impressive helicopter. But there was information in spades, as the hospitable members of the crew readily answered questions fired in their direction.
Of course, security was tight – we had to provide ID papers – and a few heavily armed guards patrolled the area around the entrance to the ship. Assuming that photography wouldn’t be allowed, I’d left my faithful Nikon at home, so was surprised to see other guests avidly snapping away in all directions. I checked with a crew member that it was OK to use my phone camera and he laughed, pointing out the flags lining the hangar area: “Look, we decorated the place especially!”
Towards the end of the reception we watched the ship’s traditional sunset ceremony, as the flag was lowered for the night. I found it quite moving and it prompted one of those proud-to-be-British moments that have been a bit rare since the EU Referendum. It was almost time for some of the sailors to prepare for a fun night out in Magaluf.
My phone-camera photos weren’t too good but they’re a reminder of a fascinating evening on a Royal Navy warship. Can we top that experience in Mallorca? Only time will tell…
©Jan Edwards 2017