It's a tight squeeze for HMS Penzance

18 October 2013

Not every warship’s company can claim to have squeezed through one of the world’s narrowest waterways – but a Royal Navy mine hunter now has bragging rights.

On the latest stage of her Mediterranean deployment with a NATO minehunting force, the Faslane-based warship, HMS Penzance, took the short cut between the Gulf of Corinth and Piraeus, the port of Greece’s capital Athens.

Images by the Royal Navy

Built 120 years ago the Corinth Canal was meant to save ships a 430-mile trip around the Peloponnese, however these days because it is so narrow it is more of a tourist attraction only able to accommodate vessels smaller that 16 metres (52ft) wide.

Luckily, Penzance is a mere 10.9 metres (36ft) wide so had loads of room to spare…

With tugs on standby, Penzance sailed in pairs with other NATO vessels in Standing Mine Countermeasures Group 2 – Italy’s ITS Alesia and Crotone, Germany’s FGS Rottweil and Turkey’s Erdemli – to reach the Aegean and prepare for her latest exercise of her autumn deployment: Ariadne 13, organised by the Hellenic Navy.

The canal passage took about an hour to navigate and was over all too soon for the ship’s company.

Penzance’ navigator Lt Dan Owen-Hughes, said: “The Corinth Canal is one of those maritime landmarks that every sailor knows of, so being able to pilot a Royal Navy warship through was definitely a worthy addition to my growing navigation scrapbook.

“There was a moment during the approach where you have to reassure yourself that the ship is in fact wide enough for what clearly looks like too narrow a gap in the early stages.”

Penzance joined the NATO force in mid-September and will remain with it as it ranges around the Med, exercising and dealing with the detritus of wars past which still litters the seabed, before Portsmouth-based HMS Brocklesby takes over from her in January.

Royal Navy press release