Open house promises to be a blast

NANAIMO – HMCS Ottawa hosting tours at Canadian Force Maritime Experimental Test Ranges hosts open house this weekend.

Canadian Forces Maritime Experimental Test Ranges and the crew of HMCS Ottawa will open their doors, ports and hatches to the public for an open house this weekend.

The base, which tests anti-submarine warfare targeting and tracking systems, hosts its biannual open house Saturday (Sept. 21), the first since 2011 when more than 1,500 people ventured onto the base to check out military equipment displays and demonstrations.

Because the base holds an open house just once every two years, the event is a rare treat for the public.

“We are a very small facility and to put together even a day of activities requires a lot of time, so it’s not something we can do all the time,” said Capt. Jeff Manney, CFMETR’s project officer of critical infrastructure.

One of the star attractions at this year’s event will be the Halifax-class frigate HMCS Ottawa and its crew who will be conducting tours of the ship and offering the public a rare glimpse at the ship’s marine, warfare and communications capabilities.

“It’s very rare for a frigate to come alongside here and open themselves up for tours,” Manney said.

The frigate won’t be taking any guests for cruises on the Georgia Strait, but the base has fuelled up two rigid hull zodiac craft to take visitors on tours around Nanoose Bay.

A CH-149 Cormorant search and rescue helicopter is teaming up with a maritime search and rescue team from French Creek for a water search and rescue demonstration.

An anti-submarine warfare CH-124 Sea King helicopter will be on the ground and open for tours, plus a CP-140 Aurora anti-submarine warfare aircraft will do a flyby from its base at Canadian Forces Base Comox at about 11 a.m.

With free admission and a 105mm cannon on site, the event promises the best bang for the buck on the central Island over the weekend.

“We’re having a 105mm Howitzer here and we’re going to sell tickets as a fundraising initiative for the United Way,” Manney said. “The winner will get to pull the lanyard and fire the gun. We’re hoping to get three shots out of the (artillery) unit, but so far we’ve only been guaranteed one.”

Gates open at 10 a.m. and activities continue until 3 p.m.

“We don’t often get to do that around here. People see a lot of the things happening from ashore – they can see the boats out on the range and the submarines – but we often have people wondering what exactly happens at CFMETR, so this is our chance to tell people what we’re up to,” Manney said.

CFMETR is located at 3400 Fairwinds Dr., Nanoose Bay.