HMS Exploit, Birmingham URNU’s P2000 patrol ship, is currently in Scottish waters on Operation Celtic Conquerer and has recently conducted a navigation exercise for the embarked students deep into the spectacular Loch Etive.
Loch Etive is never more than a mile wide and extends for nearly twenty miles between the foot of Glen Etive and the open seas of the Firth of Lorn.
In the upper reaches, there is no road access and little habitation.
The mountains bordering the Loch are among Britain’s finest; names like Ben Cruachan, Ben Trilleachan and Ben Starav.
Along the south shore of the Loch are extensive woods which fed the Iron Ore Furnaces at Bonawe during the Napoleonic Wars as the Royal Navy required ammunition for cannons.
“It was pretty impressive sailing down the loch, as we spotted seals swimming with us and large deer on the shore.
“We had the loch to ourselves for most of the day and practised fixing using sextants and other techniques.
“Getting to the head of the Loch we anchored in the vicinity of Loch Etive and had our lunch on deck looking up at the snow covered peaks toward Glencoe to the North.
“Sadly we didn’t spot any Golden Eagles amongst the Trilleachen Slabs which are overhanging slabs of rock! “said Mid Alex Kay.
The entrance to the lock is no less impressive with the ship needing to navigate through the Falls of Lora and under the massive steel cantilever bridge at Connel.
Depending upon the tide state, the level of the Loch can vary by several metres from the sea level. As the sea level outside rises or falls on the tide, vast amounts of water spill into or out of the Loch.
“As part of our task book we must calculate tides and work out if we have enough water to pass through.
“However on entering Loch Etive we needed to calculate the clearance from our main mast on the Connel Bridge and also some low lying telegraph wires across the lock.
“Fortunately we had a few metres clearance and were able to pass into the lock, ” added Mid Nick Smith, Exploit’s senior midshipman.
Exploit is currently deployed on the month long Operation Celtic Conquerer visiting ports in Ireland, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, Wales and England.
Thirty Royal Naval Reserve Midshipmen from universities across the West Midlands will benefit from the sea training in three 10 day long phases. Exploit is one of 14 P2000 patrol ships assigned to the University Royal Naval Units across the United Kingdom.
“Days like this showcase the spectacular scenery of the West of Scotland and offer a fantastic navigation training areas for my Ship’s Company.
“Loch Etive is a spectacular sight with the 1126m snow covered mountain of Ben Cruachan dropping down into the 150m deep loch.
“Flying the White Ensign in waters not normally visited by the Royal Navy is an important job of the First Patrol Boat Squadron and I’m sure it’s been a few years since the last RN warship dropped anchor in Glen Etive under the slopes of Rannoch Moor, “finished Lieutenant Simon Shaw, CO HMS Exploit
Press Release, April 10, 2014; Image: Royal Navy