“FOR years my wife said there was only one other woman in my life,” Lt Cdr Peter Twomey said.
His wife needn’t have worried, though, as the “other woman” was called Aoife and she’s one of the navy’s eight vessels.
He was captain of the ship in 2002 when she helped save the crew of the Canadian submarine HMCS Chicoutimi, which went on fire off the north-west coast.
Lt Cdr Twomey assumed overall command of the rescue operation in some of the roughest seas imaginable.
“It was fraught with danger, but we managed to get them off. Unfortunately two of them died in the fire,” he said.
He made his recollections last Friday as past members of the crew gathered onboard the Aoife to celebrate her 30th birthday.
Many onboard remembered her 1985 mission when she led the operation that found the flight recorder, the so-called “black box”, from the Air India disaster off the South West coast.
But she has mainly been involved in fishery protection. In her lifetime LE Aoife has steamed a total of 525,000 nautical miles. That’s more than to the moon and back, or 23 times around the Earth’s equator.
Performing her main role, she has carried out almost 5,000 fishery boardings and has made 225 detentions resulting in €3.5m in fines.
Captain Eoin McNamara, who retired in 1996, was first to take charge of the vessel. “I have very fond memories of her. Back in the early 80s we were mainly involved in fishery protection. There were a lot of Spanish trawlers in those days. We had to use firepower to get them to cooperate,” he said.
Commander Eugene Ryan served onboard LE Aoife in the late 1980s.
The ship’s current captain, Lt Cdr Brian Dempsey, said the Aoife was tough as steel and a tribute to those who built her in Verolme.
“Commanding a naval ship is the highlight of all naval officers’ careers and I am proud to command LE Aoife. This anniversary allows me to acknowledge the significant contribution she has made to the protection Ireland’s maritime domain,” he said.
Pat Murray from Cobh worked on the vessel as chief in the engine room. He helped oversee its construction. “You would have great confidence in her. There’s great pride that she was so well-built by Irish workers,” he said.
It was also a significant day for petty officer electrician Cormac O’Sullivan from Midleton. He was on relief duties on the vessel and proudly pointed out she was commissioned the day he was born.
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