Three days ago I saw a sleek warship in Halifax that looked like it came from a futuristic sci-fi movie. That thought actually crossed my mind, for Halifax is a city where many international movies are shot. Both Titanic and K-19 The Widowmaker were partially shot in Halifax.
But, via serendipity yesterday and this morning, I found out the ship is actually the newest of the new destroyer The Aquitaine, pride of the French navy. It is in Halifax to be shown off to the Canadian government. The Defence Minister walked its decks yesterday.
In my current thriller manuscript, which is in its last quarter of being written, naval ships have a central place. It is a novel which deals with NATO, and France is a core member of NATO. So, when I found The Aquitaine was leaving port this morning, I wanted to see the sight.
I chose the most advantageous spot to watch from, which is a new docking facility at one of the container terminals. The dock thrusts as far out into the water as any place in the harbour. Though most of it is ringed with high security fences, a walkway has been left at the very edge of the facility. It offers a great viewing spot of the mouth of the harbour. Some people fish from this pier. Whales have been spotted close by.
I can not blame the French navy for the harsh cold and grey weather, or the winds blasting in from the Atlantic. And, by my watch, the ship must have left later than anticipated. It was a bitter half hour of waiting. A Canadian Navy vessel was already present, stationed off one of the islands at the mouth of the harbour. I don't know if this was for security or not. Or was it some naval tradition? Still, I bet no one pacing those decks was as cold as I.
When I finally saw The Aquitaine approaching, with a Pilot boat in attendance and a Navy Zodiac skirting around, I thought it was going rather slowly, even taking into consideration it was heading into the wind. I had walked along the pier so I could watch its whole length as it passed. But, when I started back to the end of the pier, I had to run to keep up with it. And when I reached the end of the pier, I quickly was no longer looking at the sleek side of the vessel, but rather its disappearing stern. I stood a long time watching it and the Pilot boat make their way to the mouth of the harbour.
I don't know if I will use any of these observations in the thriller, and it took me two hours to warm up upon my return, but it was an exciting and memorable sight to see. [DE]
The multi-missions destroyer (FREMM) Aquitaine (Photo: Marine nationale)