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Lighting of the Ojibwa

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The HMCS Ojibwa is decked out for the holiday season.

The cold war era submarine took part in a naval Christmas tradition on Friday in Port Burwell.

“On special occasions we do ‘dress ship’ and for most ceremonial occasions that’s done with flags, but at Christmas we have our special celebrations and we put up Christmas lights on our ships,” said project coordinator and Rear Admiral (retired), Dan McNeil. “Today it is called the ‘Lighting of the Boat’ because Ojibwa is not a ship it’s a boat.

“We thought, this being the first Christmas for Ojibwa in Port Burwell, we would try to do the best we can.”

In keeping with tradition of the Royal Canadian Navy, that sees its boats and ships lit up for Christmas, the Elgin Military Museum held the first ‘Lighting of the Boat’ ceremony for the HMCS Ojibwa Friday evening.

“The lights are being put on Ojibwa this week - they’re not actually going to be as well done as they will be in the future because Heddle Marine is still doing a lot of work on the outside of the boat,” explained McNeil. “But we’ve done the best we can with the lighting and it’ll be better in the future.”

On the east and west coast every year, ships and submarines that are not scheduled for operations, take part in an annual Christmas lighting competition said McNeil, providing an enjoyable way for the navy to participate in festive Christmas spirit.

“The week before Christmas especially, they invite the public to drive through the dockyard and they vote on their choices for best-lighted ship,” said McNeil. “The Christmas decorations and the Christmas lights that we dress our ships up with come from non-public funds – we don’t spend taxpayers dollars on these decorations and lights. It’s actually the ship’s company that invests in the lights.”

Dozens of people in Port Burwell and surrounding communities came out Friday evening to see the inaugural ‘Lighting of the Boat’ for the HMCS Ojibwa. An event many believe will become an enjoyable Christmas tradition.

“I think the lighting was really good and well done. They worked hard on it,” said Port Burwell resident Denis Phillips. “All the lights are lit up around the houses here for Christmas and now the submarine is lit up as well.”

Rainey Weisler, president of the Otter Valley Chamber of Commerce brought her family out for the event.

“I’m very excited for Bayham. I think this is a wonderful opportunity,” said Weisler. “There were lots of people here tonight, lots of families and lots of locals. We had a great time.”

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