Episode Summary: Renae is away at HMAS Creswell as a guest lecturer, but nevertheless, when an engine mishap aboard HMAS Paluma leaves the survey motor launch dead in the water, the Hammersley is crash sailed out to the Barrier Reef to lend assistance to the stricken hydrographic vessel. In the absence of the CO, CMDR Mike Flynn returns to the ship as the temporary commanding officer...

HMAS Paluma - Off the Coast of Cape York, Coral Sea, Queensland
0834 Hours Local - Forenoon Watch

Survey motor launch HMAS Paluma cruised slowly through the waters of the Barrier Reef, working to increase the area of surveyed water in Australia's north eastern waters. The navy operated catamaran captained by Lieutenant Commander Chris Thomas watched on from the bridge of the vessel as it approached another stretch of the reef. Suddenly, the sound of metal rending on a solid surface was followed by the whole boat shuddering, and then by an alarm informing the bridge of engine failure. 'Charge! Status report!' Thomas barked, looking over at POMT Ivan Hillis, the Chief Engineer of the Paluma.

'I don't know, sir.' The engineer looked confusedly at his instruments. 'The MarineLink seems to be telling me that the props are broken off. I'll have to send a diver down to have a look.'

'See to it.' LCDR Thomas ordered.

'Aye, sir.' Hillis nodded, reaching for the 1MC handset. 'Swimmer of the Watch close up.' boomed across the small boat.

Fifteen minutes later, Hillis returned to the bridge to deliver the bad news. 'One of the propeller shafts is bent and the other propeller has lost a blade. We're not going anywhere in a hurry. I don't have the supplies to repair this, we're gonna need a tow back to base.'

'Okay.' Thomas sighed. 'XO, get onto Commander White, tell her we need a tow.'

'Aye, sir.' Lieutenant Jack Williams, the executive officer agreed as he left the bridge headed for the ComCen.

NAVCOM North, Naval Base Cairns, Queensland
0850 Hours Local - Forenoon Watch

'Commander!' a young officer called from one of the many satphone terminals around the main communications room at NAVCOM.

'Yes, Ensign?' Mike asked, seeing Max was dealing with a CO in her office.

'I've got the Paluma on the phone. Their RO is reporting that they have had an explosion in the aft engine space and they are on fire!' The young officer replied, looking unsure of what to do.

Mike put his satphone headset to his ear. 'Transfer it to me, Ensign, then tell Commander White.'

'Ah, yes, sir!' The young ensign looked down at the terminal, pressing a button on the satphone before scampering away to get Commander White.

'Paluma, this is Commander Flynn, what is your situation?' Mike said into the headset.

'Commander Flynn, this is Lieutenant Williams on the Paluma. We've had some problems, both our props are inoperable and we need a tow ASAP.' The commander of the hydrographic vessel babbled on the other end of the line.

'Okay, I'll talk to Commander White and we'll get a patrol boat out there as soon as.' Mike explained to the executive officer before hanging up.

'Okay, Mike...' Max said as she and Mike stood in front of a chart and a board hung side by side on one wall of the "bullpen" at NAVCOM - the area where the various terminals for communication and planning were located. The chart depicted the areas of responsibility of NAVCOM North, and it's overlap with NAVCOM Central, based in Darwin. The board, a large sheet of metal painted white and criss-crossed with black tape in the shape of a grid served as a ship movement list, showing the expected movements of any ship under NAVCOM North command for any given day. '...it looks like the Hammersley is the only asset we have that we can get out there any time soon. Kingston is on a mission to the Tapau Islands, Childers and Launceston are doing engineering trials in the Arafura, Bundaberg is in Sydney and Wollongong is backing up Maryborough in the North West Shelf.' Max noted after a few minutes studying the ship's movement list.

'But, Renae...' Mike started, pausing when Max raised an eyebrow and looked at Mike in an unsettling manner. '...the Hammersley CO,' Mike corrected himself, refusing to buy into his academy classmate's silent teasing, 'is still down at Jervis Bay doing those guest lectures on leadership and command and the CO is kind of needed to crash sail.'

'And I'm sure your dear... sweet... girlfriend will not have any complaints if I post you back to Hammersley temporarily.' Max teased again, drawing out her sentence. 'Now, Mike, moving on,' Max continued, back to business after the teasing, 'the Paluma has called in their position here.' Max pointed to a spot on the wall chart near the edge of the Great Barrier Reef. 'I'm tasking the Hammersley to go out there, assess the damage and then tow them back to port for repairs. I'll get the call out to the crew, notice for sea thirty minutes.'

'Righto, I'll just run home and grab my sea bag then head over to the ship shall I?' Mike asked, already looking towards his office.

'Off you go then.' Max nodded, waiting until Mike was about ten steps away before she called him back. 'Oh, and Mike?' she asked, waiting until he looked back. 'Fair winds!'

'Thanks, Max. See you in a day or so.' Mike nodded and turned towards his office to gather his clobber.

(insert Sea Patrol theme music)

Honour. Honesty. Courage. Integrity. Loyalty.


Episode Eight: Crash Sailed

HMAS Hammersley - Cairns Harbour, Queensland
0930 Hours Local - Forenoon Watch

'How does feel to be driving a boat again, sir?' Swain asked from the helm as he guided the boat through Cairns Harbour, heading towards open seas and the stricken survey motor launch out in the Coral Sea.

'Well, I have to say I've been enjoying a shore posting more than I ever thought possible, but it is absolutely fantastic to be back on the Hammersley, Swaino.' Mike replied with a wide grin before turning to Kate, 'XO, set course for these coordinates,' he said handing a sheet of paper to her.

'Aye, sir. ETA is approximately three hours.' Kate informed him after a few moments consulting the GPS and planning her navtrack.

'Very good. X, take the ship, I'm going to get a brew.' Mike said, already standing from his chair.

'Aye sir, I have the ship.' Kate nodded, taking the binoculars Mike handed to her.

Royal Australian Naval College - Naval Base Creswell, Jervis Bay Village, Jervis Bay Territory
0940 Hours Local - Forenoon Watch

Purrrrp-purrrp! Purrrp-purrrp!

Renae was shook out of her thoughts, walking down the beach outside HMAS Creswell by her phone ringing, all mental plans of her next guest lecture on Leadership and Command evaporating as she glanced at the screen of her Apple iPhone 3GS, the latest smartphone from Apple. Accepting the incoming call with a smile, she lifted the phone to her ear. 'Mike! I was wondering when you'd call.'

'Hi Ren! I just wanted to let you know I might not be in town when you get home tomorrow.' Mike's voice crackled, he was clearly somewhere with weaker mobile coverage.

'Why not?' Renae pouted, understanding of course that the navy was unpredictable.

'I'm temporary CO of Hammersley. We got crash-sailed out to the Barrier Reef, Paluma had some engine problems and the best CO in Cairns was unavailable. I hope I'm not stepping on your toes?' Mike joked.

'No not at all, love.' Renae replied. 'Just look after my ship and we'll get on just fine.'

'It used to be my ship!' Mike protested.

'But now it's mine!' Renae replied, wishing she could see his face (just to poke her tongue out at him).

'So how's Jervis?' Mike moved the conversation on to more personal things.

'Same old same old. Not as interesting as the Hammersley.' Renae replied, then when one of the instructors waved her over, she had to cut the conversation short. 'Look, Mike, I have to go. Look after the Hammersley for me.'

'Okay, love.' Mike replied before Renae hung up.

HMAS Hammersley - Off the Coast of Cape York, Coral Sea, Queensland
1230 Hours Local - Afternoon Watch
Rendezvous with HMAS Paluma

'Paluma, this is Hammersley, over.' Mike held the radio to his mouth as he looked at the stationary catamaran painted naval gray.

'Hammersley, this is Paluma. Good to see a friendly face. Lieutenant Commander Thomas speaking, over.' The reply crackled through the radio's speaker.

'Ah, Chris, Mike Flynn here. What seems to be the problem?' Mike asked.

'We ran over some coral earlier, it must have been only a metre or so underwater. Snapped off a couple of blades on the portside prop and the starboard one has been snapped off completely. We can't do any repairs out here and we need a bit of help getting back to port.' Chris Thomas explained.

'Right, well, I'll send my Charge and Buffer over to you to set up a tow and check out the engines. They'll be with you momentarily.' Mike decided.

'Much appreciated, Mike. Paluma out.' The Paluma skipper replied before the radio went silent.

'Charge, Dutchy, I want you two over on the Paluma, take 2Dads, Bomber and Ryan if you need. Charge, check out their engines. Dutchy, set up a tow and get both ships ready to head back towards homeport.' Mike gestured to the senior sailors in question.

'Aye sir.' Both nodded, leaving the bridge to find the junior sailors and officer in training.

HMAS Paluma - Off the Coast of Cape York, Coral Sea, Queensland
1235 Hours Local - Afternoon Watch

The party from the Armidale class patrol stepped onto one of the Royal Australian Navy's four catamaran style survey motor launches from the inflatable RHIB. 'Welcome aboard the Paluma, gentlemen, and lady.' Jack Williams, the executive officer of the Paluma, his DPNU name tag bearing the Maritime Geospatial Officer badge.

'Hello I'm Dylan Mulholland from NRMA Roadside Assistance.' Dutchy joked, offering his hand to the Lieutenant.

'Thank god you're here! We have a flat.' Williams played along. 'And what about the rest of your posse, Dutchy I'd guess?'

'That's me.' Dutchy nodded in recognition.

'Andy Thorpe, Charge.' 'Leo Kosov-Meyer, 2Dads.' 'Rebecca Brown, Bomber.' 'Ryan White, Buck.' Each sailor raised their hand and introduced themselves in turn as Williams nodded in recognition.

Taking in the category badges of the Hammersley sailor, Williams continued, 'Charge, 2Dads, if you would follow me, I'll have our Charge show you to the engine compartment,' before turning to a nearby sailor, 'Leader, can you help these guys setting up the tow?'

'Aye, sir.' The Leading Seaman Hydrographic Systems Operator nodded, gesturing Dutchy, Bomber and Ryan to follow him.

Lieutenant Williams led Charge and 2Dads down to the Paluma's engine control room, introducing them to the ship's chief engineer. 'CPO Andy Thorpe and Leading Seaman Leo Kosov-Meyer, this is PO Ivan Hillis, our Charge. Charge-o this is Andy and 2Dads.'

'Great to meet you, Andy, 2Dads.' Hillis greeted the pair, offering his hand to both in turn.

'Same here.' Charge agreed. 'Now let's check out this engine.' he continued, moving towards the door from the control room to the port engine space.

'No, sir. There's no problem with engines themselves.' Andy Thorpe informed the skipper of the survey vessel. 'Just fixing the props will be enough.'

'That's a relief.' Lieutenant Commander Thomas sighed thankfully. 'The hydrographic survey service has been running at full capacity for months, beyond capacity even to update the charts. The last thing we need right now is to lose a boat for a long period of time.'

'Any idea why you're being pushed so hard?' Charge asked as he wiped his hands on the oily rag he always kept in his pocket.

'Not a iota of an idea. I just follow the orders.' Thomas shrugged, turning back to look out to the Hammersley, now manoeuvring into place to start the tow back to Cairns.

'Well, we're done here.' Charge said once he saw Dutchy step onto the bridge. 'We'll head back across to Hammersley and get this little shindig on the road.'

'Sure, and once again, much appreciated.' Thomas nodded, following the senior sailors from Hammersley out to the rear deck of the Paluma where the RHIB from Hammersley still stood waiting.

HMAS Hammersley - Off the Coast of Cape York, Coral Sea, Queensland
1430 Hours Local - Afternoon Watch

'Hammersley, this is Charge. We are returning to you. The tow is all set up and ready to go, over.' Charge's voice crackled over the speaker.

'Roger that Charge.' Mike radioed in reply. He then looked back towards the helm, speaking to Swain, 'Swain, bring the ship to specials.'

'Aye sir.' The coxswain nodded. 'Special sea dutymen and cable party close up, assume damage control state three condition X-ray.' Swain's voice sounded through the ship as the portside RHIB returned to the boat.

'Let's get moving then Swaino. Port 5, steer 1-9-0. Slow ahead both engines, revolutions 8-0-0.' Mike ordered.

'Aye, sir. Port 5, steering 1-9-0. Slow ahead both engines, revolutions 8-0-0.' Swain confirmed, moving the helm and engine telegraph to the correct spot.

NAVCOM North, Naval Base Cairns, Queensland
0850 Hours Local - Forenoon Watch

Mike strolled back into NAVCOM Headquarters toreport for duty and relinquish his temporary command of Hammersley back to Renae.

'Welcome back, Mike.' Max smiled as she watched him walk in, gesturing him into her office. 'Glad you got the Paluma back in one piece.

'Thanks, Max.' Mike nodded in gratitude. 'It took three times as long to get back, though. Paluma is a hell of lot bigger than the FFVs the old girl is used to towing.'

'Old girl?' A new voice asked. 'She isn't your ship any more sailor-boy so stop acting all lovey-dovey with your old ship!' Renae joked as she looked over her shoulder at her boyfriend and her superior officer.

'Oh, sorry Ren.' Mike said apologetically, but with a teasing tone. 'She's yours now, isn't she?'

'When you aren't stealing her!' Renae joked back.

'Sorry to interrupt the lover's tiff, Mike, Renae, but I had some things I needed to say.' Max interjected before the joking fight could go too long.

'Sorry ma'am.' The other two straightened up, but not looking the slightest bit remorseful.

'Thank you.' Max nodded. 'Now, thanks to the Hammersley, Mike, Paluma is due to sail again at the end of the week so that hopefully the surveying they were doing will be finished by next Monday, only a few days late.'

'Why is the such a rush on surveying all of a sudden?' Renae asked from her spot.

'Top secret.' Maxine replied, before elaborating. 'HMS Illustrious is heading to Australia later this year, and in light of finding a terrorist outpost so close to Australia, Fleet Command is doing everything it can to ensure that all goes smoothly for the visit. The last thing Britain need right now, or Australia given the announcement of our own aircraft carrier being built, is a terrorist attack on Old Lusty.'

'Definitely not!' Renae agreed vehemently, having served on frigates operating alongside Illustrious and therefore having a strong respect for the crew of the British aircraft (now helicopter) carrier.

'Now that information must not leave this room!' Max emphasised, staring down both officers as she did so.

'Of course, ma'am.' Renae replied, being echoed by Mike, now sitting alongside her.

Fleet Base East, Naval Base Kuttabul, New South Wales
2350 Hours Local - First Watch

The silence filling a messy office at Fleet Base East in Sydney, New South Wales was interrupted by the incessant ringing of a phone, which was finally enough to shake the only occupant of the office from her slumber. 'Royal Navy Liaison Office Sydney, Sub Lieutenant Gordon speaking.' The young female officer said sleepily.

'Sorry to wake you, Sub Lieutenant. Admiral Mark Stanhope for you.' The voice on the other end of the line said solemnly, and once the sentence was fully comprehended by the young officer, she was instantly wide awake.

'Yes, sir!' Gordon sat up straighter in her chair, wondering why the First Sea Lord would be calling her at near enough to midnight her time.

'Sub Lieutenant, as you have probably been made aware, Lusty will be heading your way in a month or so's time.' ADM Stanhope started.

'Yes, sir, that memo did cross my desk.' Gordon nodded to herself more than anything else.

'Very good. Well, the Admiralty has voted for you as the Liaison Officer responsible for communication between Lusty and the Australians. It's a vote of faith, congratulations.' Stanhope continued.

'Thank you, sir.' Gordon said, not really able to say anything else after the realisation that the Admiralty Board actually knew that she existed, let alone who she was.

'Well, I'd best let you get off to bed. It is rather late down under.' Stanhope signed off.

'Yes, sir, and thank you, sir.' Amelia Gordon sighed before replacing the phone on its cradle, maybe it was time she get some sleep and try and tackle the piles of paperwork in the morning.

(insert Sea Patrol theme music)

Kate Bell as LCDR Renae "Skipper" Jackson
Lisa McCune as LEUT Kate "XO" McGregor
John Batchelor as CPOMT Andy "Charge" Thorpe
Matthew Holmes as PONPC Chris "Swain" Blake
Conrad Coleby as POB Dylan "Dutchy" Mulholland
Kristian Schmid as LSCIS Robert J. "RO" Dixon
Nikolai Nikolaeff as LSET Leo "2Dads" Kosov-Meyer
Kirsty Lee Allan as ABCK Rebecca "Bomber" Brown
Danielle Horvat as SMNGX Jessica Bird

Also Starring
Jonathon LaPaglia as ENS Rick "Artie" Shaw
Martin Sacks as CPOB Paul "Dusty" Miller
Dominic Deutscher as MIDN Ryan "Buck" White
Ian Stenlake as CMDR Mike Flynn
Tammy McIntosh as CMDR Maxine "Knocker" White

Guest Starring
Tim Campbell as LCDR Chris Thomas
Georgie Henley as SBLT Amelia "Flash" Gordon, RN