"They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; these see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep...He raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves...they reel to and fro and stagger like drunken sailors!" (psalm 107)

HMAS Adroit, P82

Adroit Crest

Royal Australian Navy - Attack Class Patrol Boat


HMAS Adroit (P 82) was an Attack class patrol boat of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). She was laid down by Evans Deakin and Company at Kangaroo Point, Brisbane, Queensland in August 1967, launched on 3rd. February 1968 and commissioned on 17th. August 1968. Adroit was for many years the training ship for the RANVR at HMAS Moreton, New Farm, Brisbane. She spent most weekends at "sea" in Moreton Bay and once a year a 14 day deployment, sometimes singly, sometimes in company with other patrol boats.


My Time in Adroit

After leaving the Royal Australian Navy, I joined the Navy Reserves at HMAS Moreton, in Brisbane. Our training vessel was HMAS Adroit, a patrol boat with a crew of 17. The reserve officers resented a Petty Officer from the RAN with so much up to date knowledge, navigation and ship handling skills and it took a while for acceptance. The annual 2 week cruise and exercises were interesting, one being to Milne Bay in PNG together with other patrol boats and warships of the RAN. The RAN built the Attack class patrol boats as a direct result of the Indonesian Confrontation when minesweepers had to be used for patrol work as the Navy had no other suitable small ships at the time. Once again the Navy made a big mistake building unsuitable ships for Australian conditions - the Attack Class Patrol Boats would roll on a "wet rag" and were unsuitable for Australian sea conditions, particularly in southern waters, being a bit on the small size and were later replaced by the Fremantle class patrol boats. Had the Attack class patrol boats been in service in the period of the Indonesian Confrontation they would have been perfect for our role of inshore patrolling during that war because the main deck was low to the water, and they were armed with a single 40/60 fwd. and a .5 cal. machine gun aft.

RANVR Exercises

Most weekends Adroit would put out into Moreton Bay doing a regular circuit by exiting the bay via the North East Channel, steaming accross to Mooloolaba and then re-enter the bay via the main shipping channel which begins at Caloundra. Overnight anchorages were at Dunwich or Tangalooma. There was always a waiting list for crew so I would be Buffer, Coxwain, Cook or AB - made no difference to me.

HMAS Adroit

Coastwatch Cruise

For our annual 14 day deployment one year we sailed up the coast and the CO visited the light house keepers to discuss coast watch activities (there were still some manned lights in the 1970s). We called to Townsville and took a Customs Officer to Parkers Reef where a cargo ship, the Sledre Timor had run aground and sank. Rumour was that a large consignment of duty free spirits (whisky) was being salvaged illegally from the wreck and sold. The diving on that wreck which was new, was fabuluous. The boiler must have exploded when the ship sank and the ships side was peeled back like a banana skin - cargo of steel, tractors and Holden cars was clearly visible. Drifting over the reef fishing we saw what looked like a perfectly square rock - closer examination found a stack of wooded crates containing the whisky!
Every night was a new port particularly in the Whitsundays and the deployment was just a pissie run!

Milne Bay, New Guinea

Adroit set off from Brisbane and met up with Arrow from Melbourne and together steamed north - destination Milne Bay, New Guinea, where patrol boats from the RAN and RANVR were to hold a big exercise. Passing through the Whitsunday Passage we hit a big log at night and bent two propeller blades - the ship was vibrating badly until the windscreen in front of the helmsman shattered into a million pieces. Made Cairns on one engine and drydocked for a new prop and window. After sailing the gyro tumbled - I was on the wheel at the time steering a perfect compass course until I happened to glance astern to see a big curve in the wake. Back to cairns for repairs.

Sailed again but encountered huge seas outside the reef and an intercooler on one of the gear boxes sprang a leak so back to Cairns again! Finally sailed for and made it to New Guinea - however when approaching Samauri Island, Adroit hit another log and bent a propeller blade. The divers straightened it during the night by tying themselves to the blade and using a large sledge hammer.
We had rigged an underwater light and while I took my turn on the prop I could see little bright things sinking nearby - turned out there was a big sea snake showing an interest in the back of my head and my air tank and the "Old Man" was trying to shoot it with the ships pistol!

Adroit made it to Milne Bay but broke down just in time to miss most of the exercise. On the way home we called to Mackay for fuel and water and after sailing into big seas split the hull in the diving store. Then called to Gladstone where after berthing, the ships battery bank caught fire and so we were all sent home to Brisbane by train!

In drydock Samauri Wharf
Adroit in the NQEA dry dock at Cairns for the propeller change.
The port bridge window is missing.
Fuelling alongside at Samauri with another bent propeller.
Alongside Port Moresby
An army landing craft, six patrol boats and mother ship HMAS Anzac alongside in Port Moresby after the exercise at Milne Bay.
Thanks Mick Hichson for the pics.

Search and Rescue

A mackerel fisherman went missing together with his dog off Currumbin on the Gold Coast - I actually knew him. Adroit was in Moreton Bay on a weekend exercise when ordered to mount a search. Ironically that weekend as the ship was not designed to venture outside the Bay, we carried no Radio Operator (RO). Communications with Brisbane Port was via voice on 2524mhz. Rounding Cape Moreton, Adroit encountered a fairly big swell from the SE and soon many of the weekend sailors were seasick. By the time we arrived off the Gold Coast there was a thunder storm followed by strong winds and the sea was becoming very rough.

Adroit 82

The CO was the last officer/sailor to collapse - on the deck outside the wardroom in a pool of his own spew. There were only three of us left by 2000 - a PO writer, a PO ME and me. Because I fished these waters I knew there would be a fair set to the South, so I planned and executed a square search, legs of 8 miles East/West and 2 miles South until the ship was off Cape Byron, NSW. It was rough as hell and the three of us took turns at wheel and lookout plus I had to navigate. In all honesty unless we ran over the missing 14 foot boat there was no way it would be seen in such big seas with limited visibility.

Octopus 8

The galley was a wreck with food, tea, flour and broken plates etc making it impossible to even make a brew and we hadn't eaten since lunch the day before, apart from some hard tack. At dawn, which was rough as hell, bleak, wet and cold we heard a roar and a Canberra Bomber overflew the ship. He called up on 2524 - I'll never forget his call sign - "Octopus 8" - "message from Navy, Canberra, break, return to base"! Thank Fuck!! I remember writing the message and my comment in the log! Adroit came round to North while I worked out a course for Cape Moreton, and with a following sea, soon sailors were appearing like rabbits from a burrow. The CO sheepisly appeared on the bridge for a briefing. Every one recovered, but no one ever said "thanks" to Don, Pat or me for running the ship for about 10 hours, while all the officers and the rest of the crew were useless, trying to locate the fisherman and not hitting anything! Guess Navy, Canberra never knew what really happened with those weekend sailors!

I felt bad about this weekend because sadely the rescue never happened and the fisherman, his dog nor bits of the boat were ever found.

Full time RAN

With an increase in activities of illegal foreign fishing vessels in Western Australia, Adroit was deployed there and operated from Darwin with a regular full time Navy crew. Seen alongside Assail and Aware at Stokes Hill Wharf in February 1978. There was a well publisized court marshall for some of the sailors of the Adroit following an apprehension of several Taiwanese fishing boats between 1st. April and 14th. November 1978, but in particular the Fu Yuan, where "bribes" were paid in kind (100 feet of net, fishing floats and fish from the net). The word "Piracy" was bandied about at the time. The piracy entailed a Lieutenant and a Sub/Lt. charged with several offences including assault, stealing (a sextant), demanding money ($US 500.00) and "conduct unbecoming an officer". The Lieutenant was dismissed from Her Majesty's Service.

Back to the RANVR

In 1982, after being replaced by new Fremantle Class Patrol Boats the Adroit was placed in refit then handed over to the Fremantle Port Division of the Royal Australian Navy Reserve on 21st. January 1983 and is seen steaming south off HMAS Stirling

Adroit paid off on 28th March 1992 and was the highlight of RAN exercises when she was successfully sunk by No.2 Squadron, Skyhawks, Royal New Zealand Air Force near Rottnest Island, off Perth WA on 8th August 1994.

Statistics - P82

Type & Number Built Patrol Boat - 20 Units Propulsion 2 x 16 cylinder Paxman YJCM diesel engines
Displacement 100 tons standard Speed 24 knots
Displacement 146 tons full load Complement 3 officers, 16 sailors
Length 107.5 feet (32.8 m) Armament - Primary 1 x 40 mm Single Bofors
Beam 20 feet (6.1 m) Armament - Secondary 1 x .50 calibre machine gun
Draught 7.3 feet (2.2 m) at full load Builder Evans Deakin and Company, Brisbane

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