The Royal Navy’s smallest commissioned vessel, Her Majesty’s Survey Launch Gleaner, returned to Devonport homeport one last time on Tuesday ahead of her decommissioning.
In mist and rain, and with a 16-meter decommissioning pennant tied to the stern rail to prevent it flapping around uncontrollably, three of the nine crew lined up for Procedure Alpha as Lt Cdr William Alexander guided the boat for her final entry.
“Despite the wet weather, it was fantastic to be part of such an important tradition, and I’m really pleased to have had the opportunity,” said AB Joel Bradley, Gleaner’s signaler.
Gleaner was built to survey waters other craft could not get; despite her size she’s crammed with the latest sonar equipment to measure the seabed around key ports in unparalleled detail.
She was used to survey the Mary Rose wreck site ahead of extensive dredging work to make sure nothing of Henry VIII’s flagship was left on the Solent seabed before the diggers moved in.
More than a decade later, she scoured every inch of Portsmouth Harbor and its approaches to clear the way for dredging to allow the safe entry and exit of HMS Queen Elizabeth.
Gleaner’s successor will be a slightly larger, as-yet unnamed catamaran.