5 things you might not know about life on a NZ Navy ship

New Zealand Defence Force
2 min readMar 18, 2021


The Royal New Zealand Navy’s multi-role vessel HMNZS Canterbury regularly deploys on overseas operations, but what is it like to live on board months at a time? Here are some things you may not know about life on HMNZS Canterbury, from laundry to recreation and exercise.

1. Hands to bathe

At the end of a working day during a summer deployment the ship may call a hands to bathe, where everyone gets to jump off the cargo deck into the ocean and go for a swim. Popping manus and backflips are encouraged.

Fun fact: Hands to bathe is an old tradition from before our ships had showers and now it’s purely for R&R (military slang for rest and recuperation).

Ship’s company are given permission for a swim in the 30 degree ocean after the work day has ended in Tokelau during Operation Calypso.

2. Got talent

On deployments, the ship hosts talent shows and quiz nights to keep morale high after getting the work done.

3. One for the sweet tooths

There’s a canteen on board. It’s well stocked with sweet treats and savoury eats to clothing and apparel. The canteen is run by volunteers outside of their primary duties, and contributes greatly to Ship’s morale.

The ships canteen operating for snacks.

4. Let’s talk laundry

You do your own laundry. Laundry bags are called ‘dhobeys’, and laundry etiquette is taken very seriously. If you do your bit and don’t cut in line, you’ll be just fine.

5. You can climb Mount Everest

Every day is leg day. With 10 decks, moving up and down the ship means some serious stair climbing. If you climb the full ship (17.2m) 513 times you’ve reached Everest!



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