The South African National Defense Force(SANDF) as part of the Armed Forces Day celebrations had Navy ships on display at the Waterfront. The cadet band also marched through the Waterfront. Picture: Courtney Africa/African News Agency(ANA)
It was with great anticipation that the children all bundled into the car on Saturday to head off to the V&A Waterfront for the display of naval vessels ahead of Armed Forces Day.

As these things go, it took longer than expected to get them into the car and we sat in heavy traffic into town.

Once there, we were confronted by kilometres-long queues of people eager to explore the SAS Manthatisi, or one of the two Valour-class frigates docked just outside the Table Bay Hotel.

What a disappointment. Some people had been queueing since 9am and by 2pm had still barely come close enough to the frigates to get a decent selfie.

It’s a wonderful initiative, inviting the public onto navy vessels to see where our hard-earned tax money is being spent and these craft by their very nature inspire young minds, sowing the seeds that could lead to many a young one following a path to becoming able seamen, and instilling pride in adults who may wonder what goes on behind the massive steel gates at Simon’s Town Naval Base.

However, the admirals must have foreseen that there would be so much interest that thousands of people would flock to see them.

My eldest must’ve been 5 or 6 the last time I took her onto a frigate, and that was at the Simon’s Town Naval Fair many years ago.

It was far less full, perhaps owing to the inaccessibility of the small naval town.

Kudos to the SA Navy for bringing the vessels to the people then, but restricting the access to two days over a summer weekend is just plain silly.

There are many young people who would love to explore these majestic naval vessels, but why should this only happen so seldom that when people get wind of it, end up queuing for hours on end just for a 10 minute tour?

Why not provide more regular access at the naval base, or elsewhere, and show off what our tax money bought?

Give us more opportunities to explore the vessels, chat to the soldiers and see their drills, and exercises.

* Lance Witten is the live editor for the Cape Argus.

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