WHEN HMAS Newcastle sails into its namesake port for the final time on Wednesday, it will also be a homecoming for the ship's commanding officer.
Commander Anita Sellick is a Novocastrian, growing up near the sea at Merewether.
"I've got fond memories of watching Newcastle regattas while sitting on the Stockton shore with my grandmother," Commander Sellick said from on board the ship, as it headed south from Brisbane.
"I've always enjoyed being near the water, fishing at Stockton; it's always been a peaceful place."
The harbour shores won't be peaceful but churning with activity on Wednesday morning at 9.15, when HMAS Newcastle cruises past Nobbys and receives a seven-gun salute from Fort Scratchley.
The frigate was commissioned in Newcastle in 1993 and ends its service for the Royal Australian Navy at the end of June. In more than 25 years on the seas, the ship has participated in operations in East Timor, Solomon Islands and the Persian Gulf.
As the Newcastle prepared for its farewell visit to the city, Commander Sellick said the feeling was "bitter-sweet", but also one of great pride.
"It's one of the closest relationships between a Navy ship and a namesake port that I've ever known," said Commander Sellick, who joined the RAN in 1994 and had been at the helm of the Newcastle since early 2018.
"I think there's nerves, but excited nerves."
Commander Sellick is not the only one sailing home. Among the ship's company of 210 are 20 Novocastrians.
"I think I've been collecting them as I've been going around the past 18 months," she said.
For the entry into the port, the ship will also carry a special Novocastrian guest, Margaret McNaughton. The former Lady Mayoress launched the Newcastle in 1993.
The Newcastle will be in port until Tuesday. On Saturday, the ship will exercise its Right of Freedom of Entry to the city, with a ceremony and street march. The commanding officer and crew members will also visit Newcastle Senior School, which the ship has supported.
But first Commander Sellick has been waiting to enter her home port and be greeted by members of her family.
"I remember what it was like as a little girl ... to see that activity on the harbour, and now to be part of that activity as the CO is a wonderful thing," she said.