The New Year was marked by a long departure for the crew of HMCS Halifax and their families.

"It's a day of excitement mixed with anxiety for the crew and the loved ones of HMCS Halifax," said Christopher Rochon, Commanding Officer of HMCS Halifax.

The ship set sail Friday afternoon for a six-month deployment as part of Operation Reassurance.

"Operation Reassurance is Canada's commitment to our NATO partners that we will continue to work with them, learn how to work together, and support and assure them that Canada will be a committed partner now and in the future," said Commander Rochon.

HMCS Halifax is the 15th Canadian warship to deploy on Operation Reassurance since 2014.

"Throughout her deployment, HMCS Halifax will serve as flagship as Canada will command standing Maritime group one throughout the course of 2021; a commitment that demonstrates Canada's and the Royal Canadian Navy's continued leadership as an agile fighting force and steadfast partner," said Commodore Bradley Peats.

Unlike previous departure ceremonies, due to COVID-19 restrictions, there were limited military personnel and civilian dignitaries on the jetty and no families.

"Typically, you would see a jetty full of people here wishing us fair winds and following seas; and while we cannot see you physically, know that you're in our thoughts and in our hearts," said Commodore Peats.

However, family and friends did gather along the Halifax waterfront to see their loved ones depart.

"[I'm] anxious and happy for my son who's on board. Looking forward to the adventure but sad that he's going to be gone for quite a spell," said Andrew Robbins.

"We're sending off my brother Matthew on his very first deployment ever, and we're really excited for him and nervous, and I think he's feeling the same way," said Kathryn Levandier.

"We're just here to see my son, Matthew Snow, sail by, and he's on his way for six months," said Eugene Snow.

"We're waiting to see my husband off today. This is his first long deployment of this length, so we're kind of, a little emotional," said Selena Gilbert. "Hoping all goes well, and we see him back sooner than we think."

Crew members had to isolate and were tested for COVID-19 before setting sail. But as the pandemic lingers on, those onboard HMCS Halifax say this deployment will be different for them.

"This deployment's going to be a little different than the ones I've been on, only for the fact it's so enclosed, and when we come alongside a foreign port, we don't get to go ashore anymore," said Petty Officer 1st class Joyce Farmer.

Meanwhile, as the ship departed, loved ones on shore began their six-month countdown for the crew's return.

"Departure day is often difficult, but what today marks is the countdown to leaving is finished, and the countdown to homecomings has begun," said Peats.