EMOTIONS were high last week as Navy families said tearful goodbyes to Faslane-based sailors - many of whom won't be home until Christmas.

The rain poured and the wind blew a gale on Wednesday afternoon during a special farewell ceremony which saw Sandown Class Mine Hunter HMS Ramsey leave her base port of Faslane for active service in the Gulf.

The families donned their best frocks and suits to bid goodbye as they hugged and kissed loved ones on the jetty before waving them away on the ship, which won't return to Faslane for four years.

For Leading Seaman Louis Gordon, cuddling his wife Laura and five-month old baby girl Immogen for the last time for a while, was particularly difficult.

The Helensburgh sailor, who has also carried out a nine-month deployment, said: "This is not going to be easy and it's upsetting saying goodbye but at the same time I am looking forward to what lies ahead.

"We will keep in touch as much as we can by email and Laura will send me lots of pictures of Immogen." Close friends and families toured the ship before she sailed, and they enjoyed lunch with loved ones before taking part in a short religious service conducted by Father Andrew McFadden, the chaplain of the Faslane Flotilla.

The ship will be performing an important duty, clearing the seaways for other ships to follow and keeping the passages safe for trade as well as for bigger warships.

The Sandown Class Mine Hunters are not the biggest ships in the world - measuring only 52 metres in length and weighing in at 600 tonnes - but they are possibly the most expensive warships in the world and carry some of the most modern sonar equipment in the world.

HMS Ramsey's captain, Lieutenant Commander Alex Bush, originally from Northamptonshire and now living in Rhu, said: "She is made from glass-reinforced plastic and, because of that, she is not able to be detected by mines.

"We have a very long journey ahead of us and we expect to arrive in the Gulf in July.

"We have a full team able to combat any sort of mine.

"I believe that what makes a good sailor is a happy home life and I create that on board as much as I can. We owe a lot of support to our families and today was an opportunity to say thank you to the families." His wife Valerie moved to the area in October last year and is settling into her new life in Rhu, where she says she has been "overwhelmed" with the support given to her by the community.

She said: "I have lots of friends up here and I joined groups who have been very welcoming.

Valerie choked back tears as she said: "I am very proud of my husband, he is a great man and he cares so much for his crew. He really understands that the families are the other half of the equation.

"Seven months is a long time to wait for his return and we have told our two children, aged 10 and 12, not to expect to see their dad before Christmas.

"They will be based in Bahrain so there is a possibility we could fly over there but I don't want to get their hopes up just in case." Isle of Cumbrae RBLS Pipe Band provided music, as did a piper on board as the ship slowly pulled away from the jetty and some families, who had been keeping it together until then, couldn't keep their emotions in any longer.

Tears were shed as HMS Ramsay sailed into the distance, followed by tugs which spouted giant plumes of water and horns blasted farewell.

On board, it was back to business as the sailors resumed their normal duties and prepared to make their first stop at the Isle of Man the following day, where crew hosted a lunch for dignitaries from Ramsey, the Manx town the ship is named after.

The ship will then proceed through the Bay of Biscay and left into the Mediterranean, on again through the Suez Canal and left again to the Straights of Hormuz and eventually on to Bahrain.

There she will be met by the giant support ship Lyme Bay, part of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary - and her new life will begin.