HMCS Toronto on the Great Lakes Deployment 2017
By Lt (N) R. MacDonald,
It’s been a busy six weeks for the officers and crew of HMCS Toronto. The planning and preparation to get her ready to slip on the 12th of June for Basic Single Ship Readiness Trials (BSSRT) was an accomplishment in itself. Some doubted it would happen on time. The crew pulled together, we slipped our lines and a week later Toronto had successfully completed BSSRT and was looking forward to a port visit to Boston, then a rendezvous with the USS Eisenhower task group before returning home by the end of the month. However, while en route to Boston, the RCN tasked Toronto to return to Halifax to prepare to execute a portion of NCSM Ville de Québec’s Great Lakes Deployment.
A program two months in the planning was hoisted in by Toronto and in less than 24 hours she headed for the St. Lawrence Seaway for the first leg of what turned out to be much more than a temporary fill-in for Ville de Québec. Transiting the St. Lawrence Seaway and its system of locks is no small task for a large warship. A lock transit training program was put together en-route, and proved very successful. Upon arrival in Toronto, we prepared to receive guests and dignitaries for six days where over 20,000 people toured the ship. Toronto also hosted the first of three receptions, where the cooks demonstrated the outstanding talents we almost take for granted in Toronto and a day sail for a hundred guests.
We proceeded down the Seaway towards Montréal; only then we knew that we’d be taking on the rest of Ville de Québec’s program and the planning for the next three weeks kicked into high gear as further preparations were made for tours, ceremonial requirements, and visits from VIPs. While in Montréal and Trois Rivières, we received an overwhelming reception from the local communities, who in the thousands, stayed in line under the sun for long periods for a chance to take an upper deck tour and speak to crewmembers about their lives on board and our ship’s capabilities.
The culmination of the GLD was in the city of Québec. As Toronto transited the St. Lawrence River, we fired a 21 gun Royal Salute from the saluting cannons as we passed by the Governor General’s residence and came alongside the Old Port of Québec for Rendezvous 2017: a huge event that involved tall ships from all over the world arriving in Québec for an incredible maritime festival. Five working days of tours, parades, photo ops, and events with First Nations were planned. Other vessels included HMCS Oriole, USS Jason Dunham, Chilean Tallship Esmeralda, and Ecuadorean Tall Ship Guaya. Starting it off involved a luncheon and bilateral conference between the Commander RCN VAdm Ron Lloyd and the Chief of Naval Operations of the US Navy, Admiral John Richardson hosted by our Commanding Officer, Cdr Steven Archer, in his cabin. We were honoured that one of the signature events; a reception hosted by Commander RCN, VAdm Lloyd, took place in Toronto and attended by many VIPs including the Lieutenant Governor of Quebec, his Excellency Michel Doyon, who was delighted to receive a 15 gun vice-regal salute in honour of his official visit. While alongside, we again hosted thousands of curious people for upper deck tours. Upon departing Québec, Toronto participated in a sail past with the larger vessels participating in Rendezvous 2017, and the embarkation of 15 members of Canadian Leaders at Sea for a three day demonstration of life on board a warship during our transit back home to Halifax.
The success of GLD 2017 can be attributed to the exhaustive plan conducted by Toronto, MARLANT, and NAVRES HQ and supported by HMCS York, HMCS Radisson, HMCS Montcalm, and the members of NCSM Ville de Québec who supplemented vacant billets during our trip. It was overall, an excellent demonstration of Ready Aye Ready in its finest form.