HMCS Oriole joins Atlantic Fleet, departs for Great Lakes Deployment
By Ryan Melanson,
The latest ship to join Canadian Fleet Atlantic also happens to be the RCN’s longest serving commissioned vessel. HMCS Oriole, Canada’s Navy tall ship, was inducted into the fleet with a small ceremony at HMC Dockyard on May 29, just minutes before the ship and her crew departed Halifax for the St. Lawrence Seaway and the 2018 Great Lakes Deployment.
Oriole, built in 1921, then donated to the RCN and commissioned in 1952, is essentially an ambassador ship for the Navy, used for public outreach and for training junior sailors. The 31-metre tall sailing ketch was previously based at CFB Esquimalt, and the goal in transferring her to the east coast is to give a different segment of the Canadian population a chance to enjoy the history and heritage that Oriole offers. This began in 2017, when the ship first made the daunting 16,000 sail to Halifax for the Rendez-vous Tall Ships Regatta, and continues now with the ship as an official member of the Fleet, led by Commanding Officer LCdr Drew Foran.
“The Great Lakes is an outreach mission, and we’ll be conducting 14 different port visits as we sail from Halifax all the way to Windsor, Ontario and back,” LCdr Foran said.
Deployments to the Great Lakes region in the summertime have been a regular RCN activity for decades, often involving port visits, community activities, day sails on larger ships, and other methods of introducing Canadians who live away from the east or west coasts to their Navy and its highly-trained personnel.
“This ship is really a means of delivering the sailors who are part of today’s Royal Canadian Navy to Canadians, to allow them to tell their stories of the work they do in the Navy, and do it on this important and historic vessel. She’s a beautiful ship that just finished refit, so it’s a fantastic opportunity for us,” LCdr Foran added.
Roughly 20 sailors at a time will crew the ship for the summer, and many of them will be getting some of their first sailing experiences. As part of celebrations this year marking the 100th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets, Oriole has invited some of the organization’s top 14-18 year old members to train aboard the vessel, and its expected that about half the crew will be composed of cadets through the July and August portions of the trip.
“The main thing they’ll be doing is learning how to sail,” LCdr Foran said.
“We’ll get a new group of cadets each week, and we’ll be taking them from one port to the next to learn how to sail, do some adventure training, do some team-building exercises, and work together with the rest of my crew.”
And with the ship just recently back from more than six months of refit at the Lunenburg Shipyard, including new wiring, electrical work and refinishing of the masts, she’s in top shape to be shown off to Canadians, and fully capable of handling whatever conditions the crew finds themselves in at sea.
“It’s certainly different than sailing on an average warship, and that should bring some exciting moments for the crew. We’re looking forward to it.”
The Great Lakes Deployment will continue through the summer, and Oriole is due back in Halifax by the end of September.