HMCS Oriole in Port Colborne

Cadet Bryce Garrioch puts the finishing touches on cleaning the hull of the sail training vessel HMCS Oriole prior to participating in Port Colborne Canal Days deck tours.

HMCS Oriole on display during Canal Days in Port Colborne

By Lt(N) Bill King,
Public Affairs Officer

Over 4000 visitors to Port Colborne during Canal Days this past weekend flocked aboard HMCS Oriole for free public tours provided as part of the Great Lakes Deployment (GLD).

Built in 1921, Oriole served as the flagship of the Royal Canadian Yacht Club racing out of Toronto until it was gifted to the Navy League to provide a training platform for sailors during the Second World War. Later commissioned into the RCN in 1952, the ship continued to serve as a training vessel based in Esquimalt, B.C. until being sailed through the Panama Canal to Halifax last summer and undergoing a refit.

In its new role sailing out of Halifax, Oriole serves as both a sail training vessel and a piece of Canada’s naval history open for public tours, often in ports that seldom see a RCN vessel. The permanent crew of nine RCN sailors is augmented with changing groups of sea cadets and reservists to make 21 sailors on deck. Although modern navigation aids and safety gear has been fitted, the sailing gear is rigged and operated much as when she was originally built, thus providing for hands-on seamanship training.

“We take on new cadets Sunday night and train them in how to rig and sail the boat. It takes four or five of them braced on the deck to pull in one sheet, and then secure it and get out from under the line safely. Just when they’re getting good we swap them for a new group the next week and do it again,” said Oriole’s Cox’n, PO1 Scott Harrod.

Canal Days was first held in 1979 on the 150th anniversary of the opening of the original Welland Canal. This marine heritage festival continues to attract tall ships from around the Great Lakes. “As a tall ship, Oriole is a piece of Canada’s history that attracts an audience. The GLD is intended to provide Canadians an opportunity to visit our ships and speak with RCN sailors. I’d like to continue to show Oriole off at festivals like this one on the Great Lakes next year,” said Commanding Officer LCdr Drew Foran.

Oriole departed its homeport of Halifax at the end of May. Thus far, the ship has hosted visitors in Toronto, Hamilton, Port Dalhousie, Oakville, Port Stanley, and Windsor. Oriole moves on to Whitby, Kingston, Trois Rivieres, Quebec City, Sept-Iles, and Gaspe before returning to its homeport in late September.