HMCS Oriole sailing season wraps up

HMCS Oriole’s 2020 crew, including LCdr Robert Pelton in the centre.

HMCS Oriole looks ahead to 2021 as sailing season wraps up

By Ryan Melanson,
Trident Staff

HMCS Oriole served as marshal of the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron’s Prince of Wales Regatta in Halifax Harbour on September 20.

It wasn’t a typical sailing season for HMCS Oriole, but that doesn’t mean it was unsuccessful. The RCN’s oldest commissioned ship began sailing in mid-summer, and has spent the last few months at sea conducting local outreach and getting sailors, including new Commanding Officer LCdr Robert Pelton, trained and up to speed.

“It was a unique year for Oriole because of the times that we’re in, but we got out there and sailed as much as we could,” LCdr Pelton said. The tall ship just recently went for its final day sail of the season, and is now alongside beginning the process of de-storing for the winter.

A highlight for the latter part of the season was Oriole’s chance to serve as the marshal in the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron’s Prince of Wales Regatta on September 20. The ship also took part in other events with the Yacht Squadron earlier in the summer, building local connections in a way that isn’t possible during a normal season for Oriole.

Changes due to health and travel restrictions also meant that Oriole spent the summer with one consistent crew, rather than the usual rotating groups of cadets. LCdr Pelton said he turned this change into an opportunity, getting the sailors more time to build their proficiencies and allowing for more aggressive sails. He described raising the sails in 20+ knot winds to get Oriole up to speeds of nearly 12 knots at sea.

“That’s something we just wouldn’t be able to do with cadets on board, so it was pretty cool to go for it and see where our limits are.”

With the season now over and Oriole down to its core crew of only five, the focus has turned to preparing the ship to dock either in Lunenburg or Sambro for maintenance work, as well as planning for next summer. The crew will prepare for a number of possible scenarios depending on pandemic restrictions, keeping the safety of the sailors as the top priority.

What’s certain, however, is that Oriole will celebrate its 100-year anniversary in 2021. Though the ship wasn’t used for naval purposes until the 1940s, it was launched in 1921 as the new flagship of Toronto’s Royal Canadian Yacht Club.

“We’re putting some plans in place that will allow us to do as much with the ship as possible, given the potential for outbreaks in different regions,” LCdr Pelton said.

“I’m confident we’ll be able to celebrate Oriole’s 100-year anniversary in a great way, we just don’t know yet where we’ll be or what exactly that’s going to look like.”