HMCS Oriole spending summer closer to home

LCdr Drew Foran, CO of HMCS Oriole, speaks to his crew before heading to a race night at the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron on July 15.

HMCS Oriole spending summer closer to home

By Ryan Melanson,
Trident Staff

The 2020 sailing season is looking a little different than expected for HMCS Oriole.

The RCN’s oldest commissioned vessel will be focusing on local outreach this season after being forced to change plans due to COVID-19.

While the original 2020 program had the RCN’s oldest commissioned vessel set for an east coast outreach deployment around the Maritime provinces and Quebec, including a stop in New York Fleet Week, those plans have obviously been changed.

Things also got started later than usual for Oriole; most of this year’s crew arrived in June, and day sails didn’t start until the beginning of July.

“This summer so far we’ve been focused on training the crew up in how to sail and how to rig the boat, which is a big job in itself,” said PO1 Ian Foster, Oriole’s Coxn, adding that along with training, the focus for the summer will be on local outreach. This started with the sailing ketch attending the weekly race night at the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron on July 15, and Oriole plans to continue working with local sailing clubs through the season.

“This will likely become a regular activity for us. It’s a great chance to show off Oriole to the local community and let people see this piece of history that we have. It’s a 99-year-old sailboat, which is one of a kind in the fleet,” PO1 Foster said.

Along with its core crew of five who are on board all year, this summer’s Oriole crew is made up of Regular and Reserve Force members, some of who are getting their first taste of this type of sailing. LS Andrew Green, the Chief Bosn’s’ Mate, said seeing some of those new sailors utilizing teamwork to learn the ropes has made the last few weeks exciting.

“I’ve sailed before, but a lot of this is still new for myself and the crew, learning our positions and what does what, especially for the people who haven’t done this previously. It’s been great to see everybody come together and form into a working unit that can go up and downwind safely.”

As with other CAF units, Oriole has made a number of changes to the daily routine in order to fight the spread of COVID-19, with physical distancing requirements on board changing things like the meal schedule and where sailors position themselves on the deck. When work requires members to be in close contact, they wear face coverings.

Despite those challenges and the changes to their overall program, PO1 Foster said the crew is still looking forward to a great summer of sailing and to showing the boat off to locals who don’t always get a chance to see it.

“The crew has definitely made the most of their summer so far, and they’re enjoying the chance to learn how to rig and sail a large vessel like this. Everyone’s in good spirits and we’re adapting to the new ways of doing business.”