Historic ship HMCS Oriole – still in service – will call at Bondar Wharf, open to visitors July 1-3
As Saultites gear up to celebrate Canada Day and enjoy the weekend, maritime enthusiasts have extra fun to look forward to.
HMCS Oriole – the Royal Canadian Navy’s Halifax-based sail training vessel – will be at Roberta Bondar Pier.
The public is invited to visit the ship from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from July 1 to 3.
“The Oriole celebrates its 101st anniversary this year,” Acting Second Lieutenant Scott Ferris, public affairs officer for HMCS Oriole, said speaking to SooToday from the ship during a port call in Tobermory.
“The ship was built in 1921 for the Gooderham family in Toronto. People in Ontario know this name from the whiskey trade – Gooderham and Worts Canadian Whisky. The family had the boat built for them, they loved racing. Mr. Gooderham himself was a great sailor on Lake Ontario for many years,” Ferris said.
The ship’s role changed during World War II.
“The family loaned the ship to the Navy for training purposes. She remained in the Navy until 1945. The family took her over for a short time, but in 1947 they realized they weren’t sailing as much as before and decided to sell her to the Navy for a dollar. The navy had to agree to the condition that they would maintain the Oriole and keep the ship as a training ship and since that time that is exactly what has happened,” Ferris said.
The ship was officially commissioned into the Royal Canadian Navy in 1954.
That same year, HMCS Oriole sailed from the east coast through the Panama Canal and headed for CFB Esquimalt on the west coast.
It remained there for over 60 years before returning to Halifax as its base in 2017.
“His main focus is training,” Ferris said.
“We combine training and awareness for events like what we’re doing in Sault Ste. Marie where we can interact with the public, but as the ship moves from port to port, we train the navy personnel on board.
Oriole sails from April to September or early October each year.
The ship and her crew, in addition to training, stop at ports for public visits to the Atlantic provinces and the Great Lakes, with possible future voyages along the eastern seaboard of the United States. United and maybe as far as the Caribbean.
“The Oriole is a very ocean-going, high-performance vessel, so we wouldn’t hesitate to take her that far. In the past, Oriole has raced from Vancouver Island to Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand. She’s a very capable ship,” Ferris said.
While there’s a definite “wow factor” among adult Oriole visitors, especially those with a military or naval background, Ferris said the ship has also impressed younger guests.
“We visited many groups of sea cadets. These people have a keen interest in all things nautical. In Sarnia recently a group of about 15 cadets came to the ship and were really excited about what they saw and asked us a lot of questions about life in the navy, what can they expect if they decide to pursue a career in the Navy.”
“That’s one of the great benefits of the outreach we’re doing is connecting with these young Canadians to say that your Royal Canadian Navy is a vibrant and dynamic organization. There is a wide range of opportunities and coming to sail aboard Oriole is certainly one of them. It’s unlike anything you’ll do in the Navy.
Generally speaking, Ferris said the Navy is still recruiting, with a need for skilled trades personnel.
Signing bonuses and training opportunities are available.
“The navy is definitely worth exploring,” Ferris said.
Ferris said the crew was happy to have visitors on board this year, as COVID has banned visitors from boarding the ship during her visits for the past two years. Visitors could only view the ship from the dock during this time.
“This year we are going to take you on board, all over the upper deck of the ship, talk to you, explain to you what the ship does, explain to you what we do as naval personnel and we can talk face to face. It’s so much better. »
Oriole has 21 crew members on board serving in various professions.
“It takes every minute of every hour of every day to keep this ship running. She is still rigged as she was in 1921. There is modern technology on board, we have electronic navigation systems etc, but we raise and lower the sails by hand. We do not have winches on board. Everything is done by hand,” Ferris said.
The majority of the crew members are on board after applying to be part of the Oriole team.
“You have submitted your name and hope to be selected. A lot of the crew feel like they won the lottery coming to a position like this because it’s so unique. It’s very different from being on a warship. Learning some of these fundamental maritime skills working on a sailboat in wind, waves, tides, currents is very different from any other vessel. These skills are more needed today than ever before,” Ferris said.
At the end of the Second World War, Canada’s navy was the fourth largest in the world, behind those of the United States, United Kingdom and the former Soviet Union.
This formidable size and the role of the Royal Canadian Navy throughout history are facts that are barely mentioned in schools at the elementary, secondary and post-secondary levels in Canada.
Shouldn’t naval history be taught in schools?
“Yeah, but I come at it from a very biased perspective being in the Canadian Armed Forces myself, but it’s tough,” Ferris said.
“The younger generations and their connection to these pursuits are getting harder and harder to maintain every year, trying to teach that kind of history, but it’s an important part of who we are as Canadians.”
“When we really see that resonate with Canadians, of course it’s Remembrance Day and we see tens of thousands of people, hundreds of thousands of people coming out of this country for Remembrance Day services in the cities and towns across the country, but it is extremely important that we know that we have this proud military history and a proud military today that is strong and capable.
“The challenge becomes, certainly within school systems, that there are a lot of priorities about what needs to be taught to school children today. I certainly hope that a way will be found to maintain a way to pass on this legacy and this heritage. We can certainly do some of that through what we do with Oriole to connect with Canadians. We can show them what your Royal Canadian Navy looks like today, and what the men and women serving today are capable of, what they do, where in the world they do it.
“It’s a great opportunity for us that way,” Ferris said.
“We are really looking forward to coming to Sault Ste. Marie and for Canada Day in particular. It’s gonna be a lot of fun.