HMCS Oriole on display during Canal Days


By Lieutenant(Navy) Bill King, Public Affairs Officer

More than 4,000 visitors boarded Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Oriole for free public tours in Colborne, Ontario during the first weekend in August. These tours were provided as part of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN)’s Great Lakes Deployment (GLD) and Port Colborne’s Canal Days events.

Built in 1921, HMCS 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, N.S. last summer.

HMCS 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 on Sunday night and train them how to rig and sail the boat. It takes four or five of them braced on the deck to pull in one sheet, 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 all again,” said Oriole’s Coxswain, Petty Officer 1st Class 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 with 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 Lieutenant-Commander Drew Foran.

HMCS Oriole departed its home port of Halifax at the end of May. The ship has hosted visitors in the Ontario communities of Toronto, Hamilton, Port Dalhousie, Oakville, Port Stanley, and Windsor. Oriole will visit Whitby and Kingston in Ontario as well as Quebec’s Trois-Rivières, Quebec City, Sept-Iles, and Gaspe before returning to its home port in late September.