The Tall Ships have left Toronto Harbour

Approaching the Ferry Dock Park at 1 Harbour Square the sight of the mast tops towering above the trees came as a jolt; an anachronistic sense of the surreal
In total 15 masted ships lined the Lakshore stretching from the Ferry Docks all the way along to The Spadina Music Gardon, moored any which way; a tangle of masts, rigging and bunting meshing with the skyline condos and skyscrapers.
$15 bought us a daily boarding pass to explore all 15 of the ships, which took most of the day.
First up and at the top of the sail-plan hierarchy was a full-rigged ship  `The Bounty`,  yep a reconstructed replica of original, constructed for the 1962 versions of Mutiny on The Bounty with Marlon Brando – I always did think that Captain Bligh got an unfair rap through this film`s portrayal of him as a tyrant. There was one “bark“ (next down in the sail hierarchy), “ The Europa“ which is the last of its kind to still regularly sail down to the Antarctic and round the Cape of Good Hope (yikes). We visited several brigs – including the reconstructed the “ÙS Wyoming“which won the battle of Lake Erie in 1813 when the French, English and Americans were at it tooth and nail for North American dominance –  and several schooners  (almost at the bottom of the tall ships food chain depending upon number of masts).
Some were “local” Great Lakes gals whilst others were from more exotic shores having sailed from as far away as South Africa and the Netherlands. Some were reconstructed versions of actual ships, others were lovingly preserved vessels carefully pieced back together and restored to their original glory by bands of enthusiasts.
All however, were here to take part in the Tall Ships Great Lakes Challenge – a race through the largest body of fresh water in the world.
As a not so quick aside and for those not familiar with the awesomeness (sorry, it really is the only word that will do), of the Great Lakes and their importance, they consist of Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario. Lake Superior is the highest at an elevation of 600 feet down to Lake Ontario which is 250ft above sea-level.
Lake Huron was first seen by a European (Etienne Brule, a French explorer) in 1612  followed closely in 1615 by Samuel de Champlain who journeyed up the Ottawa river and crossed overland to Georgian Bay on Lake Huron. The Fur trade was the first draw to the region, and when that diminished in the mid 19 century, the copper and iron trade was waiting in the wings after being discovered in large deposits near the shore of Lake Superior. The construction of the first ship canal at Welland – thereby bypassing Niagara Falls – and later at Sault St Marie, overcame the last major hindrance to shipping in the Great Lakes at this time. Tall ships dissappeared here as in everywhere else in the world in the mid 19 century, giving way to steam powered Lake freighters.. All along the Shores of these Lakes, cities such as Toronto, Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland grew and flourished. As soon as the St Lawrence seaway opened in 1959, foreign trade increased.
Coming from Europe and with a background of visiting many of the great Ship Museums of Europe, I found it hard to come to terms with the sheer volume of shipping on a body of water other than a sea. Trades have been plied; huge and historically important battles have lost and won; and many lives lost as a result of the terrible storms ever present in these waters. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of shipwrecks in the Great Lakes, thanks to these storms. Just to put this in perspective, the Great Lakes storm of 1913, with winds of 90mph and waves of other 35ft,  killed more than 250 people, destroyed 19 vessels and stranded 19 others. And of course with the hundreds of ships lost in the Lakes, follow the tales of ghost ships and hauntings –  none so strange as the case of the schooner The `western reserve`which went down in 1892 in the waters off Deer Park Michigan. All but the wheelman survived the wreck and  Captain Trudell of the Great Lakes Life-Saving service dreamed the detailes of the accident before it happened – a dream so vivid that he recognised the Captain Peter Minch when it was finally washed up on the shore. It allegedly continues to ply the shores of Lake Michegan to this day………
Anyhow, back to the present day and a little more about the `bark Europa`touched upon earlier. This is indeed a very special ship. It was originally built as a lightship for the city of Hamburg in the early 1900`s. Now owned by a dutch company and nicknamed the “Ocean Wanderer“. The better half wanted to sign up there and then for a trip. And it IS the last true Shackleton experience left on the planet as it sails to Antarctica 4 times a year crossing the treacherous Drake Passage  –  the roughest crossing in the world  – in a 3 masted vessel with only a small engine (for emergencies) it takes 36 hours to cross this body of water.Are you kidding!!
 Over and out                      

4 thoughts on “The Tall Ships have left Toronto Harbour

  1. Wonderful blog! I truly love how it’ s easy on my eyes as well as the data are well written. I am wondering how I can be notified whenever a new post has been made. I have subscribed to your rss feed which need to do the trick! Have a nice day!

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