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Bright Lights, Big City

Posted by Tall Ships America on June 21, 2013

Pride of Baltimore II arrives into Toronto

Pride of Baltimore II arrives into Toronto

20 June 2013 Toronto, Ontario

The tall ships departed Brockville as a fleet Monday morning and set their sails as they headed south up the beautiful St. Lawrence River. I was sailing aboard Unicorn, where five military daughters have joined the professional crew for a leadership and sail-training program. After less than two weeks aboard, the teenage girls are proficient at plotting a position on the paper charts, monitoring the engine during their half-hour boat checks, cleaning the galley until it sparkles, and consuming an entire package of Oreos during night watch. During the transit, every girl was paired with a professional crew member in an effort to observe each other’s personal strengths and leadership qualities. I was once told that many of the primary navies in the world are building tall ships as the best platform for character development, for leadership training, and for building teamwork. Watching these young women at work – both the novice sailors and the professional mariners – it is evident how empowered they are by their experiences on tall ships and how much confidence the students have gained in their own abilities.

Happy crew on Unicorn

Happy crew on Unicorn

By early evening, Unicorn had put forty nautical miles behind her and dropped anchor in the Thousand Islands. The other vessels were already out of sight and did not reappear until Wednesday morning, when we saw sails ahead and behind on the horizon as we approached Toronto. With our binoculars and a Tall Ships America directory in hand, the crew compared the various rigs and sail plans of each ship and identified them as they approached. For the professional mariners aboard, the tall ship world is so small – there are more astronauts out there than tall ship sailors – that many of us have sailed on the other ships and have close friends throughout the fleet. Thus, we are as excited as the public to see all the ships sailing together!

Opening Ceremonies

Opening Ceremonies

The tall ships are now docked along a two kilometer strip of the Toronto waterfront. The parks and docks were bubbling with anticipation this morning, with visitors lining up outside the ships before the tours even opened and vendors setting up wares all along the quays. Now, the Redpath Waterfront Festival is in full swing, with people from all over the city and beyond pouring through the gates despite the prominent street construction and chilly breeze. With the opening ceremonies tonight, three days left of the festival, and its culmination on Sunday with a parade of sail, I am certain that it will be a busy and exciting weekend for all!

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