Beyond the Horizon, Ahead or Behind
Posted by Tall Ships America on June 26, 2013
22 June 2013 – Toronto, Ontario
Thousands of people have flooded Toronto’s waterfront for the Redpath Waterfront Festival. With the rain past and the sun shining, the decks are full of children exploring these magnificent ships. Their parents are just as curious, as they ask about the history of the vessels and what it is like to sail aboard these boats today. Though these vessels are all from different periods of history and have different missions, seeing them all lined up along Toronto’s quays is reminiscent of the days when sailing ships filled the Canadian port towns and were an integral part of the Great Lakes industries.
This year, America and Canada are commemorating the War of 1812, a war that not only determined the international border but that greatly impacted the shipbuilding industry in North America. When the war began in June of 1812, the young American navy had sixteen naval vessels, 5000 seamen, and 1000 marines. For comparison, the British navy, considered to be the best navy in the world at that time, had more than 500 warships, 140,000 seaman and 31,000 marines.1 Thus, due to necessity, and thanks to the abundance of good lumber, the shipbuilding industry in North America boomed during the war. By 1814, the American navy had both increased in size and won several decisive sea battles.
Along the Toronto waterfront, America’s Privateer Lynx and Pride of Baltimore II are both replicas of square tops’l schooners built during the war. Their raked masts and wineglass-shaped hulls are a trademark of the Baltimore Clippers and enabled these vessels to outrun the enemy, whose ship designs more resembled floating bathtubs. US Brig Niagara, a warship built in 1813, is a shallow vessel designed for the lakes and for battle. With her 32-pound carronades and her long guns, Oliver Hazard Perry led Niagara to a sweeping victory during the Battle of Lake Erie. These historic vessels are joined this summer by nearly two dozen members of the modern tall ships fleet, each with their distinct designs and programs and histories.
So, whether you are a history buff, an avid sailor, or simply a curious onlooker, the Great Lakes are the place to be this summer. We’re hoping for sunny weather during the festivals and fair winds as the ships race from port to port. But even if it’s stormy, we’ll be here – and hope you will be, too!