Toronto Brigantine at OP Sail ‘76

Updated Feb 16, 2012:

Toronto Brgiantine’s vessels, STV Pathfinder and TS Playfair, have participated in a number of international events. The most recent being in 2010 with the 2010 Great Lakes United Tall Ships Challenge. The next one will be in 2013.

In 1976, we participated in OP Sail’76 in New York City. This was one of the greatest gatherings of tall ships from around the world. The 1976 event was the second in a series of 6 events so far, with the next one planned for 2012. The Ops Sail has the goals of promoting good will and cooperation between countries while providing sail training and celebrating marine history.

Toronto Brigantine’s journey to OpSail began in Toronto with a ceremony to send off Pathfinder and Playfair and their crew.  TBI’s boats then joined up with our “sister” St. Lawrence II in Kingston, for another send off with the three boats.

Here is a copy of the Program from these ceremonies.

All three of the vessels are listed in the Operation Sail 1976 Program guide in TBI’s archives [received from Mike Leigh]:

  • Pathfinder. Built in Kingston Ontario in 1963, this 71′ brigantine is operated as a schoolship by Toronto Brigantine Inc of Toronto. She brings 21 Canadian sail trainees to Opsail ’76.
  • Playfair. Launched this year at Kingston Ontario, this 72′ brigantine is another sailtraining vessel operated by Toronto Brigantine Inc. Like Pathfinder, she brings 21 Canadian sea cadets to Opsail ’76.

Here is a picture of a Christmas postcard that shows the boats in the sail.  The picture was posted to Facebook by Warren Jones.

Both the STV Pathfinder and TS Playfair sailed with our sister ship, St-Lawrence II from Kingston, through the Bras d’Or and down the east coast to New York City.

Below, Is a picture of the three ships from St-Lawrence II’s website.

Richard Birchall was aboard the Pathfinder as they participated in the Bicentennial Fleet Review and the Parade of Ships on the Hudson River and New York Harbour on July 4th.

Mark Collins, another TBI alumni remembers his Op Sail ’76 adventures as well  – while he wasn’t part of the sail down to NYC, he did bus down to join the boats and host “Open Ship” day, explore New York city and do part of the sail back around Island to Sag Harbor before taking the bus back to Toronto.  He started and ended the summer at Waupoos Island.   Click here for his memories of the trip.

Doug Galvin, another TBI Alumni got to sail down to Op Sail ’76 on Pathfinder and he tells of his memories here.

Bill Stewart also remembers Opsail: “actually I did march – tickertap parade up Broadway – fantastic.”

David Carlson sailed to Opsail 76 with fellow crew John and Arnie Mierins and Gad Perry among others.  His memories were recorded in an article “Those Who Go Down to the Sea In Ships” in the Ashbury College yearbook,  Ashburian 1977.   There were memories of seasickness, running aground,  being tossed about by the waves of passing tankers in the St Lawrence and salty ways of the ocean,  heavy seas and fog … and finally getting a MacDonalds hamburger after a stretch of missing fresh water …and he categorized it overall as “a peak experience”. See the article here.

Those Who Go Down To The Sea in Ships Ashburian 1977

This photo was provided by Jurgen Braunohler and is believed to have been taken by Ken Elliott while on the Atlantic passage to NYC in 1976 and click here to see other photos of the brigs taken by Ken Elliot.

We look forward to hearing more stories and getting more pictures from this event from our Toronto Brigantine alumni!

I can imagine that there was always something new and interesting to see and until we get a chance to review our photo archives and connect with other Alumni that were there that might also have some photos, here are links to sites with photos on the internet.

  • John Cerre posted some pictures from the event on SmugMug .
  • GerryMcGee also posted some pictures from the event  SmugMug.
  • There is even a book “The Tall Ships: Official OpSail ’76 portfolio by Frank Osborn Braynard who was co-founder of the Ops Sail. I wonder if our Pathfinder is in it! There is a copy of the book is available at a number of different book stores  in the US and one here in Toronto, CMG Books. (check out Alberis in case you want to buy one of them). I sent a note to see if they would donate the copy to a silent auction. Lets see what we hear!

An interesting bit of Trivia…. The Christian Radich, from Norway,  also participated in the Operation Sail parade in New York Harbor on July 4, 1976. The founding of Toronto Brigantine was actually inspired by the film, Windjammer, by J Garfield Lorriman and his wife Mary back in 1960. And after seeing that movie, the dream to build a youth sail training ship for Toronto was born and the launch of our first ship the Pathfinder in 1964. This picture of the Christian Radich  was taken by Jim McNitt “off Cape Bay near Philadelphia  in 1975. Jim has quite a portfolio of pictures, some that he has posted here.

And for those interested in seeing some of the Navy Ships from the Op Sail ’76, some of the same vessels may be participating in Op Sail events being planned on the Great Lakes in 2013 as part of the  Bicentennial of 1812 celebrations.

  • In 2010, Toronto was planned to be part of a launch event org by US Navy with Op-Sail working up to the Bicentennial 1812 celebrations. Specifically a bunch of US Navy fleet  will be  in Toronto Sep 1-5 with CNE and Air Show  as part of an overall tour including  Norfolk, Boston, Baltimore, NY and Toronto.  The Brigantine’s will be out-of-town on the summer sail schedule so will miss it.
  • In 2012, US Navy will make Great Lakes Tour – Kingston, Toronto (Battle of York in April), ending in Chicago and coincides with much of the Toronto Brigantine summer sail schedule, so we should be able to participate in some capacity in the Op Sail activities in the Great Lakes.

For more information on the upcoming Op Sail 2012 activities, click here for their official website.


One response

  1. Op Sail 1976 another First for the “Great White Bitch”. Lucky me I got the first watch as we departed Toronto on or about May 26th 1976. We were all set to go with our Radar and Loran equipment fresh food and a crew of women. Imagine 6 teenage guys and 21 girls. We headed for Kingston where we changed crews and got the first batch of Private school lads who were going to crew the ship for 30 days. Uneventful leg other than the fact I almost steamed us into a Freighter one night. It looked like an island to me. We steamed most of the way down the St Lawerenc to get through the locks and keep on schedule. Finally once we past Trois Rivieres we started to sail. I think this is where I got fired as a watch officer and hired as the cook. Bruce Hunter went from Bosun to Watch officer, Jamie Tannahill through in the towel as a cook and maintained the ship and I resumed the postion in the galley. It is a good thing as the crew was getting a little cranky.

    It was a magestic sight when we awoke one morning to see the cliffs of Gaspe Pennisula off our Starboard bow. We toured around Pierce Rock and into Gaspe with our escort of whales.
    The following day we head out to the Madeline Islands a picturesqe crop of rolling green hills in hte middle of the Gulf of St Lawerence. As we arrived in the harbour, a young frenchman came to see us in his 1950’s pick up. He said that he had seen us in the morning and invited us to his farm for dinner. I forget if the whole crew or just the Wardroom went, but he drove us out to the end of the islands where he and his wife put on the best cod dinner I had ever had.

    The following morning we set out for Cape Breton and the Bra d’or Lakes. It was clear sunny day with strong winds and a heavy sea running. After dinner watch officer Bill Stewart asked for some help on deck. It seems the ensign hallard came off its cleat and the Canadian Flag was blowing and dragging through the sea. One of the crew was asked to go get it, but he froze on the first set of rattlings. So I through on a harness and clambered up the main mast and out to the end of the main gaffe. It was a beautiful view from up there. I gathered in the ensign and and rode the gaff for awhile before some suggested I come down. It was a good thing because I forgot to clip on. Oops.

    We had a great trip through Cape Breton and into Halifax. There we changed some crew and headed out to Lunenburg. Fred Stinson a TBI Board Member was along for the cruise. We served up some of Ma’s famous “Throw up Fondue” and some fresh baked pie. We had a great tour of Lunenburg and the Bluenose.

    The following day we set out for a 5 day crossing of the Gulf of Maine. Essentially it was gale force winds, we were doing 12 hour tacks . The St Lawernce II had to turn back as they blew a hatch and were concerned about taking on two much water. Pathfinder having a low centre of gravity handled the seas well. The crew not so much. Several guys went into shock they were so sea sick. We didn’t see Skipper for 2 days. We had been healing over so much that the salt water polluted our own fresh water tanks through the breathers on deck. Some of the guys seemed quite desperate. we thought we had found a source of non contaminated water in the hot water tank but to no avail. We lived on the juice from canned fruit for 3 days.

    We finally arrived in Marblehead, but head to wait to clear customs. I thought some of the guys were going to jump ship. All in all it was great leg of the trip with lots of memories.

    From there we started down east coast of the US. We stop ped in New Bedford and Stanford Conn. We got a very clear view of all the wealth in the US. We went to our First Block Party in Stanford

    From there it was on to NY for the Sail Past and Ticker Tape Parade. It was an amazing time for a 17 year old. Got lost in Battery Park and had to find my own way back to the Brig around 51st street W. After the festivities we set sail for a trip around Long Island.

    From there we saled up the Hudson as fair as we could before we decommissioned the ship and steamed the rest of the way up Hudson canal. It was fairly uneventful until we ran aground one morning while waiting for the locks to open. Normally we would just idle and wait, but this time there was dam that was open and pulling us out of the marked channel. We tried the normal tricks with a kedge line and such but it did not work. Fortunately there was a tug in the lock who was able to winch us off.

    From there we sailed to Waupoos and a well earned Leave for some of us.

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