James McConnell Visits with TBI, Sept 2011

Well, how lucky we were this  September 2011 weekend.

The Boats had just returned to Toronto from another great Summer Program on Georgian Bay and the Great Lakes between here and there. And  Pathfinder is just about to set sail for Montreal, via Kingston, where she will  be participating in the Tall Ships on the Quays 2011  festival there on September 7.

And in between the busy fall schedule, the brigs were fortunate to have a visit  from James McConnell.  He is in Toronto for a short visit, on his way from the east coast to the west coast and world ports far and wide from there.

And how lucky still — that Sterling Speed was  on hand at the boats — to give James a bit of a tour.

James McConnell (then known as Fred) sailed with Toronto Brigantine right from our early days – that is back to 1962!

He started as XO on Pathfinder with Captain Maurice Smith and the other officers of the day, Frank Smith, Paul Dzuban, Art Cooke and Keith Leewis.  He was one of the first to sail on Pathfinder even before she was fully rigged. James  was involved with the activities of Pathfinder’s first arrival in Toronto in 1963.

In 1968, James (then Fred) was promoted and became the first skipper of STV Trident II, a 37 foot  steel hulled Gaff Cutter that was used for basic training before the kids “graduated” to Pathfinder.

In 1973, James was also one of the first to sail on Playfair. Not to mention that James was the project manager for the build of Playfair starting in 1972 and also her first Captain – through to 1974 – with Paul Clarke as his XO then.

James has gone through his old photos and uploaded a bunch of old TBI photos, mostly black and  white, scanned from negatives from the 60’s, and 70’s. There are few shots of Maurice and the early wardroom personalities  in non-brig shots as well.  They include pics of Waupoos Island, the ‘P’ boats and Trident as    well as St. Lawrence II. And there are shots of the Playfair build.

And jumping forward to present day: Here is James on Pathfinder this weekend – September 2011, almost 50 years since Toronto Brigantine’s youth sail training organizations beginnings.

Here is James back at the helm of Playfair on his visit this weekend (okay so the boat is docked and the wheel is stored away but you can see how comfortable James is in the spot!

Like many of our TBI program alumni, he has many tall tales to share of his sailing experiences on the brigs. It has to have been the third time that I heard how resourceful  our crew can be – because James too, felled a tree with a pocket knife and made a replacement  mast after  the other one broke!  We look forward to hearing more stories and getting some of the pictures that he has saved from his brigantine adventures back then.

The check out the schedule of events of when other TBI alumni might be gathering click here:


or you might even want to book a charter in our shoulder seasons and create an alumni event of your own!



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