To celebrate Toronto Brigantine’s 50th anniversary we are connecting with members, past and present, to share stories of their time on the Brigs. This is Pamela Juryn’s tale. Ms. Juryn was first involved with TBI in the early 70’s. She is still involved with sailing in British Columbia.
I have always loved Toronto Brigantine and I remember as a young married going out on Pathfinder, before she had masts, to meet the Kingston Brigantine coming down the lake to visit. They had the crew up on the yards and I remember it being one of those defining moments of my life. I jumped aboard when the ships came together. On the way back one of the kids taught me how to climb the mast, and I was hooked for life!
I became the “secretary” of Toronto Brigantine in 1974 when they had offices in a brand new Harbourfront Centre and I started Harbourside Sailing School in May 1975. One of the most exciting trips I took on Pathfinder was a cruise on the October 3rd weekend in 1970. In those days it was thought that girls were not strong enough to become watch officers, so they shipped boys for that job, but you couldn’t have boys and girls sleeping on the same ship without adult chaperons, and I was crazy enough to go as one.
Just before we landed at Niagara-on-the-Lake, we found a 25-foot boat with three people aboard in distress. Their sail had jammed half way up the mast and their outboard was not operable. They had been swept across the lake by a strong North wind and were in a mess of waves about to be swept ashore and wrecked. Pathfinder, under Mike Leigh in command, circled under power and after three tries managed to get a rope to them. They were able to secure it and we towed them back to Toronto, which took all night. I did a few hours on “tow watch”. It was early morning when we deposited them in Toronto Harbour and I remember they yelled to us – “We are SOOO grateful, what can we do for you?” I yelled – “Tell the newspapers!” and they did. They stayed grateful for a long time.
That was the most dramatic event I remember, but there was one funny one. I was not there, but it was recounted with glee by the officers at the time. This was the time when hippies were the big thing. I guess it was in the 60’s. A group of hippies chartered Pathfinder for a weekend and they set sail with the usual officers, but didn’t see why they should do what the officers said. So they sat around. I take it they were motoring slowly along the shoreline, and the hippies all sat there, so the skipper told the crew to do the same. It got to be lunchtime and everyone was just sitting there and continued to do so. When the hippy leader asked when they were going to get something to eat the skipper replied, “when the mornings work is done”, so after a bit more sitting, they decided he meant it and did the work. I believe they did finally get some sailing on the second day and the hippies were beginning to get the picture – that work was needed to get what you wanted. It must have been funny to watch.
When I started my sailing school at Harbourfront I used to hire Brigantine Watch Officers as instructors. The training they had on the Brigs meant that their seamanship was outstanding, they were usually pretty good at public relations, and I could count on the fact that my boats were safe with them. They usually were a little scruffy, but I inspected them every morning to see that they had shaved, were wearing their uniform (A blue T-shirt) and didn’t smell. One thing I could count on was how fast they could respond to an emergency. Most sleeping 17 to 19-year-old boys, you could pull the mattress off the bed and they would keep sleeping on the floor. A Brigantine Watch Officer, you stood by the bunk, said his name and stepped back quickly as he would be out of bed, have his pants on and be on deck before you could count three. Some of these wonderful people were, Bruce Hunter, Peter Campion and Rick Sullivan. I know Rick is the captain of a cruise ship now and Bruce was driving the RCYC tender at one point.