PLAYFAIR will launched in May 1973 – she is 40 years young

Paul Clarke’s “TBI HISTORY, Toronto Brigantine Incorporated, May 1962 to May 1980” records some of the early days of PLAYFAIR.

In 1972 Toronto Brigantine entered a new era. Due to the success of the program up to that time, and because each summer there were more applicants than could be given a berth, it was decided by the Board of Directors to build a second brigantine for the organization.  Once again the services of Francis MacLauchlan were secured to design the new vessel. His drawings revealed the new vessel to be once again similar to her two sister-ships, ST LAWRENCE II and PATHFINDER.  Maintaining the same (brigantine) rig, the hull was made slightly longer, with a fuller stern and more freeboard, resulting in a vessel of slightly higher displacement (45 tons).  Just as the Directors had done 10 years ago, an extended fund raising campaign was set in motion to try and raise the necessarily money to support the building and operation of the new vessel.

Named the Training Ship PLAYFAIR, she had the advantage of 20 years of brigantine sailing incorporated into her design.

Mr Jack Jones, then the Chairman of the Board of Directors was responsible for the over-all project, and was joined by Mr Fred McConnell. Fred McConnell had been Maurice Smith’s executive officer in the first wardrooms in the early year, and was now back with the official title of Project Manager.  During the construction period, most of his time was spent at Canadian Dredge and Dock Co., Ltd, in Kingston, where PLAYFAIR was built.

 TBI Playfair James McConnell and Francis McLaughlin working
 That is Francis McLaughlin and James McConnell up there working on Playfair, c 1973. Clipping provided by Paul Clarke.

PLAYFAIR was launched in Kingston near the end of May 1973.

 Playfairs first dip in the water Photo by James McConnell

Playfair launch a team effort

 Playfairs launching ceremony with the Jones

Playfairs climb to the launching ceremony

 Playfair’s first dip in the water. As always, everything with the boats takes huge team efforts.  Photo by James McConnell  Playfair’s Launching ceremony. And Mrs Jones’s commitment to the program and the ceremony demonstrated by the climb to get up to the plaform.  Photo by James McConnell

[Click here for more photos of that day]

On Wednesday, Jun 27, 1973, she was moved to a temporary berth in front of the city hall in Kingston, in preparation for her official naming cemetery. There was quite a stir in the air, because for months this day had been planned between the Board of Directors and officials of Buckingham Palace.  Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip arrived at 4:30 pm and with PATHFINDER’s crew respectfully manning the yards astern, the proud new brigantine’s name boards were revealed following the Queen’s proclamation. That act made PLAYFAIR the first Canadian Vessel ever to be named by a reigning monarch in the nation’s history.

 TBI Invitation to STV Playfair Naming by Queen Elizabeth  TBI Queen Elizabeth at Naming Ceremony 1973
 Invite Provided by Paul Clarke. And more photos from Paul Clarke posted on our Facebook Page here.  Photo provided by Paul Clarke. There is a color version provided by Doug Jones here.

[Click here for photos of that day: ]

PLAYFAIR was received in a similar condition to the way PATHFINDER was when she was launched. The hull and deck were completed, the interior steel transverse bulkheads were in place, the engine and generator had been installed and much of the electronic wiring was in place. Just as PATHFINDER had been done 10 years before, PLAYFAIR motored the length of Lake Ontario to Toronto where she came alongside at her new slip at Pier 5. As an index of rising costs of materials and labour, PLAYFAIR would cost approximately $230,000 by the time she was completed the following summer.

Under the tireless efforts of Fred McConnell, PLAYFAIR was made ready for sea in record time, and on July 30, 1974 PLAYFAIR was officially commissioned.

Her maiden voyage took her down to the beautiful short training base on Waupoos Island. A week later, an all-girl crew was signed aboard in what was the first regular girl’s training cruise.

And thus began, 40 years of tall ship sail training. Sharing the Great Lakes with PATHFINDER and ST LAWRENCE II and the many other tall ships that sail the Great Lakes.

Playfair from Pathfinder Summer 2012

James McConnell provides  more great photos of the early work on the PLAYFAIR.  The photos are posted here.

Contact Toronto Brigantine Inc to share more memories of PLAYFAIR … to provide financial or gift in kind support for our program and the many maintenance projects needed for the boats …  or to sign up for this next Summer’s sail training season.

Toronto Brigantine Inc

413-215 Spadina Ave, Toronto ON M5T 2C7

tel: 416-596-7117 e-mail : website:

Registered Canadian Charity 11926 5924 RR0001

One response

  1. Wonderful to have this recorded so well.

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