Category Archives: About Great Lakes

Old forts of the War of 1812 era

In my research of my Sinotte/Loiselle genealogy, the old forts of of early Canada are coming up, and and it overlaps in my learning about tall ships.  

  • Fort George
  • Historical Fort York – some pictures from Toronto Brigantine’s participation in a naval reenactment a few years back
  • Old Fort Niagara
  • Old Fort Erie – the site of Canada’s Bloodiest Battlefield
  • The Naval Establishment in Penetanguishene Bay – Discovery Harbor – [I didn’t realize all the early settlement activities in the Georgian Bay – or that my early ancesters would have gone through the Georgian Bay on way to Michigan and Illinois as engageur ouest.]

Toronto Brigantine has visited many of these forts and naval spots over our 50 years of program.

With the the 1812 Bi-Centennial celebrations coming up in 2012 I am sure that we will have the opportunity to visit these spots again in the coming months and years.  

The theme for the Bi-Centennial is all around Celebrating 200 Years of Peace.  See Visit 1812 for more information about upcoming events.


Through the Welland Canada (between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario

The Toronto Brigantine vessels go through the Welland Canal at least twice each summer! This summer we go through during course 5 and course 8, not sure which one is the one where we go “down”.


Here is a picture of the Pathfinder in the Welland Canal (between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario)


Here is a picture from 1998 of the Playfair going up the Welland Canal between Lock 2 and 3 in St Catherines. The same for the Pathfinder on the Welland Canal. Does that mean that they are going toward or away from Toronto?


Here is another picture of Playfair going through the Welland Canal with a bit of a description of what it is like to go through the locks.


In Aug 2007, the Pathfinder participated in the annual Canal Days festival in Port Colborne with the Empire Sandy, The Challenge, Appledore V and the St. Lawrence II. Here was a write up of the event.

Keewatin: her MARCONI radio room opens May 24, 2010

This summer 2010,  the MARCONI radio equipment from the ASSINIBOIA, will be lent from The City of Toronto’s Historical warehouse (from the old Marine Museum)   for display on the SS KEEWATIN.       The Radio shack has been recreated on the top deck of the Keewatin and the MARCONI equipment that was originally on the ASSINIBOIA, Keewatin’s sister ship, will be displayed there starting May 24, 2010.

Both the Keewatin and the ASSINABOIA were 350 feet long and pre-date Titanic by 5 years.      The Keewatin is a coal burning passenger steamer that sailed the lakes from 1907 to 1965. She is known for her refined accommodations and speed and sailed under the Canadian Pacific Railway flag.  She is in fantastic condition, one of the only Edwardian steamers still existing in the world.  She was build in Scotland and is now 103 years old. She is currently berthed in Saugatuck-Douglas MI, a short distance from Chicago IL.  

Here is a great video of “the Mighty Ship Keewatin” on youtube with music and lyrics by Albert Hall. The video features Eric Conway who started sailing the Great lakes at 17 as crew on the SS KEEWATIN in 1964. In particular,  the shots of the cadet and the guy flashing his wallet in the knitted sweater are Eric.

Eric Conway sent these pictures of the Keewatin from his trip to the ship April 2010.  

  Saugatuck April 017.jpg   Saugatuck April 020.jpg   Saugatuck April 022 (2).jpg
  Saugatuck April 035.jpg    


Perhaps one summer season, when the schedule allows,  the Pathfinder and Playfair and crew will be able to stop by to visit the Keewatin (we can’t this year because of the tight schedule that we have with the Great Lakes United Tall Ships Challenge 2010. 

Our Brigantine’s will look mighty punny – compared with the Keewatin!

Toronto Maritime Museum – NOT

In 2008, the Toronto Maritime museum was closed and all the exhibits are in storage. 

According to the posting in wikipedia, the Toronto Maritime Museum was previously housed in the historic Stanley Barracks on the CNE groups next to the museum boat the  tugboat Ned Hanlan (which is closed to the public).

In 2000, the Toronto Marine Museum was moved to a site on Queen’s Quay (in a 1930s shipping warehouse THE PIER) and it featured a number of historic model ships. See the discription here.

But it was in 2008, that the Museum on Queen’s Quay was also closed and all the displays put into storage in various spots around the city.  Apparently organizers are still looking for funding for a new museum location even now.

From time to time, items from the museum are lent out for display in other places. In fact, this summer 2010,  the MARCONI radio room from ASSINIBOIA will be lent for display on Keewatin from The City of Toronto’s Historical Warehouse (from the old Marine Museum).

There are a host of other Great Lakes Museums and Historic Vessels.  For those interested in marine history, you will see a listing of them  here.

One of the museums is the Fathom Five National Marine Park in Tobermory ON.  It is Canada’s first national underwater maritime park that includes 19 of the areas 26 ship wrecks, two of which can be seen from a glass bottom boat. Here is a picture of one of the ship wrecks that was scene by the crew of the Toronto Brigantine’s one recent summer. In 2010, we will be sailing near Fathom Five National Park during Course 5.

It was Clare Wescott that told me that he thought Kingston had one of the best marine museums. The Marine Museum of the Great Lakes at Kington was once part of a shipyard and explores the art of shipbuilding. The museum ship Alexander Henry, a former Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker, is open for tours and as a bread and breakfast.

…. And only time will tell whether Toronto will open up their Maritime Museum again!

A Toronto Brigantine Alumni sailed aboard the Onaygorah (once Concretia)

After Toronto Brigantine experience, Amanda Slade sailed on Onaygorah in 1982 (September through December), after her Toronto Brigantine experiences. She left the crew and returned to school (Georgian College) after the ship floundered in Jacksonville, Florida.   According to Amanda, the Onaygorah was later repaird and continged sailing in the Caribbean in early 1983 when it sunk enroute to the Dominican Republic.
Here is a bit of the history of the Concretia that was later names Onaygorah.

From posting on the internet, the Concretia (126x22x10) was built for the Canadian Dept of Marine (now Coast Guard) as a lighthouse supply vessel. Hull made of concrete and was 18 inches thick on the sides and 24 inchges at the keel.  Very heavy. Under full sail with a good wind top speed was 7 knots. Top of the main mast was 110 feet. Sold in 1935, and rebuilt barge.

The Concretia was abandoned in 1962 and lay as a hulk in Kingston harbour until sold again in 1979 to Captain Paco. She was refloated and converted to a sailing yacht/barquentine, renamed Onaygorah . In Spring of 1982 she was moored in Prinyers Cove near Picton.  


A 1982 newspaper article in the Palladium Times, tells of  crew to conduct a 5 year marine research in the South Pacific and Figi Islands. Maybe seized in Port au Prince for “non-payment of morring taxes” according to one post.

Someone remembers an old travel magazine that she read in 1988 that showed a picture of Onaygorah in a Dominican Replic advertisement. and Paul L reports that the ship was docked as a floating bar in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic in the mid 1980s.  

The rumor  was that she went down 1985 or 1986.  

Click here to see the chatroom discussion about her on  or here to discussions about her on

Similar to the Toronto Brigantine alumni experiences, those that sailed the Onaygorah seem to have memories of good time.