Category Archives: Alumni

TBI Articles in Whig-Standard

BRIGANTINE GROUP MARKS ANNIVERSARY OF PATHFINDER; IjeomaRoss. The Whig -Standard. Kingston, Ont.: Jun 1, 1989. pg. 1

TBI SAIL TRAINING LESS POPULAR AMONG YOUTH Whig Standard Jul 1989 – Open berths for Brigantines with waiting lists for sloops

Caption Only; [Final Edition 2]

travel. Kingston Whig – Standard. Kingston, Ont.: Jul 2, 1994. pg. 36

(Copyright The Kingston Whig-Standard 1994)

A nautical welcome: The Caribbean-based topsail schooner Unicorn of St.
Helier, above, is greeted by the Toronto brigantine Playfair as it enters
Toronto harbor. The largest group of tall ships to grace Toronto harbor since
the War of 1812 is on hand this week as part of the waterfront park’s 20th
anniversary celebration until July 4. In the photo on the right, it’s training
time for members of the new crew aboard the Polish tall ship Pogoria, which is
also taking part in the festivities.

Ex-sailors keep training program afloat: Coming to the aid of sinking ships; [Final Edition] Greg McArthur. Kingston Whig – Standard. Kingston, Ont.: May 23, 2003 pg. 1.Front
Interview with Ron Tasker and Kyle Hoobin.
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Jurgen Braunohler remembers sailing on Playfair 1975

[Story and pictures submitted by Jurgen Braunohler, Jul 3, 2011.  Jurgen is TBI alumnus from 1973 to 1975. He has been involved in sail training ever since and now is an author and public speaker about his sailing experiences. He now lives in Elliot Lake Ontario. ]

[Jurgen remembers well working under James McConnell during the build of Playfair.]

My first sail aboard Playfair was on a weekend petty officers’ training cruise in May, 1975, shown here.

Once again, one can see how different everything looked back then. Even Playfair’s deckhouse.

I was vigorously pursuing promotion to petty officer, but eventually gave this up due to health reasons.

The weekend cruise, under skipper Greige Cooke, took us eastwards as far as Newcastle and then to Oshawa, where we stayed the night before heading back to Toronto.

In slide 78, P.O. Bruce Hunter can be seen practicing with the leadline.

The last time I met Bruce, at the  Sea Hawks’ boatyard in the Portlands, he was Second Mate on a Caribbean cruise ship. Along with him was ex-Pathfinder cook and watch officer Rick Sullivan, who had become cruise ship Hospitality Master, if I remember that right. This was in the late 1990s or early 2000s. I have  since heard that Hunter became Captain.

Here is Neil Collins, Watch Officer (80).

My shipmates, left to right are Mark Boysen, Owen Lund,Ted Overton and Rusty Birch (81).


We were in the process of trying to enter Port Darlington, but ran aground in the harbour entrance (as we did at Newcastle, 20 feet from the pier), so we continued westwards to Oshawa (82), where the channel was just deep enough to kindly let us in.

[We welcome stories and pictures from other TBI alumni. You can sign up for Signals, our newsletter at our website www.torontobrigantine.org and perhaps we will see you at the next Pirates Ball in February 2011]

Maurice Smith, Pathfinder’s First Captain

Maurice Smith was one of the founding members of Toronto Brigantine right from our very beginning of the 1960s and is a lifetime member of Toronto Brigantine.  He is a regular visitor to the vessels and was just visiting at the boats this Spring.

He was Captain of Pathfinder from 1963 through 1977.

Here is a picture of him at the helm of Pathfinder in 1974 on a sail from Kingston to Sacket Harbor with a crew of trainees.  [Photo provided by Jurgen  with this Caption: “Captain Maurice Smith, Pathfinder’s first skipper, in a clowning mood and hamming it up at the helm (62). He’s holding the emergency back-up tiller, more effective that day in handling the shifting puffs of air” ]

Captain Smith has been with us for many of the milestones of Toronto Brigantine, 13 years as Captain of Pathfinder  …. and attending our 25th anniversary celebrations … and we look forward to hearing more stories from him about his TBI experiences as we approach our 50th anniversary.

Maurice Smith, with Rick Sullivan, came to speak to the Toronto Brigantine Officers and Officers at a Career Night in December 2011  that Mike Ellis, TBI Board Member and Parent Liason organized. He had such great, entertaining stories and solid advice to the officers as they consider their future career paths [Pictures to follow].

Maurice is about to finish up a new book… You should check out (and BUY) some of his previous books including “Steamboats on the Lakes”.

After leaving Toronto Brigantine, Maurice went on to be curator and founding member at the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes at Kingston.  He is now Curator Emeritus at the Museum. There are loads of interesting things to see at the Museum including the original plans for both Playfair and Pathfunder and other artifacts, photos and documents about Toronto Brigantine. It is worth a visit to the Museum if you are in Kingston.

We look forward to collecting stories from Maurice and others as we work towards gathering TBI history for our 50th anniversary celebrations. HOLD THE DATE: November 10, 2012 for the celebration kick offs.

And we also look forward to hearing from the hundreds of TBI Officers and Trainees that have stories to share of their experiences under Skipper Smith.


Toronto Brigantine Inc

413-215 Spadina Ave, Toronto ON M5T 2C7

tel: 416-596-7117

e-mail : office@torontobrigantine.org

website: www.torontobrigantine.org

Registered Canadian Charity 11926 5924 RR0001


TBI Alumnus Jurgen Braunohler remembers Waupoos Island

[Submitted by Jurgen Braunohler, TBI alumnus 1973-1975].

During shore training we learned sailing in dinghies, in the p-boats (22 foot lifeboats, slide 43) and during overnight trips in cutter Trident.


Mine took us from Belleville to Napanee, to Glenora, on the Bay of Quinte (44 – that’s skipper John Hamer sitting on the coach roof as we tacked our way down Long Reach in the direction of Lake Ontario). We did it under full sail in stiff winds and ran aground once. What a job that was, hauling her off the sand bar into deep water again.

Life on Waupoos Island approximated life aboard ship, complete with nightwatches. I could write a book about the whole thing, but a few things stand out. One was the infamous Waupoos Island “fire drill”, featuring a “real” and very healthy bonfire in the middle of the night.

What made things even more interesting was the fact that we were all thrown out of bed. Then our attempts to put out the fire bordered on the comic. But most memorable was the fact that this was the night that I, ahem…”lost my pajamas”. Being soaking wet after putting out the flames, I dispensed with them for the first time in my life and the habit stuck. A fitting start to my brig career.

Naturally, the end of that week brought the “Evolution”, a venerated Toronto Brigantine tradition. Since “Building Character Through Adventure” was (and still is) our motto, this was a test to see how much we had all learned.

Mine involved a camp-out that quickly soured when a violent storm all but washed everything into the lake, and then my sleeping bag was accidentally torched. It was a very long night. Next day we tacked home in the three p-boats, in strong winds such as in slide 45 – actually taken earlier. That’s the Pegasus with, left to right, skipper Randy Dittums, Petty Officer Farquharson and the young lad – his name was Greg, I believe, who showed such good leadership and who sailed on St. Lawrence II the following week.

We had an experimental, “two ship” program for those two weeks, in preparation for bringing Playfair into the program later. I got reminded of that Evolution in the movie “Wild Hogs”, starring John Travolta: with the scene of the flaming marshmellow that was accidentally flicked into the tent.

The shore training had value besides the character building and teaching us how to sail. It was also a good conditioning system, to produce reliable crew (perhaps expecting a vacation cruise?) who could be counted on to fall out of bed for an emergency, when the call was for “all hands on deck”, like that infamous fire drill.

TBI at Waupoos Island 1971 to 1976

Toronto Brigantine ran the shorebase program on Waupoos Island from 1971 through 1976.

Waupoos Island (40) is in Prince Edward Bay at the east end of Lake Ontario.  [Photo provided by Jurgen Braunohler, TBI alumnus 1973-1975].

Waupoos Island location was first opened in 1971 with Al Hazel as Director. Al Hazel continued as Director of the shorebase program at Waupoos Island through to 1976 when the Waupoos Island location was closed.   Over the years, Al Hazel had anumber of XO’s and Officers working with him.

  • In 1971, Stan Bydal was XO at Waupoos. Derek Wulff was also an instructor there that year.
  • In 1973, Doug James joined Al Hazel as Captain, David Mather as XO.
  • In 1974, Guy ? was Captain with Al. Doug Galvin was CPO at Waupoos Island that year as well.
  • In 1976, Richard Birchall was XO.
  • In 1977, Waupoos Island’s shorebase program was closed.

The program included one week of shore training followed by another week sailing aboard Pathfinder.

Here is Pathfinder at Waupoos Island 1972 [photo provided by Paul Clarke Jul 2012].

Here is Pathfinder, Playfair and Trident all togeter at Waupoos Island Camp, 1974. [photo provided by Heather Anne Bell, Jul 2012].

Here is Pathfinder docked at Waupoos Island, behind the 37 foot cutter Trident, used for overnight trips and as a stepping stone to the larger vessel. [Photo provided by Jurgen Braunohler, TBI alumnus 1973-1975].

At Waupoos Island, the trainees stayed at the barracks known as the “Seamen’s Block” [Photos provided by Jurgen Braunohler, TBI alumnus 1973-1975].

There were three other boats operating out of Waupoos Island over the 6 years there.  These p-boats (22-foot lifeboats) were Pilot (skipper Dean Powell) and Pequod (skipper Dave Hughes, future Playfair captain) and Pegasus (Skipper Randy Dittums).

Here is a photo of Pegasus.  [Photo submitted by Jurgen Braunohler, TBI alumnus 1973-1975].

Harvey the Rabbit was the mascot for Waupoos through the years.   [Photo submitted by Jurgen Braunohler, TBI alumnus 1973-1975].

Toronto Brigantine’s Winter Program now operates out of Marine West Quay in Toronto. After putting in over 10,000 volunteer hours working on the boats and training this winter, this Season’s Crew are ready to set sail with their first Summer Program trainees are scheduled to set sail just this afternoon on their way to Port Dover.

To book your berth for our tall ship sail training program this summer, contact the office today. www.torontobrigantine.org

Pathfinder Docked at Waupoos Island, 1975 [Photo provided by Jurgen Braunohler, TBI alumnus 1973-1975].

TBI Alumnus Rick Sullivan came to visit, Summer 2011

TBI Alumni Rick Sullivan

TBI’s First Home in Toronto was Spadina dock 1963

After taking 6 months to build at Kingston Shipyards, Pathfinder was launched May 6,  had engine trials on May 28, and the masts stepped on May 31.  Then, Pathfinder, crewed by sea cadets, came to Toronto under engine power and docked in Toronto at 2 pm on June 3, 1963 at the T Eaton Dock at the foot of Spadina Ave. They were welcomed by 10 motor yachts and Rule Britannia being played by the Vanguard sea cadets.

This article in the Globe and Mail describes Pathfinder ‘s early days and her trip to Toronto.

TBI Globe and Mail Jun 3 1963

After her arrival in Toronto she remained moored at the foot of Spadina Road where she remained for several months.

She was essentially a bare hull, with no interior joinery below of any kind. Maurice Smith, her first captain, enlisted the help of the teenage cadets from the cadet corps he belonged to in Toronto. He soon had a dedicated group of regulars coming down to work each weekend, including numerous adults who donated their skills and time during the week.
Here is an article with photo of some of the TBI youth working on fitting out Pathfinder – mentioned are alumni Douglas McKenzie, William McMullin and Dwight Morton.  The boat is getting ready to race SLII in August.
She was tied up for most of the summer, but was rigged enough to participate in that infamous Labour Day race against the St. Lawrence II after a long night of preparation. Still without square sails or yards, it is said that Pathfinder won the first of many Brigantine races.

For more information about Toronto Brigantine’s youth sail training program, check out our website at www.torontobrigantine.org

Pathfinder on Pier 6 with Haida in 1966

From 1963 to 1966, Toronto Brigantine program operated out of Pier 6. At that time, Pathfinder shared Pier 6 with Haida … the RCYC launch also sailed out from Pier 6 at that time.

Here is an article in Toronto Daily Star that promotes Pathfinders open house at the bottom of York St on Aug 26, 1964 [it is St Lawrence II that is shown in the picture]

TBI Toronto Daily Star April 25 1964

Here is an article from Toronto Daily Star that shows Pathfinder next to Haida. The article also mentions three of the thirty “tars” that are doing boat maintenance work to earn sailing time in the summer, Mike Church, Ted Sandau and Peter Staffer, in particular, are shown hard at work.

TBI Toronto Daily Star May 10 1966

Here is the picture of Pier 6 on Oct 19, 1965.  You can see Pathfinder in front of Haida. And in the background, you see TD Centre being built.

PC 14/8661 “York Street Slip, Destroyer HMCS Haida in the foreground, at its bow the Toronto Brigantine Inc vessel, Pathfinder.” October 19, 1965. Photograph provided by the Toronto Port Authority Archives.

TBI’s Girls Program as day programs right from the start

Girls sailed on the brigantines from its very beginning, but only for day sails.

Elaine Watson sailed on Playfair right from the early days and she sent us this note:

“We were …. Sea Rangers from SRS Endeavour and spent many winters sanding and preparing the ship for the summer season and we were the first girls to be allowed to sail on her either year one or year two (I am not sure which). We were rewarded with an overnight sail in late October, the first girls to overnight (officially) .. how times have changed. … we learned a lot about sailing from Fred McConnell and Maurice Smith. Thanks, Elaine Watson”

Here is an article about Pathfinders crew in 1963.  Pathfinder was still being fitted out. The work was expected to be done by August, and all by volunteers everying night and weekend, much like the program is still being managed today. Most of the youngsters belong to Sea Cadets and Sea Rangers back then.  Gregory Leigh, then 15,  says “baseball is boring compared to sailing”.  Arthur Cooke, then 15, says, “It gets in your blood.” And William McMullen, age 15, says “you get a chance to see foreign parts”.  Jane Gabura, then 15, says, “there is a grandeur and beauty to sailing”. and Ardene Miller, then 15, liked it a lot more than Girl Guides.

TBI Globe and Mail Jul 27 1963

This article describes Toronto Brigantine’s program for girls in 1965.

The Girls sailed on Sunday afternoons.  While the boys program was one week on land and one week on the water.

Avril Juce, Philippa Snape, Maureen Albert and Lucinda Doucette are mentioned as 4 of the 11 girls that sailed that day. The Captain was Maurice Smith, and Paul Oziuban was left home darning the sails all afternoon.

TBI Toronto Daily Star Womens Section Aug 9 1965

In 1971, Heather Sampson was promoted to WO Pathfinder, becoming TBI’s first female watch officer.

By 1976, the girls program expanded to the full two week program that the boys had.

And by 2011, our tall ship sail training program is a Program for Everyone, and available to everyone equally. We have about the same number of young men and women participating and our officers are similarly balanced by gender.

Call today to book your spot for the 2011 Summer Program. Berths and Bursaries are available.

Pocohontas (Poco), the lost and then found figurehead for Pathfinder

The figurehead for Pathfinder, Pochontas (POCO) was carved in 1970 at the Toronto Boat Show by Jack Whitehead, a renowned figurehead carver from the Isle of Wight.  [Jack had also carved the figurehead for the replicas for the Nonsuch that did its Great Lakes Tour in Jun 1971. He also carved the figurehead for TS Royalist, several TBI Alumni have done tall ship exchanges on TS Royalist.]

Here is a picture of “Poco, Pathfinder’s figurehead in his prime” [Photo provided by  Jurgen Braunohler, TBI Alumnus 1973-1975, taken 1974]. Jurgen remembers seeing Pocohontas being carved at the Boat Show.

Pochohontas (Poco) was lost in 1978 in what TBI alumnus, Geoff Kinney,  describes “a most vicious August storm” on Lake Erie.

Miraculously, Poco was found approximately twelve years by Ron and Marg Rowe while walking on a beach near  their home in Selkirk. Ron eventually donated it to the Port Dover Harbour Museum, where it remained on display unidentified, with an invitation to the public to speculate about what it might have been.

In 2005 Ernie Natte, a Lake Erie drill rig operator suggested to curator Ian Bell that perhaps it was an old figurehead off a tall ship… maybe the Pathfinder?

Ian called the TBI office asking if we knew of anyone who had lost a figurehead.

A few phone calls later, and with the help of the photo above provided by alumnus Doug Hunter, and Poco’s identity was confirmed.

Poco was returned to TBI in a homecoming ceremony at Toronto Brigantine’s annual Pirates Ball fundraiser at Steamwhistle Brewery in Feb 2006.  Jurgen Braunohler was again at this party to celebrate Pocohontas figureheads “homecoming” 35 years after seeing it being carved … and years after it being lost and then found!

The homecoming ceremony included a song composed and performed by Ian Bell. After the party Poco was returned to the Port Dover Harbour Museum for safekeeping.


Toronto Brigantine Inc

413-215 Spadina Ave, Toronto ON M5T 2C7

tel: 416-596-7117

e-mail : office@torontobrigantine.org

website: www.torontobrigantine.org

Registered Canadian Charity 11926 5924 RR0001