Historic Navy ship docks in Windsor during Great Lakes tour

The 97-year-old ship left Halifax in April for a 3-month tour of the Great Lakes

Posted: July 28, 2018

HMCS Oriole is the oldest commissioned vessel in the Royal Canadian Navy. It was launched in 1921 and decommissioned in 1952. (Flora Pan/CBC)

All aboard the oldest and longest-serving commissioned ship in the Royal Canadian Navy: HMCS Oriole — a 31-metre sailing ketch — has stopped in Windsor for the weekend.

This 97-year-old vessel has been making stops along major cities while on its Great Lakes deployment. It left its new home port of Halifax in April.

"It was a bit of a challenge, getting used to the boat at first," said Master Seamen Chris Jack, who has been sailing for 25 years, mostly on the East Coast, where his family lives.


Last year, the historic ship travelled from Esquimalt, B.C., to the East Coast, where it made multiple stops to mark Canada 150 celebrations. The voyage took the vessel down the Pacific Coast and through the Panama Canal, and totalled 33,000 kilometres.

Jack, who is visiting Windsor for the first time, said his journey on the Great Lakes so far has been fairly calm.

"We've been pretty lucky. The other night, we were anchored and we had a bit of hail and wind, and we were hailed over quite a bit," he said. "We've made out fine."

But, he admits, the engine room where Jack spends most of his time is not the most comfortable. "I've lost 20 pounds this trip already — I'm hot all the time."


Master Seaman Chris Jack says the engine room of HMCS Oriole is hot all the time, as there is no air-conditioning. (Flora Pan/CBC)

Naval recruitment

HMCS Oriole has been travelling with a land partner: A bus from the navy that's doing recruitment at every city stop.

While the crew takes a break from the water and explores the cities, navy reservists host the tours for people.

Alishia Reid has been sailing since 2011 and is part of Windsor's HMCS Hunter reserve. Working as a naval communicator, Reid said she became interested in the reserves after the nice uniforms caught her attention when she was walking through the University of Windsor.

"And they said, 'we help pay for college and university.' So that was the biggest thing for me," said Reid, noting she did her training in Victoria and Halifax.

HMCS Hunter has also started recruiting in high schools in the city through a co-op placement — the first naval unit in southern Ontario to do this, according to a spokesperson. Students can get high school credits out of the training.

Alishia Reid, 27, was born and raised in Windsor and has been sailing for eight years. (Flora Pan/CBC)

For Reid, she said her time in the navy has brought her to places she would never have been able to see otherwise. At 27, she's travelled to more than 20 countries in the past eight years.

"I've always loved the water, but to actually be in the middle of the ocean and not see land for a good week or two — it's a different experience to see things you can't take pictures of," she said.

HMCS Oriole will be making its way to Port Colborne, Ont., on Monday for the four-day Marine Heritage Festival.


Flora Pan

Flora Pan is a multimedia journalist based in southern Ontario. She currently works out of Windsor. You can reach her at or on Twitter @FloraTPan.