All aboard for Toronto’s Tall Ships


The largest of the Tall Ships to dock in Toronto is the SS Sorlandet of Norway. Visitors can board the majestic vessels during their weekend visit to the city. (Terry O’Neill/

Photos by Terry O’Neill Road Trips Columnist


Liana’s Ransom is among 11 Tall Ships invading Toronto this weekend for the Waterfront Festival. (Terry O’Neill/

TORONTO, ONTARIO — These days, the airplane is the mode of transportation that receives the most attention on the stretch of Lake Ontario running alongside Toronto. The City Centre Airport on the Toronto Islands serves 2 million passengers a year and those numbers will only increase as more flights are planned. This weekend, however, the Redpath Waterfront Festival endeavours to turn back time as the city hosts 11 wind-powered Tall Ships.

Visitors to the event can board the immaculate vessels from June 20-23, learning about what it’s like to be a crew member aboard one of these majestic sea dwellers. Three of the ships — Challenge, Kajawa and Empire Sandy — also offer the opportunity to go for a sail through the harbour of Lake Ontario. To take advantage of that thrill, visit the Day Sail webpage on the festival website.

If you really get hooked, you can even sign up for a two-week sailing adventure where you will be challenged to participate in the duties of a shipmate. One of the ships offering the Summer Sail Training program is the largest in the festival fleet, the 13,304-square-foot SS Sørlandet of Norway.

Another element of the program to check out is the Wharf at York theatre production that incorporates the War of 1812 and how the Great Lakes played a role during that confrontation. Naval battles and disruptions of shipping routes were an ongoing part of the war, which culminated in a treaty in 1814.

The Tall Ships deck tours occur daily from 10 am to 5 pm (9 am to 1 pm on Sunday). A 90-minute opening ceremony celebration takes place at the HTO Park on the waterfront on Thursday night. A large number of emerging musicians will be performing, while the bevy of food vendors are already out in big numbers keeping the harbourfront patrons well fed and thirst-quenched.

Tickets to board the Tall Ships start at $15 and can be purchased online. Visit the festival website for full details.

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Terry is an award-winning photographer and world traveller. Having lived in Michigan and Colorado, Terry is now based in Toronto and contributing her talents to She has been photographing since she was nine years old and continues to pursue her passion for telling stories through her lens. Among her favourite places in Canada are Banff, Ottawa and the Toronto islands.

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