The tall ships sailed into Toronto Harbour yesterday afternoon, white sails piled up into the sky like cumulus clouds, cannons firing and generally putting on a wonderful show. I was watching out particularly for the US Privateer Lynx. Captain Stefan Edick had first messaged me at 05 dark 30 to say they had their best day’s sailing yet the day before and a gentle sail overnight and that they had arrived off Toronto. As they’ve sailed up the lake, we’ve become quite acquainted electronically and I’m really looking forward to meeting him. I was glad they had the morning to get their ship squared away before parading in with several other visiting tall ships.
The fireboat, sending cannons of water spraying into the air marks the start of the procession, leading these majestic ships through the harbour’s Eastern Gap. Unicorn is followed by Lynx, then Pride of Baltimore II, Niagara and finally Sorlandet, the largest vessel in the fleet, from Norway.
While the others are under sail, Sorlandet has doused her sails, dressing the ship with signal flags, and posing the crew handsomely in the rigging.
Several ships mount cannons and they’re fired off with great enthusiasm. I’m pleased Lynx has the loudest charge. No stinting on powder for Captain Stefan. As his ship comes level with the spot where I’m waiting with the Harbourmaster and a line handling crew–and I’m sure he was completely unaware of my presence–the starboard cannon is pointing right at me as it discharges. I’m so startled I’m amazed the picture turned out. Diane, standing beside me, actually squeaks.
Along Harbour Square Park East, Niagara docks first, her yards sticking so far over her sides that they almost touch the trees along the boardwalk. Then in comes Pride II, graceful as an ocean greyhound, her square rigged yards pulled back almost fore and aft. Finally it was time to squeeze Lynx into the dock, and she made it very nicely, but her bowsprit hung off the end of the dock by many feet. Fortunately, the pirate ship, Liana’s Ransom, docked at right angles is not going out during their stay.
While docking is taking place, re-enactors are rehearsing in the period village that has sprung up in the park behind us. Swords clash, lines are declaimed and Canada generally wins the war of 1812 again. I wonder what our three visiting historic American ships will make of that when the show opens to the public this morning.
I spend the afternoon on board, chatting with various members of the crew as Captain Stefan wrestles with the bureaucracy at Canada Border Services Agency. Finally all is organized and the crew and passengers can go ashore. The 1812 displays are set up in the park nearby and ready for today’s onslaught of visitors. The ships are spread along the waterfront. The whole Redpath Waterfront Festival is free, but access to the ships is by coded wristband. Those have to be ordered online through the Festival website in advance or bought onsite. The weather promises to be fair and this is something really worth a visit. Come early and be prepared for line-ups.
The official opening ceremonies take place in HTO Park at 1830 tonight and as I hinted in my last story, Lynx will be firing her cannon as she sails past as part of a dramatic performance. The Parade of Sail concludes the Festival with a sailpast of all the ships starting at 1600 on Sunday. Between times, there are lots of other activities and best of all the ships are all open for deck tours, starting at 1000 today through 1300 Sunday.
Meanwhile, Chief Mate Cheyenne Dutcher arranges for me to get a commemorative Lynx cap and T-shirt and introduces me to the cook for a tour of the boat. The cook, I kid you not, is named Koriander Pepper. How could she not be a ship’s cook? First up she offered me home made ginger snaps. I compliment her. She texts me the recipe. I ask her for the recipe to her success in feeding the crew. She has three secrets. First: the food is always served on time; second, the food is hot; and third, the food is plentiful. The crew work so hard and so continuously that they’re always hungry. Apparently, quality is not a consideration, the food just better be there when they need it, piping hot and lots of it. The bonus is that everyone I spoke to was full of praise for this talented young woman at the start of her career. The Captain said she makes the best pie crust he’s ever had afloat. Others commented on the fresh bread she bakes every day. The four paying guest crew members, all mature folks, were equally forthcoming on Kori’s talents in the tiny galley.
Then she shows me how she lights the strange diesel fuelled range and invites me to help prep dinner for the few crew members who are dining on board. She has peeled green apples simmering in a sauce of onions, nutmeg, fresh ginger and diced habañero peppers. I help by slicing up some chicken breasts, stirring them in and making sure nothing is going to burn. A big pot of rice is ready to serve. The smells in the galley are wonderful. Although I enjoyed sailing talk with the Captain and the Chief Mate, this was the highlight of my day.
Later, as I was driving the Captain and Chief Mate to a private dinner party, Kori emails me her recipe and a picture of her dish, which I am very pleased to share below.
Apple Habañero Chicken from Koriander Pepper, Privateer Lynx cook
1/2 cup butter
1/2 a whole nutmeg, grated
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
2 habañero peppers, diced fine
1 large green apple, cored and sliced fine
1/2 medium onion, sliced
4 large chicken breasts, sliced
Salt, pepper and garlic to taste
Simmer the chicken in the sauce, covered, until the chicken is just cooked. Serve with rice and salad.