BY LINDA MONDOUX
The 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, commemorated with special events across Ontario for the next two years, is the perfect opportunity to get up close with those beloved Tall Ships.
Spectacular events, including gun battles on the ground and on the water, will be held in several waterfront communities in July and August, with Tall Ships part of the action.
Not only will you get the opportunity to step back in time to the war days, you’ll have the chance to tour the decks of several Tall Ships — and even go for a cruise!
First, a bit of history.
It was on June 18, 1812, that the United States declared war on Great Britain and its British North American colonies in what is today Central and Eastern Canada. It took the combined efforts of the British army and navy, English- and French-speaking militia volunteers and First Nations allies — the first time all came together in a common cause — to defeat the American invasion. The end of the war on Dec. 24, 1814, laid the foundation for Confederation, and Canada’s ultimate emergence as an independent nation in North America. It also ushered in what has become two centuries of peace and friendship between Canada and the United States.
Much of the conflict was waged in Ontario, where the vessels of the Provincial Marine fought to defend Canada from attack on the Great Lakes and major rivers. One of the most significant events was the Battle of Lake Erie, in September 1813, that gave the Americans control of Lake Erie and forced the British back to the Thames River area, where Shawnee Chief Tecumseh died in the Battle at Moraviantown.
To commemorate the Battle of Lake Erie, a Tall Ships festival, with up to 25 international vessels expected to participate, is being planned for late 2013. Several Great Lakes communities will host the Tall Ships, so you’ll be able to can travel from one harbour to another.
If you missed Tall Ship visits to Barrie, Windsor, Bath and Kingston earlier this spring and summer, you won’t have to wait until 2013 to take photos, with plenty of War of 1812 events still to come featuring brigantines, elegant schooners and gunboats.
JULY 14-15 — NIAGARA-ON-THE LAKE
Titled The Navy of 1812: Sailors on the Lakes
, this premier bicentennial event in Niagara-on-the-Lake features six Tall Ships — the brigantines Pathfinder
, Fair Jeanne
and St. Lawrence II
, and the schooners La Revenante
— plus 22 longboats, 300 sailors and 200 naval re-enactors. The squadron will be flying the 1812 colours, with little Caledonian
acting in the role of a small picket schooner ahead of the ships.
The re-enactors will be camped out on the river section of Fort George, where you’ll hear the sounds of gunfire and fireworks. Parks Canada special events coordinator Peter Martin tells MyNewWaterfrontHome.com that visitors are welcome to walk through the camp for a glimpse in the past free of charge. There is a charge to go into the fort, however, where 1812 programming will be happening inside the imposing walls of Fort George from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sailors on the Lake is a joint event between the Directorate of Navy History and Heritage of the Royal Canadian Navy and Parks Canada.
Things kick off with on Saturday at about 11 a.m. with a processional row from Fort George to the park staging area. Once the boats are in position, they’ll hold a practice battle run about 1 p.m., followed by an assault landing exercise on the beach at Queens Royal Park beginning about 2 p.m. The hour-long sham battle will be narrated and broadcast to the public, which can view the re-enactment from a cordoned-off area of the park. Space is tight, however, so Martin advises people to “get there early.” The waterfront park is the one with the iconic gazebo.
Once the battle is over, the Tall Ships will raise anchor and move to the privately owned Niagara-on-the-Lake Sailing Club. Because Tall Ships are such a popular attraction, the club — located at 10 Melville St., at King and Queen — has decided to open the gate at the northeast corner of the property so the public can come in to see the vessels. “We have about 350 feet of usable wall, and six of them (Tall Ships) will be rafted there,” Ed McIlroy, the club’s manager, tells MyNewWaterfrontHome.com. “It’s an opportunity to see the boats up close.” Deck tours may be given at the discretion of the owners of the individual Tall Ships.
The Tall Ship 1812 Squadron will leave the sailing club on Sunday about 11 a.m. on its way back to Toronto. Cannons will be fired as the ships pass by the park for a final salute, cheered on by the longboat crews. From the park, you can watch the longboats make their way to the sailing club for haul out around 4 p.m.
JULY 21-28 — COLCHESTER (Town of Essex)
Colchester Harbour on Lake Erie is the place to be if you want to experience life at sea. The Town of Essex’s 1812 Bicentennial Committee is bringing back the brigantine St. Lawrence II
from Kingston (its first visit last year was a big hit) and offering the public the opportunity to book a two-hour cruise.
The Tall Ship arrives at the harbour on July 20 at about 2 p.m. Public cruises — at a cost of $50 per person — leave on July 21 at 9 a.m., July 22 at 9 a.m., July 25 at 7 p.m., July 28 at 9 a.m., 1 p.m., and 7 p.m.
If you prefer to remain on land, you can still get up close with the St. Lawrence II
, a 72-foot ship built in 1953 for youth sail training, during public deck tours
on July 21, 22 and 27 (about 11:15 a.m.).
It’s all happening at the scenic Colchester Harbour, located off Regional Road 50 between Kingsville and Amherstburg. Along with the Tall Ships, festivities include an encampment complete with War of 1812 re-enactors, ship to shore gunbattle, live entertainment, vendors, kids’ program and more.
The St. Lawrence II
departs on July 29 for a youth sail program to Amherstburg, just in time for that town’s bicentennial celebrations.
AUG. 3-5 — AMHERSTBURG
Historic Amherstburg will be transformed into an 1812 setting with a modern vibe during the Roots to Boots
festival. The signature event features three stages and six locations in downtown Amherstburg. The festival includes everything from re-enactments, parade, fireworks, concerts with today’s big names, period “tavern on the river,” theatrical performances, geneology and roots bookstore, children’s heritage village, period costumed re-enactors — including Chief Tecumseh and General Brock — and of course, a Tall Ship visit.
Public deck tours of the St. Lawrence II
brigantine will be held on Aug. 3 at 1 p.m.; 12:30 to 5 p.m. on Aug. 4; and from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Aug. 5. It’s all happening at Kings Navy Yard Park on the Detroit River, just off Dalhousie Street in downtown Amherstburg.
AUG. 25-26 — GANANOQUE
Celebrating Our Roots
– Where It All Began is a celebration featuring the re-enactment of the Sept. 21, 1812, raid on Gananoque by the Americans (the first attack on the St. Lawrence River). Three Tall Ships, including the St. Lawrence II
, and at least five gunboats will be there for the event, which will feature afternoon and evening naval battles.
You can catch all the naval action at the Joel Stone Heritage Park, a new waterfront space complete with amphitheatre and historic cannons.
The town will be transformed into several military encampments during the festival, with members of the Canadian Fencibles and the Glengarry Regiment among those taking part in re-enactments. There will also be a children’s muster, live entertainment and artisan displays.
MyNewWaterfrontHome.com — July 2012