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Empire Sandy Sail in 2006

Empire Sandy

The Empire Sandy is a tall ship based in Toronto. The 200 foot long ship carries chartered tours, including weddings and other events, on Lake Ontario, and during the winter travels to the Caribbean. Holding 275 passengers, it is Canada's largest schooner.

The ship was built in Britain in 1943 as a salvage tug, and was tasked with salvaging merchant ships damaged in the Battle of the Atlantic and other naval engagements during the Second World War. It saw action several times during the war, and its hull still bears marks from enemy attacks.

After the war she was renamed the Ashford and came to the Great Lakes and spent several years pulling timber rafts for logging companies. In the early 1970s the aged ship was sold for scrap, but the hull was still in very good condition. The Empire Sandy was thus completely rebuilt as a three masted schooner. It began serving the lakes as a cruise ship in 1982.

Every Labour Day weekend the Scottish Studies Society puts on a day with the Empire Sandy Sailing Ship and on Sunday 3rd September I took the opportunity of going on the first sailing which sets out at 11:00. There were some 75 on this sailing and some 250 on the afternoon one which sets out at 2.00pm. As this event is on at the same time as the Toronto Air Show I also got a few pictures of aircraft flying overhead.

It's a great Scottish event and reminds us of the Scots settlers that emigrated and arrived by ship on Canadian soil. On the day you are provided with a song sheet for the sing along that we have on board. On the day we were greeted by pipers on the dock and they accompanied us onboard. We enjoyed Highland dancing, a piano accordionist playing the songs on the song sheet, a violinist and of course the Scottish Studies Foundation own David Campbell leading the sing along. On the upper deck you could find the beer bar and the Mrs Bridges snack shop serving up hot bridies, sausage rolls, Scotch pies and other delicacies. Downstairs there was coffee and a full bar.  Everyone I talked to had a really good time and several told me that they were regulars with one woman saying she'd been all the sails since it started.  I can certainly say I thoroughly enjoyed my sail and will certainly be back :-)

I was invited to return on the second sailing but decided instead to head down the the waterfront so I could get a picture of the Empire Sandy in full sail and the picture above is one of the ones I managed to get.

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