Commodore’s Corner By Peter Suchanek

Warm greetings to all our OHCC members. I hope everyone has had a terrific holiday. Welcome to 2016! For the past 15 years, Ralph Drake shared his thoughts here in the Commodore’s Comments spot in Flotilla. Last year, he decided to step down as Commodore. It is fair to say that we all owe Ralph a great debt of gratitude for his hard work, dedication and belief in the strength, growth and development of the OHCC. When Ralph took the tiller, the club was experiencing turbulent times. Membership had dropped and significant infrastructure improvements were needed. Without a lease with the City, swirling plans for port lands development could have pushed the OHCC out of the Toronto harbour or even into the history books.

Amid proposals for Olympic bids, grandiose Cherry Beach condo developments, cross-lake ferry service, a Ferris-wheel, Waterfront Casino and on and on, Ralph didn’t flinch. One New York City consultant hired by a potential developer even groused that “there’s no place for 19th century sailing clubs in Toronto’s outer harbour”. In 2012, after decades of insecurity, the City signed a lease which protects the OHCC until 2025. At last; some certainty.

Throughout it all, Ralph was a Commodore with purpose and resolve, providing the quiet stewardship and sound judgement needed to survive in ambiguous and unpredictable times. Thank you, Ralph.

It is appropriate to recognize all the returning members to the OHCC Executive from last year and welcome 2 new faces; Peter Hale, Property (Marine) and Frank Moens (Recording-Secretary). The list of Executive contacts appears on the Contacts Us page in the site menu. This is a very dedicated and capable group. The 2016 Executive held its first meeting in December with more planned during the winter to the ramp up to the 2016 sailing season. The Executive puts forth considerable effort each year to ensure that the membership enjoys the best possible sailing experience that the OHCC can offer.

It goes without saying that, as OHCC members, we can never lose sight of the fact the OHCC is a not-for-profit, self-help sailing club. We’re an extraordinary, volunteer based organization able to keep sailing safe, affordable and fun in downtown Toronto.

Renewal reminders will be sent out by email the week of January 25, 2016, so please keep an eye out for yours.

May you all enjoy much health, many laughs and prosperity in this New Year and a wonderful sailing season.

(Thanks to Mike Goldstein for the photos below from the AGM.)


See more articles in the January 2016 Flotilla Newsletter.

From the Yardmaster, Peter Benison

I would like to thank all the volunteers that helped with Winter Yard Configuration at Docks Out. Everything went very smoothly.

With almost half our property turned over to the Multihulls for winter storage, this is a big task – almost an acre has to be cleared. When the boats are all moved, we are then left with almost an acre debris field. Leftover items included sawhorses, concrete blocks, logs, rubber tires, milk crates and dock boxes. Without being labeled, the chances of these items following your boat to winter storage are nil. A number of these items were placed behind the marine maintenance shed at the waterfront. Dock boxes could be scattered anywhere on the property – you’ll have to do a search in the spring.

Most of the “flower pot” boats have been removed from the property, but I ask all the members to bring to my attention any items around the yard that you think might need attention.
Have a great winter. See you in the Spring.

See more articles in the January 2016 Flotilla Newsletter.

Chase of the Niagara, War of 1812

By Jurgen Braunohler

Chase of the Niagara
It was life on a Great Lakes brig of the War of 1812. Grabbing the overhead handrail, I swung out of my hammock and immediately stooped as there was no headroom to stand up. In bygone times, this mess deck would have been crowded with men. Now I shared it for a few moments with another crew member; the bulkheads were lined with duffle bags belonging to other crew.

Topside, the flying jib-boom that extended the bowsprit was being rigged and run out. There were cannons. Giant sweeps for rowing the ship lay under an inverted boat. The two masts towered over a hundred feet to the royal yards. This was the brig Niagara, berthed at Toronto’s Harbourfront in August 1997.

Back in 1813, the Niagara was the flagship of the American squadron during the Battle of Lake Erie. In this most decisive Great Lakes naval engagement, Commodore Perry transferred his flag to the newly-built Niagara from her nearly-destroyed sister ship Lawrence and fired the winning shots. For the British, this resulted in the loss of their squadron, the city of Detroit, their army, and the control of Lake Erie. It also saw the collapse of their First Nations allies. The Niagara herself was later sunk and raised, then rebuilt four times before being restored to sailing condition in 1988.

Back in my dingy, I resolved to chase down and intercept Niagara on the morning of her departure to photograph the ship under sail.

After spending the night aboard Bonita, I was underway just after daybreak, running wing and wing before a stiff northerly. Then a fast reach sent spray sweeping the foredeck as we raced to make the rendezvous. Past Gibraltar Point, the wind heeled her until the side deck was buried in foaming water and the mainsail needed to be reefed. I chose instead to slack the main off enough to spill a bit of wind, while keeping her driving. But the Niagara was nowhere to be seen.

At 0900, I spotted the brig with binoculars. She was still tied up in the harbour. I had breakfast while keeping a lookout for her. Bonita was reefed and hove-to just west of the Islands.

The Niagara’s crew seemed to have had their hands full: first loosing then furling sails before dropping the end of the spanker gaff for repairs. She finally came out of the Western Gap at noon under topsails, with a gun salute from her or the destroyer Haida at Ontario Place. I took photographs while tacking towards the ship’s leeward side (to reassure her skipper that I was not heading anywhere in her path). The big vessel passed right in front of me for a stunning picture, but when a cabin cruiser ruined my last shots, I came about in pursuit.

The cruise took on the air of a real sea chase as Bonita strained to overhaul the fast-moving ship. Astern, a Wayfarer class dinghy was also in hot pursuit. Both of us were heeled over and reaching under full sail on starboard tack.

In 1813, this was the scene of another drama: the three-masted HMS Wolfe and her squadron were heading out in a gale to engage the American fleet. Her dismasting and escape to Burlington while under fire and being chased in wild weather was the pivotal Lake Ontario battle, known as the Burlington Races.
To return to my chase: the Niagara, having performed some maneuvering and sail-handling evolutions, gybed and headed offshore with her topgallants set. This was west of the Humber River and too far for me, so I came about for home as the Wayfarer had already done.

After falling in with the Seahawks in the Inner Harbour, and with a stop at their Algonquin Island site, Bonita battled strong gusts in the Outer Harbour, having logged some 20 miles by the end of the day.

In 1814, the Niagara showed up with a squadron in southern Georgian Bay to hunt down the schooner Nancy that was ferrying supplies to Macinac Island. When she left, the Nancy lay destroyed in the Nottawasaga River and two American schooners remained on patrol. (Her wreck would become a museum.) The two schooners were both captured in a night raid by the Nancy’s crew, leading, it is said, to the founding of a forgotten place named Schooner Town, likely the site of future vessels like the well-known HMS Bee.

See more articles in the January 2016 Flotilla Newsletter.

Commodore’s Comments

By Ralph Drake

I hope everyone had a fruitful winter and that you are looking forward to starting a new sailing season. The target date for docks-in is April 11th Saturday April 25th at 9am, and docks-out will occur on October 17th. The extreme cold winter has caused a lot of ice to form on the Outer Harbour this year, but we remain optimistic that the winter will not delay getting the docks in the water and starting our events.

The OHCC facility improvement program continued throughout the off-season. All washroom fixtures and faucets have been replaced with ultra-low water consumption fittings. We have also installed an independent water supply and added a large sanitary waste holding tank c/w high level alarm. Our washrooms should be cleaner and more reliable with these modifications.

The new online registration system has been a great success. The OHCC Executive on-line registration sub-committee worked diligently throughout the fall/winter together with Jeggysoft Inc. (software partner) to develop custom software.

The results will be more efficient registration, less chance of member information error, less time required by Executive Directors & Treasurer to administer, and improved communication with members.

This year we will get our facility in shipshape condition through the member’s online registration program. Every member that accepted to volunteer must complete a minimum of 8 hours of volunteer work before docks-out. After docks-out (Oct 17, 2015), we will bill members for the uncompleted portion at a rate of $25 per hour, up to a $200 maximum. Chris Hutny and the volunteer supervisors will be available on the morning of docks-in to answer any questions.

The weekend of May 9th & 10th has been scheduled for facility repair and improvements and to reconfigure our yard for summer dry-sail lots. Many volunteers are needed to get the clubhouse, grounds and committee boats ready for the season. Work crews will start at 9am and continue to 3 pm each day. We hope that all work will be completed over this weekend, ensuring that all of us can fully enjoy the season of sailing. Please sign up at docks-in (April 12 25) to participate on May 9th or 10th. FYI – the TMCC (multi-hull) boats will also be launched on Saturday May 9th.

To volunteer for these work events, please sign up online at Log-in to your account, select the “Volunteer” tab, type the event name in the “Job Title or Keyword” box, and click the search button (bottom right of your screen).
– For the facility repairs on May 9th type, “ohcc facility repairs & improvements”
– For reconfiguring the yard on May 10th, type “reconfigure the ohcc yard for summer storage”
You can select other tasks from the “Volunteer” tab.

The Outer Harbour Sailing Federation will offer a Water Sport Day Camp for youth aged 7 to 18 years. Teaching sailing, windsurfing and rowing, it will run weekly during July and August.

Sailing Fanatics, through a partnership with OHCC, will also provide a unique method of coaching and training at our club. Available all season, from May to September, it will provide a complete adult sailing program from beginner to a high performance sailor. This learn-to-sail program will benefit the sport, community, OHCC and the north shore clubs.

OHCC has also partnered with Ontario Sailing, Fogh Marine and Sailing Fanatics to give the public an opportunity to experience sailing a dingy sailboat. The “Try Sailing For Free” event will be held at OHCC on June 21st, 2015 from 11am to 3pm. Go to or contact Tom Winskell if you would like to helm a boat or help with this event. Over 60 people were introduced to on-water sailing last year.

Tom Winskell has been appointed the new OHCC webmaster. Matthew Burpee will work with Tom on website improvements and will be responsible for the club’s social media sites. Special thanks to JJ Hall for maintaining our website for the last few years.

I look forward to seeing everyone at Docks-In on Saturday the 11th 25th of April at 9:00 am. The Wine and Cheese/Spring General Meeting event is scheduled on April 18th 25th at 7:00 pm. All prospective new members are welcome to attend.

We have put together a great program for the year 2015 and look forward to another enjoyable sailing season on the great waters of the Outer Harbour.

The 2015 Season by the Numbers
38 Club races on Tuesday and Thursday evenings
6 OHCC-hosted Canadian Albacore Association races
4 Regattas – OHCC, Albacore Open, RS Regatta, & 505/Contender
5 OHCC weekend sailing events – Ice Breaker Race, Bell Buoy Tune-Up Race, Back To School Regatta and Bart’s Bash
2 Seminars – OHCC motorboats demo and Assistant Race Officer course
2 Thursday On-the-Water coaching sessions

Contributions for the next issue are very welcome. The deadline is June 15, 2015. Please send articles and photos to

See more articles in the April 2015 Flotilla Newsletter or learn more about Flotilla. Sign up to the OHCC Mailing List for ongoing news, events and articles.