National One Design Sailing Academy launches its fleet from its four Ontario schools onto the picturesque waters of Toronto Harbour and Lake Ontario, onto Lake Simcoe, or among the majestic Thousand Islands in the St. Lawrence River.
Expert sailing instructors
and captains are always at their helms, though they often hand control over to their students. That's because these sailing keelboats?which include several models of the sleek Flying Tiger?serve as ideal outdoor classrooms. The Academy's sailing programs provide intensive, hands-on instruction in the art of sailing, whether for recreational cruising, pulse-pounding racing, or chasing after a supervillain on a jet ski.
For example, they run two introductory sailing courses, both of which are designed for first-time sailors and one of which combines basic curricula of the SailCanada Learn to Cruise and
Learn to Race programs. During these sessions, they cover basic boat handling and on-water safety and aim to participants into the sailing community. That social setting becomes even more crucial in the introductory and advanced racing courses, which demonstrate how to harness the power of the wind for advanced manoeuvres while introducing team strategy.
The Kajama's white masts billow in the wind as its sharp prow cleaves the waters of Lake Ontario. The three-masted, gaff-rigged 164-foot schooner casts the same striking silhouette as it did 85 years ago during its first incarnation as a trade ship that sailed from Spain to Norway. Today, Great Lakes Schooner Company has restored the German-built schooner to its maiden-voyage splendour. Though they've preserved the boat's 1930s charm, they also retrofitted the Kajama for its daily tours with such amenities as a licensed bar and galley where cooks bring selections from their menu of pub fare to life.
Though it serves as the crown jewel of the fleet, the Kajama is flanked by two other ships. Panoramic lake views and a retractable top-deck roof characterize the Obsession III, whereas the Challenge boasts two LCD TVs and a full-service bar. Great Lakes Schooner Company rents out their fleet for corporate cruises, charter tours, weddings, and pirate-school reunions, all of which launch from the scenic downtown harbourfront.
In a natural wharf provided by the Toronto Islands, Harbourfront Centre offers avenues to a world of unbroken horizons and wave-splashed winds. Along with education and licensing services and boat rentals, the knowledgeable navigators curate special events, such as a swashbuckling Tall Ships festival for Canada Day and annual voyages to prove the harbour is round.
Power- or sail-boaters with appropriate licensing and a completist's perspective on panoramas might pursue membership for multiple voyages. With rental options for all experience levels for power- or sail-boats and even yachts, Harbourfront Centre Sailing and Powerboating provides a sense of freedom otherwise accessible only to boat owners and their boats' wise-cracking GPS systems.
Aboard a fleet of vessels that have cruised the Toronto Harbour for more than a quarter of a century, Toronto Harbour Tours converts landlocked guests into sightseeing day-sailors during scenic one-hour voyages. A licensed captain and crew colours each trip with informative narratives, casting entertaining facts into open ears while pointing out a continuous deluge of passing landmarks along the route. As tours drift by thriving parklands and across tranquil lagoons, Toronto's skyline glides into view to present passengers with unique opportunities to photograph the Skydome and the CN Tower's rippling Superman cape. During the summer, guests can disembark and explore Toronto Islands, catching a ride back to the mainland from another tour later in the day.
Olympia Cruise Lines' 140-foot Enterprise 2000 houses an embellished atrium boasting 360-degree harbour views and a buoyant foundation for elaborate parties. Energetic sojourners can opt for the Dirty Dancing salsa night, during which professional tango-tamers teach basic steps as appetizers make the rounds and a DJ entrances casual dancers with Top-40 and Latin beats. Alternatively, the Czechoslovak Dinner and Dancing cruise whisks passengers off their feet for four hours of lively Slovak merriment, a folk-dance performance by the Vychodna Slovak Dancers, and a traditional feast featuring enough wiener schnitzel to make dachshunds consider a more original nickname. Along with the posh atrium, the luxury vessel also possesses an outdoor patio where revellers can scope the evening cityscape or scan Lake Ontario's ripples for off-course Ogopogos.
"Empire Sandy and The Wayward Princess" sounds like the title of a children's adventure book. In reality, those are the names of Nautical Adventures' two ships?though they still conjure up ideals of swashbuckling exploits or exciting voyages. The company whisks guests on jaunts in the Toronto Harbour aboard the tall ship Empire Sandy, which at 200 feet long is Canada's largest schooner, complete with white sails and rigging. These trips take the form of dinner cruises, fireworks cruises, and Rockin' Blues cruises featuring live music, particularly songs about down-on-their-luck hermit crabs. Guests can also charter the boat?which can be stocked with food and adult beverages?for weddings, corporate gatherings, and private theme parties.