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Sailing in Canada

Sailing in Canada has a long history of exploration, recreation, innovation, and shipbuilding. With countless lakes and rivers, you'll find something new to do and experience at any Canadian sailing destinations.

History of Sailing in Canada

Canadian sailing began when Norse explorers arrived on the coast of what is currently known as Newfoundland over 4,500 years ago. In most instances, Canada can trace its roots back to the natives who originally settled here. The natives spent a lot of time on the water kayaking or canoeing in Canada but sailing hasn't been linked to their traditional mode of travel.

The first Canadian sailing vessels were fabricated at Port-Royal, Acadia in 1606 by Francois Grave du Pont. In 1663, the first recorded seagoing sailing ships were built in New France (Quebec). By 1732, the first Canadian shipyard was established on the Saint-Charles River in Quebec. The Saint-Charles River is where Jacques Cartier anchored his ships in 1535.

While sailing in Canada was done mainly for trade and exploration, Canadian shipbuilders began constructing naval schooners. The shipyards in Quebec, Halifax, and ports on the Great Lakes all contributed towards building these vessels. The HMS St. Lawrence was launched in Kingston, Ontario in 1814. A shipbuilding marvel at the time it contained 3 decks, 112 guns, and carried 1,000 sailors.

As the country grew specialized ships were required for sailing in Canada. Various Canadian ports contributed based on their geographic location. Sealing ships were fabricated in Victoria, B.C., ports along the St. Lawrence River made trading schooners, and Atlantic shipyards manufactured sailing ships for fishing in Canada as well as whalers, sealers, and trading schooners. The most famous Canadian trading schooner manufactured is the "Bluenose".

Other Canadian sailing ships of note include:
  • Columbus – the first lumber transporter was built in 1824 at Il d'Orleans along the St. Lawrence River in Quebec.
  • Marco Polo - was built in 1851 at Saint John, New Brunswick and was used to trade with Australia during the gold rush era.
  • W.D. Lawrence – was launched at Maitland, Nova Scotia and was the largest full-rigger built in Canada.
Sailing in Canada and Around the World

The first solo sailing trip around the world was accomplished by Joshua Slocum of Wilmot Township, Nova Scotia. He began his life at sea at the age of 16 and became captain by the age of 25. Slocum and his wife lived on the Canadian sailing vessels he commanded and all of their children were born at sea.

Slocum decided to challenge himself with the first solo sailing trip around the world. He set off in a 12 m long vessel called "The Spray" from Boston, Massachusetts in 1895. He returned to the east coast of the United States at Rhode Island over 3 years later in 1898 having successfully circumnavigated the world.

Types of Sailing Vessels
  • Bermuda Sloop or Bermudan Sloop has a single mast, a headsail (normally a jib), and a mainsail. The name Bermuda comes from the shape of sail being triangle-shaped…Bermuda Triangle.
  • Gaff-Rigged Sloop has four-sided mainsails with a small gaff or boom at the head of the sail. Some gaff-rigged sailboats have a topsail as well.
  • Lateen Sloops carry triangular-shaped sails attached to a gaff at the top and a boom at the bottom.
  • Schooner has at least two masts and is rigged fore and aft. It may have multiple masts as long as the main mast (2nd from the fore) is tallest.
  • Ketch or Yawl has a main mast at the very front of the sailboat and a rear mast known as the mizzen mast at the back.
Canadian Sailing Destinations

It may be a misnomer to write about specific Canadian sailing destinations when in fact it is the journey that is important when sailing in Canada. As one of the most scenic countries in the world and having the largest amount of freshwater in the world, Canada is a sailor’s delight. You simply have to choose the sights you would like to see and pick the activities you want to experience and set out on a course of exploration.

Howe Sound off the coast of British Columbia offers spectacular mountain vistas with snow-capped peaks sloping gently downwards into a lush, coastal rainforest. Enjoy the marine wildlife and experience whale watching in Canada. On shore you can visit Squamish, B.C. and explore the surrounding countryside through its many trail systems including hiking, cycling, rock climbing, mountaineering, and bird watching in Canada.

Other spots for sailing in Canada include:
  • The Rideau Canal & Waterway
  • The St. Lawrence River
  • Thousand Islands
  • Trent-Severn Waterway
  • The Great Lakes region
  • Iles-de-la-Madeleine in the Gulf of St. Lawrence
  • Northumberland Strait
Sailing in Canada is a wonderful opportunity to explore this beautiful country from the serenity of the water. If you're looking for cottage rentals in Canada, sail through the Trent-Severn to cottage country in the Kawartha Lakes region and the Muskokas. The northern parts of the country offer scenic beauty and extensive wildlife. Or maybe a trip through the 1000 Islands and St. Lawrence River on your way to the Atlantic Ocean is your Canadian sailing destination. Prepare to be amazed as you make your way through the spectacular countryside.
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