Contributed by Eugene McCann
During the summer of 1991 I encountered a lost looking tourist in Amsterdam and helped him on his way. Some weeks later in Groningen, I met the same man, again on his bicycle and struggling with a map. We took the time to introduce ourselves and share stories. Ted Ho had travelled from Toronto Canada to cycle around Europe for the summer. We exchanged addresses and the travellers welcome, ‘if you ever pass my way, do check in’.
Nearing the end of my second year studying Computer Science, I decided to take up the offer from Ted Ho and see about exploring in Canada. I wrote to Ted letting him know and enclosed my CV. Ted was able to connect me with a college friend of his, Lloyd Whiting from Kenora, Ontario.
During June 1995, I travelled to Toronto and was kindly hosted by Ted Ho at his downtown home on Henry Lane Terrace. Ted was a great host, providing me with a bicycle and a long list of great things to see and do in Toronto. The obvious first stop was the CN Tower to experience the glass floor, and with a bird’s eye perspective to get my bearings.
More than anything, what caught my eye were the two Brigantines moored at the harbour front. On going to investigate, I found the STV Pathfinder and TS Playfair. Designed by Francis A. MacLachlan, Pathfinder was built for the Toronto Brigantine Inc. (T.B.I.) sail training organisation, from 10 November 1962, through 1963.
I was lucky enough to have encountered Pathfinder on a maintenance rotation. Having offered to help I was welcomed aboard. I then met Captain Gordon Sloane who on learning of my experience aboard STV Asgard II, offered me the role of XO (Executive Officer) during an orientation cruise with students from Kalamazoo University at the end of the season. With more than work to look forward to, I headed north to Kenora and began working for Lloyd Whiting in his firm Green- wing Barging & Construction. My role was to ferry workers from town to the island cottage they were working on, then to tow barges of supplies and equipment to the site.
While living with Lloyd at his home at Whiting Bay, Treaty Island, I was spoiled daily; there were bald eagles perched across the lake, black bears were common, I may have squealed at the first snake I saw and a fresh meal of Pickerel, or Walleye depending where you’re from.
Through the working community, I had the opportunity to attend a traditional Pow Wow with members from the local Ojibwe. Travelling by highway north from Kenora, we then spent 30 hours driving off road through mostly forestry to get to the celebration. I was immediately taken in by the com- munity, made very welcome and encouraged to participate in many activities; my absent sense of rhythm kept me from trying the drumming.
During August I travelled from Kenora to Tobermory to meet STV Pathfinder. We sailed north to Killarney Provincial Park in Killarney, Ontario to collect the first rotating crew from Kalamazoo for their week aboard. For many of the students, it was their first time away from home without parental supervision and so the learning environment of Sail Training was perfect.
I eventually returned to Ireland, where I now live in Dublin with my wife and two boys. I continue to feel a strong connection to all the people and places I shared time with while travelling around Ontario.