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  • Type:
    Overnight camp
  • Focus:
  • Cost:
    $990 to $4,000/session
  • Ages:
    12 to 18
  • Gender:
  • Main language:
  • Capacity:
    10 to 24
  • Programs:
  • Summary

    Tall Ships Adventure answered our questions

    Who are you as an organization?

    Since 1984, Bytown Brigantine INC aspires to provide education, training, in demanding environment that inspires young people to develop qualities of leadership and self-reliance through the medium of sailing tall ships. Our program pedagogy ensures a focus on inclusion, diversity, and reconciliation.

    • Special needs: Not available
    • LGBTQ+ friendly community

    What do you do differently or uniquely well?

    "We are one of the only tall ships in Ontario that is a Privately Inspected School, eligible to grant high school credits. Our program pedagogy ensures a focus on inclusion and diversity. Our Thomas & Jeanne Fuller Bursary is committed to leaving no kid ashore. With nature as our backdrop, youth are guided through multi-hour, activity-based sessions that increase their sense of empowerment, strengthen their resiliency, expand their emotional intelligence, and improve their executive functioning skills. The intangible benefits of the program—team building, problem-solving, and building self-esteem—may be among the most valuable lessons that the program offers the students for their social, behavioral, and academic success."

    Who are your staff and counsellors?

    "We are run by a volunteer Board of Directors and core of two full-time staff. During the program season, our staff complement grows to include two Captains, two cooks, two Executive Officers and 7 Watch Officers, equivalent to 3 F.T.E. In addition, we rely on a committed group of volunteers. Our community also includes other similarly inclined charitable organizations such as the Canadian Sail Training Association, the American Sail Training Association, and the Sail Training International. "

    What do families need to know about registration?

    "Hello prospective BBI Families. With no prior experience required, we know that it takes all kinds to sail a tall ship and live together in close quarters under adventurous conditions. Bytown Brigantine is a charitable foundation (and Ontario inspect private HS), founded by the Fuller family, dedicated to providing character-building experiences, through adventure for young Canadians. The Capt. & Mrs. Thomas G Fuller's Bursary aims to leave no child ashore for lack of funds. Since the Charity was established, thousands of young people have taken part. To learn more about our offerings please give us a call where we can begin to build our connection."

  • Programs, Rates & Dates

    Programs and Sessions Calendar

    Choose the right programs and sessions for your child; Tall Ships Adventure currently has 2 programs available.

    Filter Activities

    Choose location:

    Type (Gender)
    Ages: 14 - 18
    Overnight Camp
    $1,735 to $3,860
    Brockville, ON
    15 Saint Andrew Street
    Jul 03-12 $2,480
    Kingston, ON
    Jul 15-28 $3,860
    Kingston, ON
    Aug 01-07 $1,735
    Brockville, ON
    15 Saint Andrew Street
    Aug 13-26 $3,860
    Travel|Credit Courses|Entrepreneurship|Empowerment|Leadership Training|Social Justice|Engineering|Skilled Trades Activities|Mindfulness Training|Nutrition|Sailing/Marine Skills
    Ages: 12 - 14
    Overnight Camp
    Adventure (multi)
    Travel|Empowerment|Leadership Training|Social Justice|Skilled Trades Activities|Mindfulness Training|Nutrition|Sailing/Marine Skills

    Financial Aid & Payment Details

    Payment Options:

    Deposit required with acceptance Yes
    Credit card payment Yes


    Discount for 2nd child 20%

    Scholarships & awards:
    Total annual scholarship fund: $20,000 CAD

    • Captain T.G. Fuller Bursary

      Amount: 100% Deadline: Rolling
      Type: Need based
      Details: Bytown Brigantine mandate is to never leave a young person ashore for lack of funds. Full and partial bursaries are available based on demonstrated need. Each year, at least 20% of the teenagers who step aboard our ships are assisted by the bursary fund. To learn more about application process visit our website.
      Application Details: Bursary applications can be filled out through online registration. Please note that you will not need to make reservation fee deposit. Once we have received your application the registrar will reach out to ensure you application is complete. When all documents have been submitted, you and your child will be asked to attend a meeting, in person or virtually, with the Bursary Committee. A official letter of acceptance will be sent to bursary candidates. Upon confirmation of this you will be required to make full reservation deposit and fill out all other forms required for registration.
  • Insider Reviews & Perspectives

    The Our Kids review of Tall Ships Adventure

    our take

    For many kids, camp is the only chance to really step outside of their comfort zones, whether that means getting caught in the rain, or speaking to a crowd, or simply engaging with others in a collaborative setting. At Bytown Brigantine, they’ll do all of that and sail tall ships with fully licensed youth crew on Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence, and the Atlantic Ocean. It’s as rustic as it is unique. “It’s not a cruise,” says Christy Griffin, the executive director. “You’re stepping aboard as a crew member.” There are lots of things to do, and everyone does them. At the same time, kids learn about the weather patterns, do chart work, even prep food in the galley. Hands-on all round, and unlike activities at other camps, there’s a sense of responsibility that runs through it all: the work of the ship needs to be done, and it’s the job of everyone on board to do it. It also isn’t for the faint of heart. Griffin recalls that one year there was a girl who was terrified of heights, and resistant to getting up into the rigging. Even so, the boat is its own world, with everyone leading by example, and within a few days, she was up there, too, getting the job done and loving it. They all do, even without their phones, and devices are only available to the kids while they are in port. Different sessions take different routes, including stops along the eastern seaboard of Canada and the U.S. In some instances, the boat takes part in festivals and events, at times along other tall ships and their crews. In port, the kids are the experts, representing the ship, its crew, and interpreting the experience aboard. For the right person, it’s an unforgettable life experience.  

    Three Things: Tall Ships Adventure
    Hear the three things that Our Kids’ editors see when they look at Tall Ships Adventure

    Video interviews with parents, campers, and alum

    Joanne Jordan, Parent

    • 00:48 - How did you know that this was the right fit?
    • 01:59 - What's unique about the camp?
    • 02:51 - Was there any personal growth you saw in your child?
    • 03:37 - How can you help your child to get the most out of their experience?
    • 04:44 - What would you tell other parents about the value of sending kids here?
    • 06:18 - What does your child say?
    • 07:23 - Final Thoughts?

    More reviews of Tall Ships Adventure

    M. Puskas, Parent

    Positive and life-changing activities

    Read review

    H. Lopresti, Parent

    Mom supports Bytown Brigantine Tall Ships Adventure

    Read review

    T. Oung, Camper

    Not what I expected - it was better!

    Read review

    C. Gooch, Camper

    Loving summer sailing

    Read review

    More reviews of Tall Ships Adventure

    M. Puskas, Parent

    Positive and life-changing activities

    I've been meaning to send a note to thank you again for everything you did for O. to attend the Black Jack Ship trip over the summer. He came home so excited and motivated. It was an amazing experience for him. He was full of stories about all of their adventures and everything he learned. I know he is looking forward to another journey. He is hooked! What a wonderful opportunity you have provided for a young man that would not have otherwise been able to have. This has helped shape him and focus his interests in healthy avenues. Thank you again. ... Show More

    H. Lopresti, Parent

    Mom supports Bytown Brigantine Tall Ships Adventure

    I cannot say enough about this outstanding organization. This is one of the best learning environments we have been blessed to have J. be a part of. The leadership skills they learn amongst everything else are second to none. These are life long skills he will use to navigate the waters and life in general. He has made wonderful friendships with other kids and adults that go beyond the sails and last all year long. He continues learning throughout the winter by attending weekly classes in Ottawa and other weekend experiences they provide. They have several different ones to meet everyone’s needs. What better experience could a kid have...On a Tall Ship in the summer ... Show More

    T. Oung, Camper

    Not what I expected - it was better!

    Thank you so much for an awesome summer! I loved it so much on the Black Jack. It was a thrilling experience learning how to sail. Black Jack was nothing like I had expected - it was a fun and engaging experience that challenged me in lots of ways, physically and mentally. I loved learning all the new things that came with sailing a ship. I learned the names of all the sails, the types of rigging on every sail. I cannot thank you enough for allowing me to sail on this beautiful ship. I thought I would see orcas on the water, but instead, I get beautiful sunsets. The captain taught me the physics behind the brigantine, as well as teaching me how the wind works with the ship. I am really glad you invited me to sail on the Black Jack, and I hope to come back next year ... Show More

    C. Gooch, Camper

    Loving summer sailing

    I recently completed the 24 Day Expedition on the Fair Jeanne and must say that it was one of my most memorable trips ever. I would like to say thank you for the bursary money that I received to make this voyage possible. I thoroughly enjoyed life aboard the ship and look forward to a future voyage. I was able to complete my Ordinary and Leading Seaman and am currently working on my Petty Officer. I plan on participating in the winter program offered through Bytown Brigantine with the goal of attaining my Petty Officer designation. The staff on board the Fair Jean are exceptional and made life aboard the ship fun and educational. I learned the importance of how to work as a team, how to become a leader and most importantly the” art of sailing” a tallship. It truly was a wonderful experience. ... Show More

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  • Location & Gallery

    Tall Ships Adventure - profile photo

    Video Gallery


    Ottawa, ON
    2700 Queensview Drive, Ottawa, Ontario, K2B 8H6
    Kingston, ON
    TBD, Kingston, Ontario
    Ottawa, ON
    2777 Cassels Street, Ottawa, K2B 6N6
    Brockville, ON
    15 Saint Andrew Street, Brockville, K6V 6Z4
    Quebec City, QC
    84 Rue Dalhouse, Quebec City, Quebec


    • Car pooling (Bus fee: 0.00)
      Location Address Pick up Drop off
      All ports possible 2700 Queensview Drive, Ottawa, ON, Canada 9:00 am 8:00 pm


    Sleeping Accommodations

    • Dorm or Building
    • Tents


    • Electricity in Sleeping Area
    • Shower in Sleeping Area
    • Toilet in Sleeping Area

    Washrooms Facilities

    • Flush Toilets
    • Showers (indoor)

    More details about accommodations: On our first day we make sure you have an orientation of the vessel. You will see where you sleep, eat and where the washroom (heads) are located. Our vessels are full equipped to operate off the grid using a generator. Our galley kitchen is outfitted to ensure everyone has three home cooked meals a day plus snacks! Water is potable. Campers (trainees) will be assigned to bunks (berths). On our SV Black Jack there maybe an opportunity to sleep in a hammock. All trainee's are supervised by our crew to ensure the overall group safety during sailing and non-sailing times. Because we are on the water all the time, swimming is one of the best ways to ensure we can keep clean. Basic showers are available aboard Fair Jeanne. On the Fair Jeanne there maybe overnight stays at a marina and opportunities from time to time for a hot shower.

    Are meals provided? Yes

    Is Tall Ships Adventure technology free? Yes Trainees (campers) check in all devices with the Captain upon arrival at ship. They are welcome to use a phone during shore leave. This encourages growth and interpersonal development while aboard while ensuring devices are not lost to the depths of a river or lake.

    Property Details

    Sports facilities

    • Rope Course


    • Beach
    • Forested Area
    • Lake/Pond/River
    • Nature Trails
    • Open Field

    More details about property: Your home aboard the 110-ft Fair Jeanne or the 87-foot Black Jack includes bunks, a galley where cook prepares your amazing food, a boardroom, dining area and of course space on deck for learning and socializing. All the crew & trainee's work collectively to keep the these spaces clean (dishes, kitchen area, bathrooms, common areas above and below the decks). To ensure the safety of all members on the vessel this means stowing your personal gear away and making sure all areas other program gear is secured. Remember the ship under sail moves with the wind and water.

    Rentals & Services

    Offers outdoor education program for schools or corporate groups: Yes
    School/Group Programs: Day, evening and weekend programs during the May/June and September/October periods. School populations include youth form every cultural and socio-economic back ground. Youth must be 12 years old. Expanding & Enhancing learning in the outdoors The fact that no two days are ever the same, makes planning and decision making a vital component of navigating diverse situations, arguably one of the most complex real world (crew) group decision making processes. Your home on the water, where you’ll eat, sleep, and breathe sailing life for the next week, will become your sanctuary and launchpad for grand adventures. On board activities basic technical sailing skills and leadership skills. A variety of team building activities and games designed to allow young people to socialize or work together. Time at the end of the day for hot chocolate and self-reflection. For more information about program offerings, please contact [email protected].

    Available for private rentals: Yes
    If you are seeking opportunity to engage, inspire and challenge your 'crew' we are here to listen to you and then build together a program designed to meet you unique needs. With you we design our program meeting with all the stakeholders. Our years of experience as educators and professionals in the marine sector means we are able to plot our course leaving room for planned variance. For more information on the using a tall ships as platform for self-discovery/career development email: [email protected].

  • What's New

    Director's Message

    Julia Morch, Executive Director

    With no prior experience required, the adventure is entirely inclusive. It takes all kinds of time to sail a tall ship and live together is close quarters under adventurous conditions. Matching the strengths and interests of the individual with a suited shipboard duty allows for effective, team dynamics with authentic feedback from their peers. The new shipboard environment, wind & weather create dynamic conditions for personal growth. Youth learn to overcome the challenges inherent in tall ship sailing and in so doing develop self-esteem, self-reliance (“grit”), confidence, appreciation, and respect for others & their surroundings.  

    ‘Real’ experience—actions are seen as having real consequences with real purpose, rather than being abstract, virtual, or invented for the point of learning. Your home on the water, where you’ll eat, sleep, and breathe sailing life and this will  become your sanctuary and launchpad for grand adventures. 

    Participating in a voyage with people from diverse social or ethnic backgrounds can also help bridge social gaps, which would simply not happen in our usual life.  This combination of intense socialization, teamwork, and  the social interaction results in a strong sense of community.  

    Tall Ships Adventures proven track record of 40 years, that unite and connects youth, instills sense of purpose, and find a sense of belonging. And skills that can be transferred so they are more able to access to employment opportunities.  

    We hope to see you on the water this summer!


    In the News

    February 7, 2022
    2022 Sailing Season Announced!

    Island Hopping in the Thousand Islands and Bonjour Quebec! ... Read More

    May 13, 2021
    Learn How To Sail A Tall Ship - Day Adventure - First Time EVER!

    Tall Ships Adventure, is a youth sail training camp run and lead by youth. For the first time we are offering a Day Adventure. ... Read More

    January 27, 2020
    Tall Ship Fair Jeanne Celebrates Maine 200 & Mayflower 400 in 2020

    New & experienced youth sail alongside crew in discovery of the Eastern Seaboard in celebration of Maine 200 & Mayflower 400 in summer 2020.... Read More


    • Excerpts from a trainee's story

      We sailed Fair Jeanne back to Brockville, and as the Black Jack crew were leaving and new trainees were joining, we took both the Whalers and headed back to McDonald Island to camp for the night. The banter between the two groups was great. We (Green Whaler) took a short cut through some tiny islands, however Red Whaler was waiting for us, armed with water balloons. After singing some sea shanties and fending off more water balloons we soon arrived at the island. Mr Kean asked Harper if she had any valuables in her pockets. She replied no, and was pushed in the water. War had begun!!

      The next day we headed down to Kingston where we had shore leave. After a good look around it was Green Watch's turn to return to the boat and finish off sanding down the whaler masts, which we then varnished as well. The next film we watched that evening was Master and Commander, which we all enjoyed and then reflected on over the next few days. We headed off into the mouth of Lake Ontario the next day, which I was excited about as we weren't sheltered from the Islands anymore, so we would get some good wind which would allow us to get more sailing in and finally set the mainsail. At last!! All eight sails were set, the sun was shining, the winds were strong and I was having an amazing time.

      We decided to anchor in a bay over night so in the morning we could set out on a long leg down to Toronto. Before we set off we had a happy hour clean-up and then the swim test. We had to swim around the boat eight times and then tread water for twenty minutes. To pass this time we sang our favourite sea shanties, Paddy Lay Back and Bound for South Australia. Most of us were pretty tired after this but wanted to wash as we wouldn't have opportunity for a couple of days, so I came up with the idea of putting our shampoo into the water (don't worry, they make you bring the biodegradable stuff) to save climbing back out. Many people laughed at this plan, but they soon saw sense and followed.

      After heaving up the anchor we were off!! Toronto here we come! I went aloft to unfurl the course (2nd largest sail) which I was pleased about as I hadn't been aloft much and was still struggling climbing over the foretop (white platform on the foremast). It was another lovely day, so everyone was on deck throughout to work on logbooks, work on the English and Canadian accents, and learn more sea shanties. It was an odd feeling knowing you a™re on a lake, but not being able to see land on either side!

    • The History of SV Black Jack

      The Upper Ottawa Improvement Company - still flourishing - was founded about 100 years ago to deliver logs by water from the camps upstream to the mills of Ottawa and Hull. By the early 1900's the Company owned a small fleet of steamboats made up of everything of consequence on the river apart from private canoes, skiffs and tiny sailing craft. Old timers still remember with affection the sidewheeler G. B. Green which took passengers from Britannia Pier by way of Aylmer and intermediate landings to Quyon and the smaller Albert which paddled her way up river with local freight to return with a boom of logs in tow.

      One observer of this scene, Tom Fuller - who is something of a Huckleberry Finn at heart - noticed a small and insignificant tug, the G. B. Pattee II, which was overlooked by all except small boys and river rats. The Pattee first came to his attention in the 1920's when camping with the Boy Scouts at Aylmer. Watching her passing, young Tom was astonished to see red-hot sparks from her funnel raining down to cause a small fire on the barge being towed astern. At the time he didn't think much of the Pattee and he would see many more ships, in far distant waters, before the years altered his perspective. By the time that the Second World War broke out, Tom Fuller had built and sailed many boats of his own at Britannia. With this background he fitted nicely into the RCNVR, popularly known as the "Wavy Navy", which flourished under the stimulus of war and earned an undying place in naval history.

      After a spell on the Atlantic in armed merchant cruisers of the Royal Navy, he joined Coastal Forces, a branch of the service with a very plain name, which comprised motor torpedo boats and other high-speed craft which were constantly in action, at first in the English Channel and later in the Mediterranean. In April 1944, when Tito and his partisans were fighting for their lives in the mountains of Yugoslavia, a small German supply ship was sneaking along the Dalmatian coast on a dark night with supplies for the enemy garrisons.

      Straining their eyes and nerves to seaward, and with all guns at the ready, the lookouts failed to sweep their glasses through the shadows of the hills inshore. Suddenly there was a roar from powerful engines, a bouncing crash alongside, and shouts in unfamiliar but understandable English "Don't open fire or we'll cut your throats!"   This was the 61st Motor Gunboat Flotilla with British commando, under Lieutenant Commander T. G. Fuller as senior officer, which had been lying in wait for whatever might turn up.

      It could have come from the pages of Hornblower - swift and spirited action with deadly intent - and inside nine minutes the boarders were in control, prisoners secured, and the entire group under way with the White Ensign of the Royal Navy aloft. Surprise had been complete and no casualties occurred on either side. When daylight came, Fuller had a chance to look around his prize. She turned out to be a lovely little brigantine which, although heavily armed and under power when captured, had been built at Trieste as the sail training ship Libeccio for the Italian Navy.

      Returning to Ottawa after the war, with the Distinguished Service Cross and two bars, Tom Fuller settled down once more to sail at Britannia. One day in 1951 when cruising up the Ottawa River to Quyon, Fuller noticed a sad looking steel hull, obviously abandoned, leaning against a tree. It was the old Pattee from which engine and boiler had been removed together with much of the deck. Scuttering through damp leaves in the hold, possibilities were considered. It might just do for a houseboat, possibly with a mast, perhaps even with a sail. Then suddenly a vision of the pretty little Libeccio flashed back. Was it possible, could it be done?

      The Upper Ottawa Improvement Company had no further use for the hull and Fuller bought it at scrap value and towed it home to Britannia. The certificate of registry showed that the G. B. Pattee II had been built at Quyon in 1904 to replace a previous tug of the same name (without numeral) which dated from 1882 and was named for one of the founding directors. So far, so good. But how did they build a steel hull, of conventional form, with round bilges and curved plates, at Quyon?

      Obviously they could have done almost anything in wood but the furnacing of ship plates would have needed outside help and plant. Years later the riddle was solved. Although registered as built in Quyon, the vessel was assembled there from plates and angles prefabricated in Scotland. Not all Clydeside shipyards launched ocean liners. Many specialized in much smaller types and some, which never actually launched a ship, sent mail-order vessels, ranging from Nile passenger steamers to small barges, to all parts of the world. Once the plates and angles were erected in the yard, the whole thing was taken to pieces, painted red and green for port and starboard, numbered from forward to aft, and shipped to the buyer in boxes with bags of rivets and bolts.

      Such a firm was Alley & Maclellan Ltd of Glasgow (long since defunct) which was situated amidst structural engineering plants more than a mile from the River Clyde. Their catalog shows tugs for service in Canada, strengthened for ice. One is clearly the embryo Pattee II. The first step in the conversion of Tom Fuller'€™s derelict was to research the technicalities of masting and rigging. Following this preliminary and with the help of enthusiastic friends, the chrysalis of the tug was transformed into a brigantine yacht with clipper bow, a figurehead (female, undraped, and a story in itself) painted gun ports, and the elegant masts and yards of a square-rigger. The space formerly occupied by the original single cylinder steam engine and wood burning boiler (unlike the hull these were made in Montreal) became the saloon, and a hefty diesel engine was tucked away at the foot of the companionway. The name, suitably piratical to fit the legend, became Black Jack.

      The Black Jack proved to be successful as a yacht which has given immense pleasure to the owner, his wife Jeanne and family, and to countless friends on the Ottawa River. This graceful brigantine is traditionally part of the summer scene on Lake Deschenes. Now a sail training vessel for kids aged 12 - 14, Black Jack still plies the upper Ottawa between Britannia Bay and Fitzroy Harbour, teaching leadership, teamwork, and sailing to Ottawa's youth.

    • From Camper to Career
      For those teens that say there’s nothing interesting to do in the summer, or complain most summer camps are dull, local youth Sam Drinnan would say you couldn’t be more mistaken. At 12 years of age Sam enrolled in a unique summer camp on the Ottawa River. He did not know at the time that this camp aboard a “tallship” would not only effect his summers to come but would place him in Belize aboard a 110 ft sailing ship some 6 years later. How’s that for an exciting activity! Sam knew little of sailing ships when he showed up that summer morning at the Britannia Yacht Club. But he knew he was off for an adventure aboard the STV Black Jack, a 90 foot sailing ship, which he thought looked more like a ship for pirates than for the 20 young people lining the dock. Sam and the other participants, known as “trainees” aboard the Black Jack, where introduced to the captain and crew. It was made clear that this wasn’t your ordinary camp. During the captain’s introduction he told Sam and the others that they would learn how to sail the ship including setting the many sails, climbing the rigging, and steering the ship. Though the captain did not look crazy, Sam wondered if those were lofty goals as none of them could drive a car let alone drive a tall ship. The camp was run by Bytown Brigantine Inc. a charitable not-for-profit foundation dedicated to developing character in youth through the adventure of sail training. Crew members of the Black Jack not only showed Sam how to sail the large ship and make sense of all the ropes and lines, they also acted as role models, friends, and activity coordinators while the ship was docked at Alexandria Island, near Fitzroy Harbour. The week had its share of camp fires ashore, swimming, and stories, but it also saw some dramatic changes in the young crew who now knew that the pointy end of the boat was the bow, that the ropes where called lines, and that the masts and sails all had their own specific names. After his first experience with this new activity Sam was hooked! Deciding that he wanted to be one of the ship’s officers he enrolled in the winter program, spent his weekends learning seamanship the way it had been taught 100 years ago, participated in ongoing maintenance of the ship, and developed the leadership that he had seen displayed by his captain and crew. In few areas of life are youth allowed to grow and learn faster than when immersed in something as fascinating as a tallship. It was this fascination that brought Sam back year after year. Now at 18, Sam finds himself standing on the quarterdeck aboard another of Bytown Brigantine’s sailing ships, the STV Fair Jeanne. Only this time it is February, Sam is an officer and the turquoise water of the Western Caribbean replaces the Ottawa River. Dolphins play in the ship’s wake as the tropical breeze powers the ship along with its towering white sails. Sam has come a long way, as he squints against the sun looking at the distant green jungle to his left that is the coast of Belize. He can’t help but think how it all started so innocently with just another summer camp. Update: The year is 2012. Sam is back on Lake Ontario, back on the Fair Jeanne. He is older, wiser, and armed with experiences many twice his age haven’t had. He will get his chance to inspire a new generation of youth because at just 23, this will be his second season as Captain of this 110-foot sailing ship.
    • Sailing Beyond Seamanship
      The day that the Fair Jeanne rests upon her cradles in the Rideau Locks is the day that our volunteers begin working to get the ship ready for next season. When the sails spread for the first time this sailing season, as the ship makes her way out into Lake Ontario, it will mark the culmination of thousands of man hours spent behind the scenes doing the less glamorous work that all tall ships require. Over the years I have come to realize why volunteers would give up their weekends to sand, scrape and varnish. The interesting thing I have found is that it’s not about the sailing. That may sound funny, and it’s true that many volunteers have found Bytown Brigantine because of their love for sailing, but if their connection to us is only that, then I would recommend buying a Laser. They’ll quickly learn that tall ships are much more work than fun in the sun. Bytown Brigantine volunteers work for over half the year to get the ships ready and then only spend a few weeks sailing them. Bytown Brigantine is about community, and that is exactly what it takes to keep our ships floating. It’s a community where high-school students work alongside lawyers, where a 12-year old can teach a retired civil servant how to tie a bowline. The ships are our bond but they are also the reason behind why people from all walks of life find themselves with something in common. Stepping onto the deck of a ship is like stepping into a world where everything is different, even foreign; the ceiling is the deckhead and the walls are bulkheads. The playing field, like no where else in society, is level for everyone to participate. My love for sailing, and I believe this is true for the rest of the Bytown community, is born out of friendships and a network of people who not only care for tall ships but also for each other. We’re teachers, carpenters, salesmen, mechanics, students, lawyers, engineers, retired servicemen and civil servants supporting each other through a common goal; to give people the opportunity to improve their lives and those of the people around them. No sailing experience required.
    • Landing at Georgina Island Part 2
      With spaghetti sauce smeared over a circle of faces illuminated by the firelight, it was a wonder, with all the pasta that was draped over knees, curled around rocks and smushed under shoes, if any of it actually made it into their mouths. Perhaps they were holding out for marshmallows, which undoubtedly would not end up spending a lonely night next to a rock, spared from roasting at the end of a sharpened stick. No, the marshmallows would not be so lucky, as eager hands tore open the yellow plastic bag, leaving barely a trace of their existence only minutes later. Later that night, when the final sounds of laughter had been shushed out and sleep slowly came to our sugar-induced campers, I lay in my tent staring through the open mesh at the stars, peeking through the bows of pine directly overhead. The day before, these campers were setting sails on the tall ship, ‘Fair Jeanne’, waving to the scores of boaters navigating the narrow passages of the Thousand Islands. They rested their heads on a soft bunk as the ship slowly rocked herself at the dock, and now, after a long sail and countless spells of rowing in erratic winds, they happily slept on an island, after expending every last ounce of energy on a marathon 4-round game of Manhunt. The joys and adventures of small boat sailing in the Thousand Islands have been known to many people for hundreds of years, and now, as the hulls of our whalers bob silently within the shelter of the bay, I can’t help but feel as though we have been unknowingly inserted into the pages of a Mark Twain novel. Here we lie between countries, on a grass-covered mountain top plunging deep beneath the river amongst castles in a labyrinth of islands…a world away from the chaos of highways and trucks, massive office towers and throngs of people busily rushing to from place to place. Tomorrow, when the sun’s early rays invade the thin walls of our tents and pry us from sleep, we’ll plan our route to Gananoque while eating oatmeal over a spread of nautical charts. We’ll toss 16ft oars into the air as the Coxswain pushes us off our dock and row together (or at least try) as we make our way into the main channel. None of us know what adventures lie ahead tomorrow morning, but one thing is for sure- Huckleberry Finn would have loved to have traded in his raft on the Mississippi for a whaler in the Thousand Islands.
    • Landing at Georgina Island Part 1
      We rowed carefully into the bay at Georgina Island, one trainee looking expectantly into the water off the bow, waiting to spot the first boulder as we slipped into the shallows. All the docks were taken up by weekend boaters, tunes cranked with sterns and swim platforms covered in towels and colourful inflatable tubes. There were nearly two dozen of us packed into 27ft open boats, bright yellow dry bags shoved in between us, camping mattresses resting below our feet and sails shoved in any nook available. After setting out from Brockville, behind schedule and fighting the current in light winds under a cloudless sky, all of us were looking forward to dinner and a well-deserved rest. When the call of, ‘Rock!’ first came, we were going slow enough to barely even notice the dull thud that signalled our arrival on shore. Petty Officers and a few trainees scrambled to untie their shoes and slip into the clear water lapping just over two feet under our rail. They had been instructed to tie the bow of each whaler to some sturdy looking trees, while our Coxswain (a small boat term for Captain) readied the anchor, chain and rode for setting off the stern. Our crew was restless, not because of their journey cooped up in the boat, but because they had been encouraged to drink copious amounts of water in the summer heat and now, within sight of the outhouse, their bladders were aching for relief. Once securely tied up, each occupant within the boat rose up unsteadily and one-by-one, crawled forward to the bow with their dry bag in hand, to swing their legs over the rail and drop with a splash into the water. The Coxswain, still sitting in the stern after fiddling with the anchor rode, deftly leapt from thwart to thwart and exited the boat to the sight of more than 20 sailors- shoes, pfd’s, mess kits and water bottles flying all over the place- scrambling madly to get to the toilets. The smell of outhouses in one’s nostrils was quickly replaced by the smell of pasta sauce heated up on a small propane stove. Tents slowly began to appear on flat, grassy spaces along with nylon hammocks now strung between any available trees. Petty Officers stood around looking quizzically at one another with poles in their hands, while others began trying to rustle up some volunteers to clean up the mess of gear strewn about the encampment. Everyone was in good spirits, and soon the lobbying began for a game of Manhunt after sunset. The Coxswain, used to this routine, baited eager trainees with remarks such as, ‘I don’t know…’ and ‘We’ll see…’, only to be met with increased and varied arguments all in explanation of the benefits of such games, ranging from the importance of exercise, to teambuilding, improved sleep and weight loss.
    • A Voyage to Remember, Part 2
      Arms hung around shoulders as Kingston’s cityscape came into view, and hands took to preparing fenders for coming alongside. During the first few weeks, the Mate, usually perched on the main cabin top, would begin orchestrating the procedure. “Port side to…coil that bowline… forward and aft springs, please”, but today she merely cast a watchful eye as the crew, now well versed in docking took to their duties with pride and purpose. They came as regular teenagers, uneasy smiles and nervous laughs on the aft deck as their parents watched, shifting from side-to-side, as the crew introduced themselves. It is not an easy thing to jump with both feet into an unfamiliar world filled with unfamiliar challenges. And although we didn’t know them, and they didn’t know us, it is the nature of our training ships to place trust in those young people that sign aboard; to rely on them and to bestow in them a level of responsibility far greater than they were accustomed to on land. Looking at this motley crew of teenagers never seems to give the crew any sense of their ability. On land, they look and act a certain way- all products of their environment with their own individual methods of surviving the trials and tribulations being a teenager- but sailing ships don’t discriminate by age, they don’t care what music one listens to, or how good someone is at sports. Once young people step aboard a sailing ship the only requirement is a willingness to succeed, to work together, and to trust one another. This isn’t a question that’s asked of them, but rather thrust upon them. No one questions whether a young person has the ability to perform a task- they are told what needs to be done, they are taught how to do it and then they complete the task under careful supervision. This belief in young people, something that is increasingly uncommon in schools and at home, is one of the most powerful motivators aboard a sailing ship. Teenagers are at first dumbstruck at the thought that they could play an important role in the operation of a sea-going ship, but then, once they see that their role onboard is important and that people are counting on them, its amazing how many young people will go above and beyond to see that the job is done right. As our participants and crew pack their bags to once again assimilate into their daily lives on land, a few of them break into tears, promising to return next year. It’s hard to relay to parents the experience their child has had onboard. When they left, these teenagers may have bickered and whined about cleaning their room and washing their dishes- but for 21 days, the same young people awoke at six each morning, made their bed each day, helped with meals, washed dishes, steered the ship to a strict course, climbed 60 ft in the air to set sails and then finished their homework just after supper, exhausted and longing for bed. In twenty-one days not an hour of TV, no I-pods, smart phones or junk food…just a really important and demanding job with no pay and a lot of responsibility. And for some odd reason they really liked it. Maybe there is hope for youth after all.
    • A Voyage to Remember, Part 1
      As the ship tossed itself up the steep chop building quickly off the coast of Toronto, a number of trainees also found themselves tossing other things into the wind-whipped lake. The voyage started out sunny and warm, as blue skies blanketed the city’s harbour amidst a freshening breeze, but soon enough white caps were beginning to form on the waves around us and the clouds began to roll in overhead. We’d already been through a fiercely intense squall on the way in to Toronto, with winds that took our main boom and pushed it so hard our aluminium crutch snapped in two. Now, as if that bit of drama wasn’t enough, Mother Nature was gearing up to wallop our ship once again as we flew along the lake, topsail and reefed main pushing us swiftly along. This was the last trip on the longest voyage Bytown Brigantine ever offered, a full 21-days of sailing, scuba diving and paddling, not to mention a high-school credit in Leadership. It was also the first time the Fair Jeanne, our 110 ft training ship, found herself so chock-a-block full of trainees and crew. Mealtimes on the aft deck began to resemble feeding time at the chicken coop, as everybody struggled to eat, balance and to avoid bumping into one another. Now, however, by the green shade appearing in scores of tanned faces, it was apparent that no one would be looking forward to mealtime. Trainees clipped themselves on to our large cabin top, stared out at the horizon and covered themselves with blankets, as the wind grew stronger and colder. Those lucky few not feeling the ill effects of sea sickness filled water bottles below deck for those desperately needing hydration above them, dodging flying chairs and debris as they danced along with the rocking ship. As the sky grew darker, the Captain looked for a safe place to anchor. Off in the distance, a sharp line of clouds was illuminated by the forks of lightning shooting down towards the water from a few miles away. We decided to stop for the night in a protected bay, to give the ship (and the exhausted crew) a rest from the madness that still persisted out in the lake. Before long, a suitable place was found and we dropped our hook, a 70lb Danforth, into soft mud a couple of hundred meters offshore. When dawn broke, weary sailors slowly made their way to the main cabin for breakfast. The night had been eventful, filled with roaring thunder and high winds, but now, as the sun peeked through the clouds and the temperature began to rise, appetites grew as the smell of hot, crispy bacon wafted into each cabin. As a dozen or so crew munched down their meals, others gathered near the foredeck and took to the anchor gear. Shouts of 2-6 heave echoed across the still bay, as bright green seaweed fastened itself to the white, 3-strand anchor rode that now made its way through the hawse-pipe. Teenagers that stood shyly apart from one another on the first day of the voyage now crowded around the helm, chatting amongst themselves and laughing, while being chided by the Captain for distracting the helmsman. The steady rumble of the engine beneath their feet and the faint smell of diesel exhaust pervaded everyone’s nostrils before the call, ‘Anchor’s catted’ rang out from the bow and the Captain clicked the ship into gear.
    • In the Wake of Vessel 17: The Pursuit of Lasting and Meaningful Change Part 2
      One of the first steps, with a nod to McCulloch, was to integrate a structured leadership component to our program. In doing so, we also worked through the off-season to establish an independent secondary school accredited by the Ministry of Education in Ontario. As a school, we could offer our participants an academic credit; something that was glove-in-hand for a structured program in leadership. It’s important to say that creating a structured academic program in leadership on one of our sail-training vessels doesn’t mean that we turned an otherwise experiential program into a traditional academic experience. If a subject is better learned in a classroom, it should be learned in the classroom, but if you can take a subject and teach it through meaningful experience, a sailing ship is a perfect platform for learning. The purpose of the credit was to shine a light on all the skills participants were gaining onboard our ship and to tie those experiences into meaning so they could think critically about how to apply them to their daily lives. We followed up the creation of our own school by dramatically increasing the length of our voyage. I say voyage because, during its first year, we were only willing to risk jeopardizing half of our summer if our academic program turned out to be a bust. The minimum amount of time it takes to earn an academic credit is 110 hours, so we took the bold step of offering the longest voyage in our program’s history- 21 days! Knowing that nearly a month of straight sailing in the St Lawrence River, the Thousand Islands and Lake Ontario may be a little daunting for trainees new to sailing, we incorporated scuba-diving and flat-water kayaking certificate programs into the program itinerary. This would break things up, offer participants something familiar to look forward to and send them home with two additional certifications in addition to the credit they would earn. The incorporation of a structured leadership credit into our traditional sail-training program not only attracted more participants to our programs, but it also provided us with a way to ensure that we were living up to our mission. Relying entirely on the platform of a tall ship to bring about positive and lasting change is like giving someone a bicycle without showing them how to use the pedals and pushing them down a hill. As they leave they’ll be waving and smiling as they gain speed, only to struggle when they’re out of sight, momentum dwindling, halfway up the next hill. Applying shipboard experiences to daily challenges in participant’s lives will allow them to succeed when the ship sails off and they begin the reality of daily life.
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    Frequently Asked Questions

    Does Tall Ships Adventure have good reviews?
    We interviewed families about their experience with Tall Ships Adventure. Watch the video here. You can also read 4 reviews of Tall Ships Adventure from past attendees.

    What types of programs does Tall Ships Adventure offer?
    Tall Ships Adventure runs: overnight camps. Programming specializes in: Travel, Adventure (multi). Browse the program calendar for rates and dates.

    What age does Tall Ships Adventure start?
    Tall Ships Adventure has programs for children aged 12 to 18.

    How much does is cost to attend Tall Ships Adventure?
    Fees to attend Tall Ships Adventure range from $990 to $4,000/session.

    Does Tall Ships Adventure offer support for children with special needs?
    Tall Ships Adventure does not offer support for children with special needs.

    Does Tall Ships Adventure offer busing?
    No, Tall Ships Adventure does not offer transportation.

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