Schooner Ontario: A 2020 Update

The H. Lee White Maritime Museum at Oswego is pleased to announce that it has formally begun strategically planning the future of the traditional 1850s-style gaff topsail schooner Ontario – the future of tall-ship sailing on the American shores of Lake Ontario.




Ontario was designed by Francis MacLachlan; designer of the brigantines St. Lawrence II, Playfair, and Pathfinder, all of which still ply the Canadian waters of Lake Ontario today.  Ontario’s construction began when her parent organization the Oswego Maritime Foundation (OMF) laid her keel in 1988. Between that year and 2012, over 200 OMF volunteers contributed countless hours to construction, preliminary sea trials, maintenance, and mission planning.  In 2012, the Maritime Museum acquired the assets of the OMF, including Ontario, to spearheading the tall ship’s completion and acquire U.S. Coast Guard certification for educational on-the-water youth and adult programming.


In 2018, the Maritime Museum formed the Schooner Ontario Exploratory Committee – comprised of community stakeholders, Maritime Museum leadership, and potential donors – to begin the process of conceptualizing the future of the vessel.  In 2019, the Maritime Museum offered the “Tall Ship Oswego Pilot Program” in partnership with Tall Ship Expeditions Canada’s St. Lawrence II and the Rosamond Gifford Foundation which offered youth participants a tall ship sailing experience on the American Shores of Lake Ontario.  Through that experience Ontario’s Exploratory Committee developed a timeline for funding, vessel construction and certification, and a baseline for future educational programming.


Despite the struggles of COVID-19, in 2020 the Maritime Museum hired Buckley Yacht Design to provide the Exploratory Committee with a scope of work as applied to the requirements for U.S. Coast Guard certification for educational programming on Lake Ontario.  With the Maritime Museum’s projected future growth, the future Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary, and the City and Port of Oswego’s waterfront revitalization initiatives, we believe Ontario is more viable than ever, and look forward to providing more updates as soon as they arise!


For more information, or to learn how you can support the future of tall ship sailing on Lake Ontario, contact Executive Director, Mercedes Niess, at 315-342-0480.


 *Above Image Courtesy of Robert Finn*

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