Crowds showed up by the thousands to view Canada’s oldest and longest serving naval vessel. HMCS Oriole spent the Canada Day weekend docked at the Port of Sault Ste. Marie, where the crew offered free tours of the 101-year-old sailing ship.

The Oriole was first launched in 1921, and was eventually commissioned into the Royal Canadian Navy in 1954. These days, Oriole serves as a training vessel, with a crew complement of 21.

Sailor 3rd Class Miguel Tremblay says unlike the RCN’s modern fleet, every task aboard Oriole is done manually.

“Nothing is mechanical, everything is done by hand,” said Tremblay. “Just to leave a harbour in comparison to our big warships, you undo the lines and it’s all by engine. Here, everything is done by hand. The anchor is the worst thing in the world. Any sort of anchor, that’s all done by hand.”

Tremblay says Oriole has undergone some upgrades over the years, giving the crew some amenities the ship wouldn’t otherwise have.

“We have outlets and plugs now, which is great, we have modern toilets, so that’s a nice feature to have at sea,” he said, adding the navy is also trying out wifi on the ship to give the crew a means to communicate with home.

Tremblay said Sunday over 3,000 people have toured the ship while it was docked in the Sault over the Canada Day weekend. Most remarked on how well the century-old vessel is aging, particularly the wood work. Tremblay says keeping the wood in good condition is in itself a full-time job.

“It’s a lot of work maintaining her,” he said. “One of the skills I’ve learned is wood work, something I never thought I’d (learn) on a navy vessel. Most of our ships are steel and paint. This one is wood, so it’s a lot of wood work, and care and love for sure.”

HMCS Oriole will set sail for Thessalon on Monday, with tours to be offered the following day. The journey from the Sault to Thessalon is expected to take close to nine hours.

Even at 101-years-old, the crew says Oriole will likely remain in service for some time to come.