Oriole skipper says farewell to sailing ketch


After sailing as HMCS Oriole’s Captain for almost four-and-a-half years, LCdr Kibble handed over command to LCdr Michael Wills July 30.

The new Commanding Officer is junior to him in age, but carries equal confidence and capacity to bear the responsibly of skippering the 94-year-old sailing ketch.

Oriole was designed and built in 1921 as a racing platform. It was eventually commissioned into the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) in 1952. LCdr Kibble says all but a few really understand the true power of this ship, both as a racing/training vessel and a floating ambassador.

“HMCS Oriole packs a wallop for Canadians in general, and the RCN in particular wherever we go. We draw huge crowds of young and old alike, and we are center stage.”

He adds, “She’s a better ship now than when she was first built,” referencing the vast changes that only a commissioned vessel in the navy can receive through the decades.

During his four years at the helm, LCdr Kibble has witnessed the “oohhs and aahhs” from sailors and the public as they tour the vessel, or take part in sailing it around Vancouver Island waters.  

“Sailors hailing from every nation flock to have a look at her and talk to her crew. On behalf of Canada, she gives us a resonating voice with the public, and it’s an experience they never forget.”

First taught to sail by his father, LCdr Kibble then honed his skills aboard the Golden Hinde, a replica of Sir Francis Drake’s ship. From there his schooling included two 140 foot top sail schooners, Winston Churchill, and Malcom Miller. As a professional mariner, the next step in his progression was joining the RCN.   

LCdr Kibble was scoffed at when he boldly declared to a Navy Selection Board he had his crosshairs set on Oriole. When that declaration came to fruition, he said to his parents, “mission accomplished.”

Despite his lengthy sailing background, LCdr Kibble said he felt humbled when took responsibility for Oriole and crew for the first time.

The key ingredients for building a robust crew are the same for any RCN vessel, namely discipline, teamwork, repetition, and camaraderie.

But sailing a massive warship and a wooden-hulled sailing ketch are very different.

Oriole requires a hands-on ability to sail in all types of weather conditions.

“In order to accomplish that level of skill, you have to really listen to this ship and hear what she’s telling you. That takes time,” says LCdr Kibble.

Performance on the waves isn’t just about what the ship can do, it’s about what the ship and the crew can do together working as one, he says.

The sailor now has his sights set on retirement and working with his father and sons to repair a sailboat. Once fixed, he will be on the water once again.


Lt(N) Paul Trenholm

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