First Recorded Marriage Officiated by a Ship’s Captain in Toronto

Wedding Onboard

July 25, 2019

By Howie Colt

I have hosted many special occasion events on the Gone Sailing Adventures’ yachts since starting the business in 2010.  The most common are bachelorette and birthday parties, corporate events and summer long brand experiences.  I have presided over a number of ash-scatterings and hosted four weddings on board.

The latter have been intimate events with most occupying only one yacht (8-12 people).  Last year we had a three-boat wedding with 26 people.  We recently hosted our largest wedding yet, with 45 people aboard four yachts.
During each of the previous weddings, I played a minor role in providing the venue coupled with my regular captaining responsibilities.  Our couples arranged their own officiant and details. 

Last year, on a charter with guests of the Joe Plati, editor of the Bridal Guide and Canada Gay Weddings, I was introduced to Ray Swash, president of Dream Weddings Canada ( whose company provides officiant services to couples.  We talked about the process of becoming a licensed officiant and how it would be unique to be married by a real ship’s captain.  It didn’t take much convincing and at the end of the 2018 sailing season, I enrolled in a one day course, and became an ordained minister and licensed officiant in the Province of Ontario.

Wedding OnboardCapt’n Howie congratulates the groom

During the winter, I officiated over one wedding and felt I was now ready, to run the show on a yacht wedding.  In the spring of 2019, as I was hiring staff for the summer and reacquainting with our existing team from previous year, one of my lead captains, Bryan Bambrick described his underwater wedding to Julia Malfara (also part of our crew).  It was fun and spontaneous, but they also wanted to be legal in Ontario.  He and Julia discussed it and a plan was put in place. I was all set, my first wedding. In four weeks, our first big event of the summer would take place and it was going to be their wedding.  Now, in addition to the many “titles” I have, I became wedding planner as well.

I offered the yachts of Gone Sailing Adventures ( – three beautiful Beneteaus and a Dufour, all 38-41′.  Bryan arranged for the crew to volunteer that evening.  I provided the photographer Samantha Jackson from our team during the sail and hired the florist, Carlene Francis of Casa die Fiori.

For this event, I engaged my partner Heather Henderson, to outfit me.  Beyond her day job as an ER nurse, she is a talented artist, decorator, seamstress, and amazing organizer.  She designed the Captain’s epaulets for my official uniform.  Working with Carlene, the two created a unique floral and textile design on the front of one of our 41′ yachts –  WhiRLygirl.  They created a beautiful frame while still having an open view forward of the bow.

This event also needed proper video, and Ed Radonic of Radonic Rodgers Strategy), tourism and marketing was engaged to provide drone footage of the evening.  Being in the city of Toronto, we had to escape east in order to avoid the restrictions on drone flying near Billy Bishop Airport.  We decided Ashbridges Bay, just off Woodbine Beach would be far enough away to fly the drones and would create an excellent view of the city as the sun set during the wedding ceremony.

The weather was perfect – a sunny and rare warm June day with just a light wind.  The flotilla set off at 6pm from the Gone Sailing Adventures dock at Queens Quay W and Lower Spadina Ave.  Motoring close together so that the whole group of 45, spread across the 4 yachts could at least be in sight of each other as we made our way out of the Harbour and east to Woodbine Beach.

Wedding OnboardWe were greeted by the ABYC racing fleet as we approached the anchorage.  It was a beautiful site, spinnakers flying – something special for many of the guests who had never been on a sail boat before. 

At the Anchorage, the four yachts rafted together.  Everyone gathered around the foredeck of WhiRLygirl, spread amongst the yachts.

Captain Howie, made the call to begin the ceremony with a long blast of his conch shell.  Bryan walked up the port side of the boat and Julia, treading carefully in her heals (an exception was made to the no shoe rule) on the starboard side.

“Pirates, Sailors, Scallywags, and Stowaways… In other words… friends and family”… is how the ceremony began.

The couple sealed their wedding vows by tying not just the proverbial but the real knot too.  Prepared by Cap’t Howie, the wedding (fisherman’s) knot tightened as the two worked together pulling each end to form a single knot from the two pieces of rope.  A toast was made and King Neptune was asked  “to watch upon this couple and provide fair seas and safe passage to Julia and Bryan on their life long journey together.” This request was sealed with a sacrificial libation and a shared swig (“sailor style” from the bottle of iceberg vodka) by the newly married couple

Wedding OnboardThe party continued upon returning to the dock at the Loch&Quay bistro.

Upon investigation by the Ports Toronto archivist, Bryan and Julia’s wedding officiated by Captain Howie Colt (Canadian Master Limited <40 ton & International Master of Yachts 200t) is the first recorded ceremony performed by a ship’s captain in Toronto.











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