By Graeme Hoatson Beattie member of the Toronto chapter

Recently I saw a post on the Facebook page “Vintage Toronto” that caught my attention. It was a picture of an antique launch used by the then Toronto Life Saving and Police Patrol Service, a department of the Toronto Harbour Commissioners established in 1921. I was curious if they still had her in use today as I had a chance meet-up with a similar boat in 1986.

I was attending the Antique and Classic Boating Society-Toronto Chapter’s boat show that year with my 1950 20’ Chris Craft Riviera. On the Sunday I took the family out for a cruise around the harbour and the islands. We were heading out the western gap when this nice launch approached. They waved us over. I thought it was another boat from the show, so I was surprised it was the police and they were on patrol! They did a safety check of my boat then warned us that Lake Ontario was quite windy with high rollers and felt our Chris was too small to handle the conditions. We heeded their advice and returned to the harbour.

The Toronto Life Saving and Police Patrol morphed into today’s Metropolitan Toronto Police Marine Unit. The unit is head quartered on the former site of the Toronto Harbour Police which includes a nine-slip boathouse. In that boathouse resides a fully restored 1939 33’ J.J. Taylor patrol boat, THP #5. The boat was built for use on Lake Ontario with a deep V hull designed to slice through the waters. It is the only remaining police vessel of its kind in active duty in North America. The head of the unit exclaimed in 1997 “if we continue to maintain this boat, it will outlast any of our boats down here”. While it still does some regular patrols, it is mainly used as a ‘VIP’ boat to transport dignitaries during special or ceremonial activities

Now that I have seen the pictures and read some stories, I do believe this was the same wonderful launch I encountered in 1986.


  1. There was a 1951 Taylor Special Launch, which was previously owned by the Toronto Police Department, entered in the 2018 National Boat Show in Port Huron.

  2. These patrol boats were built by J.J. Taylor and Sons at their boat works adjacent to the north wall of the western gap entrance to Toronto Harbour.. I own Patrol boat #7 which is the boat on the right of #5 in picture taken in 2016 when they were reunited after 50 years of being apart. The boat in the black and white picture in Harbour by itself is #6.
    It is still around and was listed for sale in Minnesota a couple of years ago. For more pictures of these boats look on Pinterest under J.J. Taylor and Sons.

    • Peter; I am wondering if this boat still exists? perhaps you know?
      Sometime in the 1940’s,
      my Grandfather purchased a 32 ft. launch from Toronto Police Service and kept it at Dawson’s Marina on Lake Simcoe. I have always wondered what happened to it and if it is still operating somewhere.
      I am fairly sure it was a Tayor, but since I was little at the time, I can’t be sure. It was named Osprey on the stern and was powered by a Chrysler flat head 6 cylinder mounted in mid location, a removable engine cover that could be walked around. It had a bench seat in front and one in the rear. A curved front mahogany deck – not white like in the photos. The windshield was mahogany framed with sloping sides and side windows oval in shape. Also it had a snap fastening canvas top. It was known for it’s heavy weather capability and apparently often recued other boats.

      • THP boats were numbered from 1to10 and whenever one was replaced the new boat took over its number. The 2 boats on the right in the Fleet picture (taken in 1930) were 38’ Ditchburns with a sedan bridge which disappeared and have never resurfaced? The Toronto Harour Commission also had a boat which they used for showing VIP’s around the Harbour and also taking their Board of Directors out on cocktail cruises!
        They changed them every few years and they were kept at the THP station who looked after them and piloted them when THC was using them. So I would assume that between 1920 and 1960 they went through a couple of dozen wooden boats making Osprey hard to identify without its THP number.

  3. I’m so glad I found this. As a young man, my father worked for the Harbour Police. He’ll be 89 this year. He’ll be thrilled to see this.

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