Boating in Ontario


by Gary McWilliams (aka Festival Nomad)

It seems that I have been boating all my life!

My first remembered encounter with boating was at the Matabanick Inn near Minden.

I was about 6 years old when we started to use a canoe and 5 hp runabout for water skiing. The canoe was used to help skiers stand to get out of the water. The skier would sit on the bow of the canoe and then stand up on the skis once he or she was going fast enough!

We used this method of “getting up” until the outboard engines became more powerful!

I can always remember my father using this method to ski. The first time he did it and was almost up, he started to fall. As he fell, face first, he forgot to let go of the rope and as a result he was towed a short distance under water! We all thought that it was funny, but my Dad didn’t! I’m not sure if he ever tried water skiing again.

He did, however, love to drive the boat and help us water ski. He became pretty tricky sometimes, forcing us to fall prematurely. We certainly had a LOT of fun!

My Dad love to fish, especially for Lake Trout. Matabanick Inn was located on Little Lake Boshkung. Back then there were lots of fish in the lake. As a treat my Dad would let me drive the boat (a small runabout with a 10 hp motor) as he trolled for fish. We would go out on summer nights and fished for hours. I loved it and never tired of it!

Over the years I have had plenty of boating experiences. The first time I tried water skiing, I couldn’t stand up properly and I eventually started to sink with my “rear-end” being dragged through the water! I spent  quite sometime in the cottage recovering!

Later in life Judi and I own a ski boat. My friend Tom was visiting us. I told him how great a water skier I was when I was a kid. He was skeptical and offered to drive our boat and take me skiing. Judi was going to be the “observer“. I agreed and I was soon “suited up” and “ready to go“!

Everything was going fine. I was up on one ski (slalom) and moving back and forth over the boat’s wake. After a while I was getting tired, but I wanted to proved to Tom and Judi just how great a skier I was! I dug the back of my ski into the water and skied over the wake and was almost ahead of the boat. Then I dug in again and skied in the other direction. I was going FULL out, almost touching the water with my elbow. I reached the first wake and “jumped“! Somehow I lost control and started to “skip” over the water like a “flat skipping stone“. I blacked out for a moment. The next thing I remember is Judi and Tom “dragging” me into the boat! They thought that my “skipping like stone” was quite funny! Like my father before me, I couldn’t see the humour! They still refer to me as “skip“!

Boating for me wasn’t always a “tragedy“. From an early age driving a boat was my release. I always felt at peace when I am on the water, and I still do. Now, without access to a boat, driving in the country has replaced it. However, I still prefer floating on the water!

I pity the kids today who don’t have the same freedom. I started driving boats when I was about 7 years old.

Like most people who have boated for a long time, I have plenty of stories to tell. I won’t bore you with them all, but…

I will tell you one that almost made my heart stop!

Judi and I were sitting in our boat at the Bobcaygeon locks. Across from us was a “huge” cruiser, perhaps 60 ft plus. It was a magnificent boat, probably worth several million dollars. It looked like it had just come from the Erie Canal with its big canvas covered bumpers hanging over its sides.

As we were sitting there, enjoying a lemonade, we noticed a large boat coming upstream towards the locks. If you have ever been boating on the Trent-Severn Waterway, you will know about “HOUSEBOATS”!

This was a 39 ft houseboat (any large and you’d have to have a boat pilot license) and under powered! This meant that the boat was VERY hard to control!

I looked up at the people on the cruiser and yelled “WATCH OUT”! I had seen how out-of-control houseboats could become, especially if half the crew had been drinking and partying!

The people on the cruiser started to prepare, they know what was coming!

They pilot of the houseboat seemed to have everything under control. It passed our boat without a problem. I breathed a “sigh of relief“! I took a “big” breath!

My “sigh” was short lived! As the houseboat tried to dock, the driver “LOST” control!

The houseboat started to drift, sideways, into the middle of the canal!

To try to solve the problem, the houseboat drive tried to play with the engines, trying to maneuver the boat back into position. BIG MISTAKE!

Instead of throttling the power shift gently, he push the level full forward. The houseboat started to pickup speed, rushing towards the million dollar (US dollars) cruiser!

There was a”crash” that could probably be heard “around the world“. Well, perhaps not “around the world“, but certainly “around the locks“!

We stayed at the locks for a short time, thanking our “lucky stars” that it wasn’t our boat that hit.

As we left the locks, I yelled up to the owner of the cruiser, “GOOD LUCK!“.

I have tried to give a few fun stories of my life, “Boating in Ontario”. I hope that you enjoyed them and stories of your own. Share them if you wish on the comment section below. I’d love to hear from you!

All of the boat photos shown in this article were taken by either Judi or me on our journey’s throughout Ontario.

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