Yachting on the St. Lawrence

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by L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.

It wasn’t until I took a bus tour on Martha’s Vineyard thirty-five years ago that I came to appreciate the value of public tours. Before then I harboured a misplaced prejudice against what I then characterized as something largely for the blue-rinse crowd, likely instructive – even bordering on informative – but not all that much fun. The Vineyard experience however removed the preconception.One event in particular stands out.As we bumpily motored about the perimeter of the island on that sunshiny day in an open-air red trolley bus, we paused at one point alongside the undulating sea grasses abutting the white sandy beach and glistening Atlantic Ocean to scrutinise an oddity in a field on the other side of the road.In the distance in an enormous clearing was a staircase.There was just a staircase, nothing else.The tour guide mischievously explained that if you were interested in the purchase of the lot, the real estate agent would escort you to the top of the staircase, turn you toward the ocean and pronounce, “This would be the view from your bedroom window!” Compelling, don’t you agree?

Boating on the St. Lawrence

Now it may seem a long way from the rustic charm of Cape Cod, Massachusetts to a boat tour on the St. Lawrence River in Gananoque, Ontario but there are remarkable similarities.Let me first say that Gananoque, for those of you who may be unfamiliar with it, is a comfortable 1½ hour automobile drive down Highway #416, connecting to Highway #401 West then veering onto the terribly picturesque Ivy Lea Parkway which skirts the St. Lawrence River and shows to great advantage the outstanding sea-level summer homes along the expansive waterway.

There are several options for a boat tour along the Ivy Lea Parkway but we opted on this occasion to make the full jaunt to Gananoque.At the end of historic Stone Street in Gananoque is the Gananoque Inn (itself a treasure, housing an inn, restaurant, spa and cottages looking upon the water).Making a right at the bottom of Stone Street and crossing the narrow one-lane bridge which separates the yacht slips from the River proper, one lands in the collection of ancient sea-side buildings wherein one can shop, dine, visit a museum and purchase boat tour tickets.As luck would have it (for we recklessly hadn’t taken the precaution of reserving tickets) we secured two tickets for a one-hour tour with an imminent departure.We had by fortunate chance just enough time to grab some fish and chips from Pal’s across the road before having to present ourselves for boarding.

As we waited alongside the small wharf for the arrival of our tour boat, I, unlike my companion who took refuge with most of the others under a covered sitting area, stood in the blistering sun.I was intent upon capturing all that the day had to offer.It speaks to the developing ethnicity of Canada that the people who began to congregate were from many different cultures and spoke many different languages. While there certainly were tourists from Germany and Italy, I venture to say that the majority were resident Canadians who came from a diversity of national backgrounds.

Once on board, and following the mandatory warnings (in French and English) about what and what not to do and where the life jackets were located in the highly unlikely event of a catastrophe, we pushed off and immediately felt the relieving effect of a strong cool breeze.I knew in an instant that my mission was accomplished.I sat upon one of the benches bordering the upper deck, stretched out my legs, pointed my face into the wind and the sun and closed my eyes.I could of course still hear the bilingual monologue about the names and history of the 1,800 islands among which our large motorized vessel stably ploughed, but it wasn’t long before I relinquished my interest in improvement and settled instead for the warmth of the sun and the reflection from the glimmering water.

I suspect I hardly need dilate upon the humanizing effects of sun and water, it is a well-known tonic.Really, there was nothing that could have been done to escalate the experience.The sky with its wide and high horizon was almost cloudless; the views up and down the River were clear and entertaining; the breeze added a welcome veneer to the tanning of the sun.Even our hardy luncheon of fish and chips completed the soporific consequence of the afternoon’s indulgences.