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By Katherine Stone

Stay for a visit or a lifetime

You have secured your vacation time from work, the head has been emptied, the water and fuel tanks topped up, the boat is provisioned, the sail plan has been filed with the dock master at your boating club, and with a sigh of relief, you cast off on your long awaited holiday cruising eastward down Lake Ontario. Your ultimate destination is Prince Edward County, at the far north eastern part of Lake Ontario. You know that you will find there a fabulous, down-home marina nestled in the heart of vineyards, farms, forests, and apple orchards. The full service Waupoos Marina is a familiar docking/mooring spot for boaters from Gananoque to Kingston to Hamilton, and was the brain child of the late Ian Kennedy (a navy man and former president of the Canadian Wine Institute) and his wife Linda Bell. This beautifully relaxing and secluded marina is located on the southeast side of Prince Edward County, in Smiths Bay, at the site of an old Waupoos canning factory, apple storage site, and port for schooner ships.

Waupoos (which means “rabbit” in Ojibwe) was originally the home of the Massassauga natives, now in Alderville, Ontario, who are rumoured to have had a burial ground on Waupoos Island. Later, in the time frame surrounding the American Revolution, it became populated by United Empire Loyalists who used Waupoos as a point for resettlement. Remains of their influence can be found in the main road into Picton, which is called the Loyalist Highway. Picton, a mere 13 km from Waupoos, is Prince Edward County’s largest community, named for General Sir Thomas Picton, second in command to Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo. Sir John A. MacDonald also lived there when he managed a law office for his uncle.  Picton is also the site of the RAF Bombing and Gunnery School built in the summer of 1940. After the war, it was taken over by the Canadian Army and renamed Camp Picton, which eventually closed in 1969. In 1998, the town and all other municipalities in the county were dissolved and amalgamated into the Corporation of the County of Prince Edward.

The wonderful amenities that you can find right on sight include 120 berths, mooring and slips that can  accommodate vessels up to 80 Feet in length and 10 feet in depth. Every summer there are 85-90 permanent boaters that call Waupoos their home. Rick Verschoor, the marina manager was quick to point out all the amenities of the full service marina. You will find a crane service, showers, laundry, pump-out, winter storage, seasonal and visitor docking, fuel, ice, water, a small grocery store, Canadian nautical charts, an engine mechanic on call, AND a hot tub! But that’s just the beginning…..as The Blue Moose Café beckons, which in the 1800s was an apple storage building, and now serves up delicious breakfast and lunch items to eat al fresco or in the sunny dining room.  After a home brewed, gratis, cup of java, we now head to the Cheese shop which features the famous artisanal ewe’s milk cheeses from Quebec. We tried the Bleu de La Moutonniere. With its natural rind and slightly sweet flavor, the distinctive cheese begs to be tasted again and again. It’s getting warm, so a nice ice cream cone sounds just right – just down the path and you can satisfy your craving at the Ole Ice Cream Parlour.

Now that your palate has been satisfied, you can enjoy the short self-guided tour of the Cannery Row. This was added during the summer of 2012 and highlights historic moments and information about the former cannery, its workers, and local farmers. Apples were picked from nearby orchards and stored in what is now the Blue Moose Café. The apples were then packed into barrels, rolled onto schooners, sailed down the lake to Montreal, and then loaded onto clipper ships headed for England. The cannery opened in the late 1800s and was the second last one to close in the province in 1985. Thomas A. Rigby converted a Nova Scotia schooner into a twin diesel motor boat named Kathleen R.H, which he used to regularly cruise up from Toronto to Waupoos. His family, who has now migrated back to the county, recalls that he turned the boat engine off and floated into the harbor, which was awash with tomato parts from the cannery!

So you have now safely berthed your boat, had a shower, satisfied your tummy, had some exercise, and a history lesson. What’s next? Make reservations for the Cannery Row Summer Theatre Series by the Lake – right at the marina! There’s a county show with singers and step dancing in July, the Rum Runners Show in August, and the Studio Tour Rock and Roll in September. Linda Bell St. Laurent, who is still very actively involved in the marina, points out that all the actors and singers are local, but the proceeds from the nights all go to the Bellwood Foundation for the Prevention of Addiction. You might even catch the tail end of the Waupoos Wabbit Wace. By the way, this is the only mention of anything close to rabbit that I could find! The sailboat race starts at the Prince Edward YC and finishes just off the Waupoos Marina culminating with a great party for those who make it in before sunset.

A very easy bike ride from the Marina, is the Waupoos Estates Winery sitting on the hillside overlooking Lake Ontario. You can sample their red, white, rose and dessert wines at the daily tasting and tours. Then you might wish to stay for a casual light lunch on the patio or a gourmet gastronomic dinner experience, featuring locally sourced ingredients and house wines. Chocolate lovers are in luck, because right in the winery is the Chocolatier and Gelato Shop. Chocolate covered almonds or potato chips anyone? How about mango or hazelnut gelato?

To work off all those calories, might I suggest a more vigorous bike hike up to the County Cider Company…and you will find that it is well worth the trip. There is nothing more inviting than a beautifully cold Waupoos Premium Cider to help wash down the outdoor wood oven fired pizzas – legendary in the region. Locally grown produce and supplies are used exclusively on their menus that change with the seasons. The local “Cider Master”, Grant Howes has taken advantage of the unique climate and soil of the region to craft the local ciders, unequalled anywhere else in North America.

Wow, what a day… now back to the marina where we can go for a swim or fish right off the dock in the, clean, clear harbour.  It is well protected by the floating tire breakwater which was designed by Goodyear in the 1960s and has become a natural habitat for fish. The Waupoos Marina has a gold rating for eco-efficiency run by the Marina Green Leaf Eco-Rating program. A great place to visit or stay, it has been a tradition for many families who love to combine family and boating time together. Take Mr. Rigby, who started this tradition with his family some 50+ years ago, when he brought his young granddaughter down to Waupoos for a holiday. In order to keep Jean safe on these adventures, they would nail Jean’s diaper to the deck and then pop her into it, which was a great way to ensure that she didn’t escape or fall overboard! The good times continue to roll down here in Prince Edward County – so come on down and enjoy the friendliest marina on the lake, set in its folksy, secluded, pastoral setting.

Waupoos Marina RR #4, 65 County Road 38; Picton, Ontario   K0K 2T0  613-476-2926; www.waupoosmarina.ca

Photo Captions:

All photos credited to Katherine Stone

1) The full service Waupoos Marina is a familiar docking/mooring spot for boaters from Gananoque to Kingston to Hamilton

2) Waupoos Estate winery looking out at Lake Ontario

3) The Blue Moose Cafe beckons visitors to come in and relax

4) Entrance by land with Waupoos boat sign

5) The Cheese Shop features the famous artisanal ewe’s milk cheeses from Quebec

6) Waupoos County Cider Company pizza lunch

7) Welcoming flags at the marina office

8) The self-guided tour of Cannery Row offers highlights historic moments and information about the former cannery