Stony Lake Yacht Club - Pagoda from the water.Katherine Stone

As summer becomes a distant memory, see if you can close your eyes and recall those glorious days when you spent more than one lazy day hanging around the general store at the cottage. Not only was it a great place to purchase some penny candy, but also the place where you could eavesdrop on conversations that your parents said you should know nothing about. It’s where countless members of small communities seemed to blend seamlessly when they sailed, laughed, danced, swam, had ice creams, paddled, and shared cherished memories in a casual, summer atmosphere. C and Stony Lake Yacht Club comprise this community which has existed for some eight generations on Juniper Island in the ‘Jewel of the Kawarthas’. Many say that if Stony Lake is a community then Juniper is its hub.  In the late 40s, Swatty Wotherspoon came to the lake and has been returning ever since. For him, life-lasting friendships were made where he vividly remembers square dances at the Pavillion, which became a very important place for his family growing up. He still treasures the spoons he won in the races sailing with everyone out of the yacht club. 

Located in Peterborough County, Ontario, about two hours northeast of Toronto, Stony Lake is actually three interconnected lakes (Upper Stoney Lake to the northeast, Stony Lake in the centre, and Clear Lake to the southwest). These lakes form part of a lengthy inland waterway connecting Georgian Bay to Lake Ontario, known as the Trent-Severn Waterway. The area has been inhabited for thousands of years by First Nations peoples, evidenced by remarkable prehistoric collections of rock carvings found at the Petroglyphs Provincial Park. Later in the 17th century, Samuel De Champlain travelled the area lakes. When the European setters arrived in the 19th century they found land for farming and logging. Stony Lake then soon became part of the highway for moving logs to the sawmills down river.

Stony Lake Yacht Club - Hard work sailing an AykroydThe early settlers referred to this area as Salmon Trout Lake, however you will no longer find any of these fish in the waters. But the name suits the area as there are rocky islands and shoals everywhere. The water is clearer, cleaner, deeper, and colder than the lakes in the south, with over 1,000 islands covering 28 square kilometres of water. Whether it’s Stony or Stoney, there are surprisingly fierce local loyalties around the 'proper' spelling of this simple word. But with classic Canadian compromise, the majority of cottagers overwhelmingly voted to approve the status quo: Stony.

The American Canoe Association met on Juniper Island in 1883, and simple lodges soon followed for fishing and hunting. By 1887 and 1911, respectively, the Juniper Island Store and the Stony Lake Yacht Club (SLYC), with its extensive docks, became vital community pillars that joined the many simple, rustic summer cabins that were built on land purchased from the crown. Understandably, after 100 years, time has taken its toll on the store that was recently torn down. However, it will be rebuilt on the same site with donations from the SLCA (Stony Lake Cottagers Association). In a joint effort, the Stony Lake YC and SLCA raised some $1.2 million dollars this past summer with their Juniper Island Next Generation Capital Campaign to commence work on the clubhouse, a former two story boarding house, and new docks in the fall of 2015.

Since the first canoe regatta in 1883, countless sailing regattas have followed, the numerous steamers have been replaced by individual boats, and canoe liveries have been replaced by marinas. Everything happens from late June to Labour Day; the friendships that are formed and the generations of cottagers that have sent their youngsters off in a boat for the day have not changed.

Stony Lake Yacht Club - Aykroyd fleet Longtime member of SLYC, Rob Welsh, recounted how the sailing school started some 60 years ago with baptism by fire! Older teens in their International 14s would pick up younger children waiting on the Juniper dock. The windier it was, the better.  As the numbers of young sailors grew, Tom Guillet raised some money to build 10 small fiberglass training boats resembling miniature I14s which were 10 feet long. Apparently they were very unstable and tipped over with alarming regularity (much to the delight of the participants). The modern day sailing school has some 100 children each month of the summer sailing Optis, Echoes, 420s, Fevas, Laser IIs and 29ers. He paraphrases it by saying, “It takes a certain leap of faith for parents to send their 9 and 10 year old children off in small motor boats each morning. There is a strong sense of community on Stony and it is a comfort knowing that on Juniper Island there is no such thing as other peoples’ children, should a problem arise.”

Amazingly, there is also a fleet of boats that came to Stony in the 1930s, went by the wayside with the introduction of International 14s, Y Flyers, Flying Scots, and lasers, but have made a comeback. The 14 foot Aykroyd sailing dinghy catboat (built in Toronto from the 1920s to 1940s), is a fine example of Canadian workmanship. These lovingly restored wooden boats used to race on many Ontario lakes (Muskoka, Lake of Bays, Stony, and Georgian Bay), but are currently only found on Stony Lake. There are now 18 of these skipper owned boats that are raced on Stony every weekend throughout the summer with one person (or two if it’s really windy for the wild ride downwind). They happily sail right next to old sloops and hi-tech modern designs with young and old alike enjoying the wind and water. This past summer they also introduced a couple of weekend morning clinics for anyone who wanted to learn more about technique, racing, and strategy, hosted by graduates of the SLYC Junior Program.

Stony Lake Yacht Club - Tennis hutThe Cottage Club Regatta is a most unique event involving a host of volunteers and six visiting clubs where all participants are billeted and the event rotates among three hosting venues: Stony Lake YC, Muskoka SC, and Lake of Bays SC. This year saw a record of 145 participants in five classes of boats with two race courses. “All in all it is a great event that exposes young racers to their first regatta in a fun and learning environment and introduces them to new yacht clubs and the regatta experience,” says Jeff Somerville, Director of Junior Sailing.

If sailing isn’t your sport, there is tennis, enjoyed on three courts (the only visible sign on Google maps of the yacht club!) and other social activities like the golf tournament, a dinner dance, volunteering, and a euchre tournament. The proceeds from the golf tournament go directly to the Junior Sailing program which over the past 14 years has raised over $100,000. For all ages there’s also the Stony Lake Sprint, a 10k-5k-1k run/walk that brings together friends and families in support of fun, fitness, and fundraising. With eight years under its belt, the event has raised over $50,000 for local causes such as the Stony Lake Heritage Foundation, SLYC tennis and Friends of the Fraser. 

Tam Matthews, another longtime member of SLYC and a Canadian National Sailing team member, emphasizes that weekend racing is a long standing tradition on Stony Lake, along with a history of hosting regattas that brought together famed sailors to race I14s and other dinghies. The sailing school has graduated generations of students that come back to teach, become certified sailing instructors, go on to win provincial, national, international and Olympic medals. Vaughn Harrison, a graduate of the SLYC sailing school runs the International Sailing Academy  renowned for its all-inclusive, world-class clinics in La Cruz, Mexico .

Stony Lake Yacht Club - Swimming and boatingRob Welsh recounts that, "For over 60 years, Juniper has been my happy place. Rich memories flood back every time I am there. A trip to Juniper Island with children and grandchildren confirms that, without a doubt, there is magic in those buildings and the warm, smooth granite we all love.”

It certainly seems to be a place of dreams and wonderful summer memories for many people that will continue for many more generations to come. All the best!

For more information contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., visit the  Juniper Island No. 18, or call the Yacht Club Store 705-654-3186


Photo Captions

Photo 1 - The pagoda from the water. Credit: Karen Tognarelli

Photo 2 - It's hard work for Gordon Welsh sailing an Aykroyd.

Stony LakePhoto 3 - Aykroyd fleet racing downwind.

Photo 4 - What's up in the tennis hut. Credit: Katie Arnold

Photo 5 - Swimming and boating are equally important. Credit: Karen Tognarelli

Photo 6 - Stony Lake. Credit: Christine Johnson

Photo 7 - Sailing School in action. Credit: Ron Welsh

Stony Lake Yacht Club - Sailing School