By Katherine Stone
From main dock with retired committee boat on the left and the new Lakeshore Lady on the right.
In 1801, an enterprising Loyalist and British Army officer, Colonel Samuel Bois Smith, was granted 1,000 acres of land south of what is now Kipling Avenue in Etobicoke.Fast-forward to the end of the century and this tract of land would be occupied by the newly constructed Mimico Lunatic Asylum, to be renamed the Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital,which closed in 1979. Humber College now occupies the same site and many have said that ghosts still roam the area, with rumours fueled by forbidden entrances, tunnels, old abandoned buildings, and Gothic architecture.
In 1970, the Metropolitan Toronto Region Conservation Authority (MTRCA) started a program to develop the shoreline south of Humber College for recreational and conservation purposes. By 1980, a plan was prepared that would include two boating clubs, a network of paths, and the city’s first artificial ice skating trail formed in a figure eight. The Sam Smith Boaters’ Federation (Federation) was formed from a list of community members who wanted moorings in the boat club once they were available. The Federation (which later became the Lakeshore Yacht Club) opposed a change by the city to pursue marinas instead of boat clubs. After much consultation with the MTRCA, and final approval by Metro Toronto, the Lakeshore Yacht Club (LSYC) became a reality on February 27, 1991. Members were expected to participate in work assignments, decision-making, and administration to keep costs down, in keeping with the founding principles of self-help and no debt. Coming up with a name for the newly formed club wasn’t easy and taking into account some history, some interesting suggestions were proffered such as Lakeshore Psychiatric Boat Club and Psychiatric Sam’s Yacht Club Haven.
Fun and funds at the Charity Day dinghy Races.
A group of enthusiastic boaters, many talents to contribute, and a desire to have camaraderie with people who enjoy the water were the ingredients needed for aperfect recipe to start a boating club. The first steps included leasing a former Toys R Us warehouse and to start construction of docks there in 1991. By the spring of 1992, 76 docks had been constructed and launched. The original plans included a sailing school on the west side of the basin managed by Humber College. The Humber Sailing School decided to remain in the Mimico basin and LSYC negotiated a lease amendment to acquire the Humber Docks in 1995.
Beautiful member-tended gardens surround the clubhouse.
Meanwhile, the MTRCA started extensive tree planting, hardening of the shoreline, and construction of a public walkway, which would later become part of the Waterfront Trail.The walkway actually passes between the club house grounds and the docks.Although this arrangement with the city was unusual compared to other clubs, it was intendedto be a model for the future. Even then, there was talk about public access to the waterfront.
Although the concept of a clubhouse was mentioned in the first Shorelines, the club’s newsletter, the club’s human and physical resources were dedicated to what was required to get the club up and running. Everyone agreed that they enjoyed being outdoors, but by 1994, with capacity for 160 boats, it was time to turn attention to improving some creature comforts.Over the next seven years, countless member hours would complete the dream. As noted in the book,Our First 25 Years, what was important was that a lot of people from different backgrounds with an interest in boating got togetherand laid a solid foundation for the future of the LSYC.It was firmly believed that if it was built, they would come, and the LSYC has been full with a waiting list for more than 15 years.
Lots of people and fabulous weather at the 25th anniversary Sailpast.
In 2012, the western dock spline was moved 48 feet further westto provide more maneuvering room for members’ boats and the capability to lengthen inside docks, if needed, as members acquired bigger boats. In 2013, theHumber Docks were upgraded and expanded to include power and water.
An historic photo – the first Sailpast in 1991. Photo: LSYC.
Probably one of the key things that keeps this club glued together is the social programs. Starting in 1993, the informal Friday night barbecues have evolved to become tradition. Added to this aremonthly themed barbeques, including Maritimer Night, Chuck Wagon Round Up, Mexican Fiesta, Italian Fare, Hawaiian Luau, and Christmas in July. An annual Charity Day also moves into a festive mode with crazy dinghy races, 50-50 poker hands, children’s games, and crew/vessel costumes and decorations. To date, over $35,000 has been raised for a variety of community causes.
One of the two main docks heading out from the clubhouse.
A very active and competitive dart league started well before the clubhouse was even a dream, with members gathering at local pubs in the area. When the clubhouse was finally completed, the ‘darters’ moved in and the competition heated up through an annual tournament with Bronte Yacht Club. With eight teams of five players it certainly can become a rather rowdy event!
The Lakeshore Yacht Club in clubhouse in 2009.
The LSYC Race Program began in the first year of the club’s existence and has evolved into regular Wednesday night boat races, augmented by several other fun weekend events like Race to a Place, Last Blast, Commodore’s Cup, and the Chuck Bucket Solo Race. Fromthis also grew the cruising fleet, which has becomeso popular that a dedicated committee was created in 2013, and continues to organize an average of six themed cruises each year. The ever-faithful club committee boat, Club Spirit, has finally been retired to serve as a mark boat after 12 years of service and Lakeshore Lady has taken its place as committee boat.
In 2003, many members began building and racing Victoria Class remote controlled model boats. Running races every Tuesday night, they have attracted many recruits and on-lookers, with LSYC hosting the Ontario, National, and North American Championships. By 2004,LSYC boasted the largest fleet in the country. The fleet currently races out of Humber Park.
Proudly showing off the property, club member Lynn Weber points out the foliage, plantings, and artistic floral displays that would be the envy of any gardener.From the very beginning, the container plantings gave the club a civilized look around the muddy ‘Dogpatch’ and delineated space around the tent. When the clubhouse was finally completed, gardens became a reality. Unfortunately, surrounded by unattended parkland, weeds loved the gardens and tended to pop up on an hourly basis. There wasn’t much of a budget for plantings, so members donated from their own gardens. Each gardener takes responsibility for a specific area and has the freedom to design and modify their area, in consultation with the Garden Committee. There is even a secret garden behind the barbeques. There was a year when the manure that was ordered became the ‘magic pumpkin patch’ - the gardeners started watering the pile instead of spreading it, and pumpkins were grown for the kids to carve up.
Victoria Class racing gets intense!
The best kept secret on Lake Ontario is no longer a secret, with a waiting list of people who want to join the fun. Visiting boaters comment onthe great docks, great laundry and washroom facilities, friendly atmosphere, and the fabulous Friday night barbeques. Go for a sail on the weekend and pop into this little piece of heaven in the park within the city limits of Toronto on Colonel Samuel Smith Park Drive. Comeand enjoy what the members have so proudly built over the last 25 years!