RBC HarbourAuthor: Katherine Stone

RBC harbour on a calm summer day- barry altman

Do you know how many boaters you run into while standing in the lift lines of Blue Mountain and the surrounding private ski clubs? Quite a few! Start some conversations on the ski lifts and you might be surprised how many avid boaters you can meet.

Many who boat say that winter sports are just there to pass the time until the ice clears and you can get your boat launched and start boating again. As a ski instructor, you tend to meet even more interesting boaters…and so it was that Barry Altman, Commodore of the Reef Boat Club, and I have been long time ski instructor friends working in the beautiful Town of the Blue Mountains. Barry fell in love with the historic Nova Scotian-made bluenose, bought one that needed a lot of TLC, and restored it to sail on Georgian Bay. He found the perfect spot for her in Meaford, a cozy, picturesque community located in Grey County on Nottawasaga Bay, a sub basin of Georgian Bay in Southern Ontario, which is known for outstanding cruising destinations.


Apple BarrelThe Beginnings of the Reef Boat Club

Surveyor Charles Rankin arrived in the area that is now Meaford in the summer of 1835 to reserve 200 acres on the southern shore of Georgian Bay at the mouth of the Big Head River for a town plot. The area was surveyed to give land to both the veterans of the War of 1812 and the descendants of the United Empire Loyalists. However, the first settler ended up being David Miller from Ireland, who built a log cabin on the south bank that same year and named it Peggy’s Landing, after his wife. Taking claim not long after, William Stephenson built the first tavern and then called it Stephenson’s Landing. The townshipwas known as Zero(later as St. Vincent) because it was the farthest north you could go in the area at the time.

apple barrel boat contest to raise money for the Sail Georgian Bay boats = barry altman

Easy RampsIn 1845, the town was officially laid out and called Meaford, after the Earl of St. Vincent’s home in England, Meaford Hall. Many of the streets were named after famous British commanders involved in the Battle of Cape St. Vincent. Lord Nelson got the best street – the main street, which was made extra wide, of course – that faced the water. If the town were ever to be invaded by Americans, they would come from the water and Nelson Street would provide a wide thoroughfare to move troops.

easy ramps for rolling dollies filled with gear to the boat and side access to get on your boat - kn

With steady development, the town continued to grow and a rail line was brought to the harbour, which was completed in 1901. Unfortunately, a fire destroyed the grain elevator in 1913, which put a kybosh on any further development. Today, Meaford is primarily a rural community known for camping, cycling, salmon and trout fishing, winter sports, apples, and water activities. Its citizens are hardy types who enjoy the water and all the activities it offers.

Meaford MarinaBuilding the Club

According to Marilyn and Dave Sutherland, boating enthusiasts started the Reef Boat Club as part of the 1967 centennial celebrations. “Once upon a time, Geoff Noble’s Shipyard stood at the southeast corner of the Thornburyharbour. In the centre of the yard, a monster boulder heaved up through the dirt floor [of the shanty]. In the mid-60s, a few amateur sailors, who had gathered around it for the proverbial salty yarns, called this uber-boulder their ‘Reef,’and so the club became known as the ‘Reef Boat Club.’ Later, the pier was called the inner reef and the breakwall called the outer reef, and a reef knot became our logo.” As the club grew, a suitable building became available for a clubhouse in the town of Meaford. It was purchased and the club moved west along the bay to its present location in the well-protected Meaford Harbour.

Meaford Marina facilities open to all RBC members - kn

Their fleet started out with an odd assortment of boats;some Petrels, the Green Bottle dinghy, a spiffy folkboat, another dinghy named Dirty Bird, and a homemade catamaran, aka Pitchpole. And so, the club took off, later to be joined by a fleet of Albacores, which didn’t fare well right side up in the Georgian Bay, well-known for its unpredictable weather.As the club grew, so did the social functions including German, French, and Italian nights. As it was, and still is, a self-help club, there were lots of work parties to rebuild docks, fix up the fish shed (the clubhouse), and put in moorings. There might have been a beer or two to go along with those ‘parties’ and lots of tongue wagging about moorings, the constitution, memberships, and as always, protests with hand karate movements to go along with the stories of just how they ‘saw’ the encounter.

Easy EntranceCurrent Day Reef Boat Club

As a working club, Reef Boat Club depends on its members for their elbow grease, time, ingenuity, and commitment to keep the property in tip-top shape. The success of this tiny club with under 100 memberscan be seen in the camaraderie, participation, and co-operation given to accomplish any task that needs to be undertaken. Part of this wonderful experience is the cozy clubhouse (or it might be called snug, as there is just enough room for elbows).

easy entrance to a very safe harbour - barry altman

Although the club doesn’t offer slips, there are some offered in the fully equipped Marina run by the Municipality of Meaford, which provides showers, washrooms, laundry facilities, pump-out, fuel, meeting rooms, a community pavilion, lots of free parking, a 2-lane boat launch, and a fish cleaning station (for those salmon you just might catch off the back of the boat).

The yacht basin is a virtual Hurricane Hole – safe in any type of weather. Cliff Richardson Boats is also located in the harbour,offering slips along with full boat maintenance and repair.

If you don’t own a boat, just show up at 11:45am at the RBC clubhouse for a Saturday race and one of the members will get you on a boat. Informal races are also held on Thursday evenings with racers meeting by the harbour office at 6:00 pm. From single-handed races to pursuit and long distance races, as well as the Georgian Bay Cup and the Georgian Bay Team Challenge Race, there is something for everyone to choose from.

Sail Georgian BayDon’t want to sail or motor about? There are oodles of members that just join in for the social activities. The Reef Boat Club members love parties, host pot-luck dinners and BBQs, have award-winning racing, offer fine cruises, and offer winter activities with nautical talks. Probably the best party in town happens at the famous Pannenkoeken (Dutch) breakfast held outside the clubhouse followed by the sailpast.A tradition among the fleet of Reef Boat Club sailors who compete annually in the Georgian Bay Regatta is arafting party and a toast to Lindsay (one heck of an outstanding crew) and other members who have moved on to perpetual sailing in the sky.

sail georgian bay school boats all lined up ready to go on floating docks - barry altman

Cruising Georgian Bay, it is a treat to sail along the Niagara Escarpment where you can thenset your sails for Christian Island and the 30,000 islands. Going past the Bruce Peninsula your next destination could be White Cloud Island, Wiarton, Tobermory, and onto the North Channel…. the possibilities are endless.

Boats SnugSailing lessons are offeredthrough Sail Georgian Bay - the Meaford Community Sailing School, which was founded in 2001. The organization is a non-profit run by volunteers. With many donations and fundraisers, including a make-your-own-boat from an apple barrel bin race, they have acquireda fleet of coach boats, Club 420s, and Laser Pico boats.In 2015, the community raised enough funds to build a new boathouse. Programs follow Sail Canada’s CANSail curriculumand offer a special Wednesday night race series. Open to the community, students can start at eight years of age. New this year, there will be the introduction of sailing courses for adults in the new Minuet keelboat.

boats snug in their berths in the Meaford Marina - kn

Dutch Breakfast

Stop By and Visit!

This little gem of a club has a lot to offer, sitting steps from downtown Meaford, the beach, and the harbour. It’s a friendly group of enthusiastic boaters who have a very full schedule of events both on and off the water. With initiation at $350 and dues under $200 – what’s to lose?Come join them this year for their 50th anniversary celebrations! You might end up joiningMeaford’s friendly club for some fun on the water this year.

very well attended sail past dutch breakfast - barry altman

www.reefboatclub.ca; Reef Boating Club; 126 Fuller Street; Meaford, Ontario N4L 1B7

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