Burlington Sailing & Boating Club – a successful four-way partnership

Quiet Harbour

By Katherine Stone

The harbour is quiet after hallout

It’s always amazing to me how life has degrees of separation that are incredibly small, even when you spend your adult life in another country than the one you grew up in. I grew up sailing on Lake Erie and when my father’s health was on the decline it was decided that I would be appointed to sell his boat. As fate would have it, an older gentleman came to see the boat and decided on the spot to purchase it. Off it sailed, out of Lake Erie, through the canal and into Lake Ontario to reside happily at the Burlington Sailing & Boating Club. Little did I know that many years later, I would be doing their profile for Canadian Yachting.

Burlington, Ontario is at the southwestern end of Lake Ontario, just to the northeast of Hamilton and the Niagara Peninsula on the slopes of the Niagara Escarpment– smack in the middle of the Golden Horseshoe. The Hamilton Harbour is bounded on the west by a large sandbar that was deposited there in the last ice age. Ships and pleasure craft enter the harbour through a canal that bisects the sandbar.

Boats in the Parking LotBoats now occupy the parking lot for the winter until spring launch

The area attracted aboriginal people with its fertile soils, moderated winter temperatures due to the proximity of the lake and sheltering effect of the Niagara Escarpment. Then came a wave of white settlers arriving in the 1700s, followed by Loyalist settlers and immigrants from the British Isles and Europe. Homesteaders cleared the pine and oak timbers which became the area’s principal export. The production of wheat came next and then by the 1900s it had evolved into a prosperous farming community with mixed farms of fruit and vegetables. Canning, basket and ice harvesting factories flourished and produce was shipped out via the bustling docks in Port Nelson and Wellington Square, earning it the nickname of “The Garden of Canada”. Port Nelson and Wellington Square were later incorporated into the Village of Burlington in 1874. (Given its name by John Graves Simcoe, the first lieutenant governor of Upper Canada, after the town of Bridlington in England.) The small docks could no longer accommodate the larger steamships, making the commercial wharfs obsolete and railroads the new means of transport.

The original Burlington Yacht Club was located on a little sand spit (which now is the site of Spencer Smith Park). A powerful early spring easterly took out the beach and sent the members scrambling to haul boats to higher ground. A new location was found, boats were moored out front, but the clubhouse remained in the old location. What to do? Put it on a barge and use outboard motors to power it down the bay, of course! A new clubhouse was completed in the late 1940s, with the old one used for boat lockers. As what happens with many wooden structures, the new clubhouse burnt to the ground in the late 1950s, dispersing the members to surrounding clubs.

Committee BoatCommittee boat heading out for a weeknight race.

In 1974, 18 members of the old club realized that they needed to start a new club as boating should be the prime reason for a club’s existence. According to several accounts, “Burlington was the obvious choice for the new Club’s location since it had not had a yacht club since the Burlington Yacht Club ceased to exist many years before. We purposely decided that the name should be BS&BC, not BB&SC, because we wanted people to notice us, and if BS rather than BC was considered amusing (it amused us), then that would be great.” As happens with many boating clubs, their present location does not reside where they originally started, nor have they retained the same name.



Club Race Winners2019 Club race winners- Hugh Johnston, Peter Quinton (96 years old), Peter Quinton.

As the new BS&BC didn’t have a home yet, their first sailpast happened out on the lake, that same year, late in the season just east of the Skyway Bridge. Within weeks of the new club’s existence, members from the area started joining, including boaters that moored their vessels at LaSalle Park Pier (so named for the French explorer Rene Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle who landed there in1669.) And so it was, that this is where they put down their footprint. Many thought the club wouldn’t make it and labeled them a “paper club” making them ineligible to compete in the CYRA (Canadian Yacht Racing Association) races on Lake Ontario. They worked hard to improve their racing skills and it didn’t take the CYRA long for them to realize that BS&BC was a bonafide club that would fly their colours around the lake.

From the very beginning, the city of Burlington has been a true partner in all their dealings and initiatives. Starting with permission to build their new clubhouse and dinghy storage and the use of LaSalle Park. The membership pitched in to fix up and repair the decaying pier, which became the first reciprocal mooring area for transients. From day one, there has never been a lack of volunteers to provide manpower and expertise to complete any task that a boating club needs to be successful.

To add to the fun and excitement of the new club, one of the founding members asked his high school class to help design a club burgee. The stylized logo, bringing into play the lake, bay and Skyway Bridge, put into play in 1975, still serves the club well.

Next on the agenda was a member initiative to plan and build a marina to be surrounded by breakwater islands. Although the town was on board, the Harbour Commission felt that moorings were plenty adequate, and a marina was not needed. Oh, were they ever wrong! Several years later, the Commission granted permission for the current floating marina. The BS&BC, the Open Public LaSalle Park Marina and the LaSalle Park Marina Association (LPMA) are self-help, family-oriented, non-profit organizations that work side by side to provide quality low cost recreational boating activities to its members and the community. It is the only boating and water-access facility in this lush, tranquil park, on the tree-lined north shore of Burlington Bay.

Mooring Slips at BS&BC
Boats all nicely tucked into their mooring slips at BS&BC.

A large number of BS&BC members are also Charter and Senior members of LPMA. Established in 1981, the Marina operates as a joint venture with the city and the LPMA. The LPMA paid for, designed, installed, maintains and administrates the marina under a joint venture with the city of Burlington. BS&BC also has a joint venture with the city regarding their clubhouse and dry sail compound facilities, which include the sailing school building, which they own. Through all these amazing partnerships, no public monies went into the Marina and LPMA Board of Directors report directly to their membership and the city of Burlington.

The ClubhouseClubhouse from teh water side with a wonderful viewing porch

With twice weekly club races for both keelboats and dinghies, a well-organized cruising program, winter-time seminars, BBQs, safety training events, wine and cheese parties and other social events, the club has a loaded calendar. With an active sailing school program, started early in the club’s history for both children and adults, they have been able to recruit and maintain their membership. The youngsters sail in the Optimist, Echo and 420 dinghies starting with Beginner and then moving onto Advanced Sailing and a competitive Race Team. Although Adult courses are offered in both dinghies and keelboats, the use of Club-owned shark keelboats has been a huge success. Through their Shark Program, participants become Intermediate Members of BS&BC and enjoy the facilities and social gatherings. This program introduces their family to the lifelong sport of sailing by learning boat care, safety, anchoring, docking, manoeuvring under power and sail, and maintenance as key parts of the program. Members are responsible for preparing the boat for both launch and haulout. This is most certainly a valuable experience when considering boat ownership in the future.

The FireplaceThe fireplace area is warm and welcoming.

Another big component of the services offered by BS&BC in conjunction with LPMA and the local Rotary, is the Burlington Able Sail program. Using the Martin 16, billed as being “un-tippable” the Able Sail program runs all summer during the day for children and on Saturday afternoons in July for adults. The marina is fully wheelchair accessible and custom equipment is available to transfer participants from wheelchairs into the specifically adapted boats.

Sailing School Echoes




Sailing school Echoes ready to go.

The Burlington Sailing & Boating Club has stayed true to their mission: “Creating and promoting the sport and recreation of boating, including the racing, cruising, and pleasure sailing of sailboats and power boats, and developing seamanship, sportsmanship, and friendship among the members.” In partnership with the Marina, city of Burlington and the LPMA these organizations have truly worked together to create a community of boaters that enjoy the wonderful waters around them.

Burlington Sailing & Boating Club; 841 LaSalle Park Rd; Burlington, ON, L7T 4G9 905-681-6547 bsbc@burlbay.com

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