BasinBy Katherine Stone

If you have ever had the opportunity to motor or sail across Nottawasaga Bay, located in the southwestern part of Georgian Bay from Christian Island to Collingwood, your point of reference is the huge green expanse of ski hills on the Niagara Escarpment that encompasses Blue Mountain. The ski resort boasts 43 runs, 251 hectares of skiable terrain, 11 lifts, and a summit elevation of 1,283’. Owned and operated by Alterra Mountain Company (also the owner of Mont-Tremblant in Quebec), it is Collingwood’s main draw, “when they come alive”, and one of the largest and busiest ski resorts in Canada located just two hours north of Toronto.

This premier 4-season playground, rated in the top 10 of the most beautiful destinations in Canada and gateway to the largest freshwater beach in the world, is where you can participate in all manner of winter and water sports, hiking, golfing and mountain biking, just to name a few. There is a network of trails including the Georgian Trail, which runs along the former Barrie Collingwood Railway section and connects to the Bruce Trail. The Scenic Caves, just six minutes away, offers the experience to explore one of Canada’s 18 UNESCO biosphere reserves through snowshoeing, caving, ziplining, cross-country skiing and treetop canopy walks.

Clubhouse CurrentThe Clubhouse currently showing the kitchen and stairs.

A ten-minute drive in the other direction is the town of Collingwood which has preserved much of its historic charm on the main drag, Hurontario Street. Turn-of-the-century Victorian and Edwardian buildings inspire architecture lovers. Foodies and shoppers enjoy the stores, boutiques and restaurants along this best-preserved main street. The active lifestyle and stunning landscapes have inspired the local arts and culture community to be one of the top places in Ontario to open and operate a small business. With its growing population and thriving business community including dozens of cutting-edge tech companies that supply the world, it is a happening place, and a great place for a boating club.

Collingwood was “on the map” long before the resort was built with a string of Iroquoian-speaking villages built along the Niagara escarpment. European setters and freed Black slaves arrived in the area in the 1840s via boat and the Underground Railroad. Incorporated as a town in 1858, Collingwood was named after Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood. He was Lord Nelson’s second in command at the Battle of Trafalgar, taking command of the British fleet upon Nelson’s death. The town has also been called Hurontario (as it is found at the end of Hurontario Street), Nottawa, and Hens-and Chickens (because of 5 islands in the bay).

Clockwise Original ClubClockwise original club, temporary south docks until 2018, current c onfiguration.

The arrival of the Ontario, Simcoe and Huron Railway in 1855, coupled with the harbour provided a shipping point for cargo destined to the ports of Chicago and Port Arthur-Fort William, and the perfect opportunity for a ship building industry. The Collingwood Dry Dock Shipbuilding and Foundry Company Limited was opened in 1883. The shipyards produced Lakers and during World War II the Corvettes used by the Royal Canadian Navy. Overcapacity and overseas competition led to the demise of the industry in 1986. Many can remember the festive days in Collingwood when ships were launched. People flocked to the waterfront from miles around to watch the newly built ships slide sideways into the water, sending a monster wave across the harbour. In recent years, a local group of brew masters at the foot of the Blue Mountain were inspired to call their product, Side Launch Mountain Lager!

The Georgian Bay Yacht Club organized a sailing race in 1888 inviting sailors from Midland and Collingwood. The boat used at the time was a Watts Skiff. These were working boats that would transport the harvested food from the bay to the local populace. With the demise of the Georgian Bay YC, the prestigious Georgian Bay Cup was lost. Miraculously the cup was recovered from a US collector and refurbished by Collingwood Yacht Club members! The cup continues to be offered up at the annual Georgian Bay Regatta which supports local food banks and the Canadian Heart & Stroke Foundation.

Boats and HarbourBoats and harbour with the Blue Mountains off in the distance.

With only four boats moored in the Collingwood harbour a small group of racing enthusiasts hosted a regatta and invited Thornbury sailors to participate. The 1972 event was hugely successful and launched a group into forming a boating club. The following year the Collingwood Yacht Club (CYC) was incorporated with 15 sailboats moored in the Collingwood Terminals Basin at the foot of the Blue Mountain, with an additional 60 boats by the end of 1974. The next year, a formal agreement was signed, and the Collingwood Terminals Ltd. undertook renovations to the basement of their office building so that the CYC could move in and have a meeting place. When handling operations ceased some 18 years later, the club assumed the remaining Terminals offices to expand their club house.

In 1989 the mooring basin had reached capacity. To provide better protection from the unruly waves of Nottawasaga Bay and allow maximum use of space, a floating wave break was constructed by CYC members to span the gap between the north and south concrete Federal docks on the west side of the basin.
Ten years after the closing of the shipyard, the Collingwood Yacht Club, secured its future with a long-time lease in partnership with the town of Collingwood. This agreement allowed the club to erect new fencing, continue the beautification of the premises and expand with 20 new docks. Untouched for 20 years, their constitution gave control of the club to local members only. A later revision in 1997 now allows a limit of 35% of the members to live outside a 25-mile radius of the town. This provided an excellent platform for the club to expand its membership and they were soon at maximum capacity.

The water levels began to drop in 2012 and many boats had to be dragged out of their slips to the crane at haul out. In a joint effort with the town, CYC members installed three new dock spines and another wave break in the south harbour. The town constructed a head dock and one spine for seasonal/transient boats, along with two access ramps. The move of over-sized boats to the south harbour has the potential to re-invigorate the membership, as there was some turnover due to the relocation disruption. These newer docks were constructed of stronger steel frames better suited to the wave and wind exposure in the south harbour. The club continues to work on supplying power, water and washroom facilities to their area, as is the norm for other harbours.

CYC PanoramicIn 2014 they took over the Collingwood Sailing School in the north basin. A number of children from the Georgian Triangle Big Brothers and Big Sisters were sponsored by the club to attend a week of sailing school. The town has since taken over running the junior sail program. Their facilities were also used as an athlete training site for the 2015 Toronto Pan Am games.

This small, vibrant club offers full Voting and Social Associate memberships that enjoy a plethora of social activities including pub nights, potlucks, brunches, dock parties, rendezvous, cruises (including a moonlight cruise), Tuesday night racing, and races with both Meaford and Thornbury Yacht Clubs. There are well-protected moorings for power and sailboats up to 30 feet (with some space for those up to 40 feet), pump-out, mast crane, showers and a kitchenette. A crane is brought in for launch and haul out with limited winter storage at reasonable rates. CYC has been able to offer a modest fee structure through co-operative work contributions of 10 service hours each calendar year.

What’s not to like at this small, friendly, convenient boating club located on the shores of Nottawasaga Bay and at the base of the Blue Mountains within walking distance to the town of Collingwood. Its vibrant, growing community offers an active lifestyle not only on the water, but off in the eateries, activities and shops located on and around the restored main street of Collingwood.

Collingwood YC; PO Box 56; Collingwood, ON L9Y 3Z4 705-444-3664 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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