PARRY SOUND - It’s mid-morning in Big Sound Marina. The smell of coffee whispers through the air, laughter bubbles up between two women in Muskoka chairs soaking up sunshine and luxury boats fill nearly every slip with visitors from the Great Lakes Cruising Club.
Sailors tackle the shoals of Georgian Bay.
A boater tosses a rope to a member of the Great Lakes Cruising Club’s Docking Crew Saturday morning. About 90 of the club’s boats docked at Big Sound Marina from July 14 to 18.
Stephannie Johnson/North Star
“Good morning. How was your night?” Perry Harris, Parry Sound Area Chamber of Commerce executive director asks of one woman walking along the dock.
“Fantastic, just fantastic weather,” the woman replied grinning, spreading her arms wide. “What a summer we’ve had so far.”
The club was scheduled to arrive July 14 and stay through until July 18, however some arrived as early as Tuesday evening, Harris said.
Although the club meets every year at different locations throughout the Great Lakes, this is only the second time they’ve held their rendezvous in Parry Sound; the first time was 40 years ago.
“Interestingly enough what’s changed is the boats are bigger and the boats also require 50-amp power and the town dock, because it’s concrete and the water levels dropped, we haven’t really been able to come back,” said David Allen.
Great Lakes Cruising Club Rear Commodore. “Most of the club members are petrified about navigating in southern Georgian Bay because of the shoals. We wanted to demonstrate the small craft route and also the great marking system is great for navigation and it also tests your skills. We’re back, but we’re back because the Town of Parry Sound has done some things to welcome us. The biggest issue was getting more 50-amp power on the docks...so we can have bigger boats here.”
Harris added that Dock ‘A’ received a majority of the power upgrades, because it houses the biggest boats - between 40 feet and 60 feet.
“For the marina, (the rendezvous is) perfect, because our thought process is it’s great to have them here, it’s fantastic for the area, but we always look at repeat business,” Harris said. “So what we’re capturing now, the majority of them are from the Great Lakes and the (United) States, which is a market we’ve been losing. They’re here and they’re thrilled and hopefully we’ll get repeat business from them down the road.”
Approximately 90 boats (200 people) were expected to stay at the marina, and the economic impact to be far reaching.
“Most of these boats stopped for fuel and get pumped out first and fuel for most of these boats is over $1,000, at least,” Allen said, adding that a number of boaters use the shuttle to Sobeys and eat at area restaurants.
“It’s been great. The mayor’s been down to see us and Perry’s been great,” Allen said. “We’re looking forward to continued great weather. Who would have thought that your Parry Sound weather would be so perfect. We are very pleased to be in Parry Sound. I think I can say confidently that the club will want to come back here, because everyone’s been great.”
The Commodore’s Trophy is awarded annually to the boat that comes strictly to the rendezvous from the furthest place. Allen suspects it will be a boater who travelled 2,100 miles (3,380 kilometres) from Pentagorda, Florida.
A group of men in lime green T-shirts sit at a picnic table in the shade, the club’s docking crew spent a majority of their day assisting the monster boats to dock safely.
As of 9 a.m. Saturday, Harold Darch said they expected another 21 boats to come in that day.
“Yesterday I think we did close to 30 boats. Our docking crew consists of about 10 people. We try to keep a crew for each dock, in case two boats come in at once. Three come in at once we’re really in trouble,” he said laughing along with the other crew members.
The docking crew will sometimes work until 8:30 p.m.
Jack Denver, from St. Joseph, Michigan was thrilled with his first time visiting Parry Sound.
“It’s been very nice,” he said. When asked if he’ll make a return visit, he chuckled and said, “It’s about 600 miles for me, I’ll be back, but it may not be next week.”