Yachts on Georgian Bay

Yachts are a common sight, plying Georgian Bay’s scenic water routes. Every summer Georgian Bay welcomes hundreds, if not thousands, of boats. Travelling from Owen Sound up the peninsula and down the Lake Huron shoreline one can see vessels of all descriptions either moored at docks in the coves and inlets that are etched into the contours of the peninsula or plying the deep blue water.


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These vessels come to this area for many reasons. Hundreds of vessels find their way to Owen Sound's  annual fishing derby. Others come to challenge their skills against the winds and waves that Georgian Bay offers to all those who ply its waters. The majestic scenery and picturesque towns and villages that dot the shoreline bring still more modern-day voyageurs to this region.

The History of Yachts on Georgian Bay

Recreational boating on Georgian Bay began in earnest in the late nineteenth century with the appearance of steam powered yachts. Some of these early boaters shunned the steam driven pleasure boats in favour of Georgian Bay mackinaws which had been discarded by commercial fishermen with the advent of the larger and more efficient steam tugs. However, early records report regattas being organized in Owen Sound as early as 1852.

Regattas were often part of summer holiday celebrations such as the Twelfth of July and Dominion Day. 

Competitions were held between communities such as Leith, Owen Sound, Wiarton, and Meaford. In 1879 the Wiarton Echo reported that every effort was being made to attract "the best amateur and professional talent available" to a Colpoy's Bay regatta. The same article promoted the regatta in terms of the economic benefits of increased tourism to the area. The editor opined that "the benefits derived from having our beautiful bay, with its majestic scenery, made known to pleasure seekers and others, by having this aquatic festival".

One of the earliest of the big yachts to cruise Georgian Bay and Lake Huron was the Frances Smith. This vessel, built by Melancthon Simpson, sailed the area between 1869-1871.

In the summers of 1881 and 1884 the Wanda from Detroit, captained by Captain C. D. Waterman visited the region. In 1881 the Wanda visited Cove Island and Mr. and Mrs. George Foster of Augusta, Georgia, passengers aboard the vessel signed the lighthouse keeper's guest book.

Cove Island was a popular spot for early boaters. Anyone who has ever been to this island paradise will attest to the beauty of the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula. However, it may have been the baking skills of the lighthouse keeper which attracted one early tourist. George Currie who was the keeper in 1896 complained in his log of one female visitor who devoured seven of his cookies in one day!

Another well-known Georgian Bay yacht was the Mizpah, which sailed out of Meaford. The Mizpah plied the waters of the region late into the autumn taking hunting parties in October and November to the North Shore.

While vessels of all shapes and sizes have plied the waters of Georgian Bay there have been some that were virtual palaces on water. Arthur Dodge of the Georgian Bay Lumbering Company sailed his steam yacht the Skylark in the 1880s. The Skylark was described "as perfect and as handsome a craft as sails anywhere on Canadian waters".

At the turn of the century the Canadian Iron Furnace Company of Midland maintained a steam yacht, the Voyageur, which could tow and take company officials on scenic tours around Georgian Bay. This majestic vessel had overnight accommodation for fifteen guests as well as crew members.

James Playfair of Midland owned many grand vessels, however one, the Venetia, had an interesting past. Before arriving on Georgian Bay the Venetia had served a decade before in the First World War as a submarine chaser in the United States Navy and had been credited with sinking the German U-boat which had sunk the Lusitania.

In 1959 Georgian Bay welcomed perhaps the most famous yacht of all.  In that year the Royal yacht, Britannia, with Queen Elizabeth 11, added the crowning touch to the majestic history of pleasure boating on Georgian Bay!

More Georgian Bay Sailing Stories

Lighthouses were vital to Georgian Bay and Great Lakes sailing traffic. They assisted mariners in making their sailing a safe venture. 

Recreational Boating on Georgian Bay  There is a long tradition of recreational boating on Georgian Bay. Reports indicate that regattas were being held at Owen Sound as early as 1852.

Great Lakes Recreational Boating  Great Lakes recreational boating has been a popular pastime in the summertime in the Georgian Bay region for many years.

Yachts on Georgian Bay  A history of yachts on Georgian Bay.

Georgian Bay Ferry Boat Service between Tobermory and Manitoulin Island has a history that is more than a century old. Today, the Chi-Cheemaun continues that tradition.

Ferry boat service after 1930 increased in activity between Tobermory at tip of the Bruce Peninsula and Manitoulin Island

1867 Election Meant Sailing to the Soo. There was only one polling station in the Georgian Bay region in the first election after Canadian Confederation and that was in Sault Ste. Marie!

A Flowerpot Island boat trip takes you to one of the many Georgian Bay islands  dot the landscape of the waters around Tobermory at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula. One island features not only unique landforms and vegetation, but also a mysterious indigenous Romeo and Juliet tale of romance.

Chicora the first stage of an 1871 Great Lakes tour aboard a cruise ship on Georgian Bay.

Chicora the final stage of an 1871 cruise a foggy voyage on the Great Lakes.

Historic Vacations: King's Royal Park  Historic Vacations: King's Royal Park, opulent adventures for the wealthy of the day. It was the late 19th century and tourism was beginning to bloom.

Sailing the Lake Huron Shoreline is a step back in history and a delightfully scenic trip. But beware of the big waves that can arise anytime!

Sailing Lake Huron Shoreline Part 2 takes us through the most treacherous part of our voyage and also a most interesting part as we visit some unique islands.

Georgian Bay Sailing Georgian Bay Sailing history is a rich tapestry of tales of heroism, tragedy, and exploration. Sailing vessels traversing the rugged waters of Georgian Bay predate the arrival of European explorers and settlers.

Boating for Recreation on Georgian Bay and beyond had an early start once settlement began in the region. As early as the 1850s pleasure crafts were popular. 

  1. History Articles
  2. Georgian Bay Sailing
  3. Yachts on Georgian Bay

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