Our connection to Ken MacDonald comes from Parkbridge Marinas interview on the recent acquisition of Wye Heritage Marina (formerly Doral Marine Resort). Ken is the Regional Director for all of the Parkbridge Marinas but as I have learned, he has been in the marina business for most of his working career and he has owned a number of marinas himself over the years.
More recently I discovered that Ken is an old salt when it comes to boating. On a trip up to Killarney this past July 2012 I watched Ken bring a boat in strapped to the side of his 45 Bertram. The boat had run out of fuel and Ken brought him in off the Bay and maneuvered him onto the Sportsman Resort gas dock like it was nobodies business. There is a fairly strong current in the Killarney channel. I know because I spent 45 minutes maneuvering around waiting to get on the busy gas dock myself. Doing a circle in the channel with a 35' boat tied to your beam, with the current and all the traffic about is not a cakewalk ... and Ken made it look simple. Then he was off to his slip where he squeezed through and around boats already on the docks to land in his slip just like a Hatteras fishing captain that has done it every day since childhood. Later out on the open water I heard over the VHF as he brought fuel filters to a boat in distress via dinghy while his own boat stood by, heaving to. Ken ... I came to realize has been around boats more than most.
A few years ago I saw Ken take charge of a AGLCA looper boat who said hello to a rock at the Severn Narrows that had come in to Bay Moorings Marina with a bent shaft and chewed prop. They were all over that boat and the boat owner from California was back on the loop track in no time. At that time I didn’t know Ken, and was wondering who is this guy? - like Eisenhower commanding the beaches of Normandy.
The other day I was talking to a yacht broker on the phone and he was telling me about the sale of a 44' boat. He had just lost the sale because when he pulled the boat for survey , a strut and prop shaft was bent and it was going to take the Lake Ontario marina more than a few weeks to fix and the prospective buyer wouldn't wait that long. I recounted how I had just seen a boat come out on the lift at Wye Marina with bent strut and two toasted props and Ken had taken charge ... already on the cell within minutes sourcing the parts. I saw the boat owner pulling back into his slip a few days later. The yacht brokers comment was - that was because Ken MacDonald knows what he is doing, knows everyone in the marine industry ... and he can move heaven and earth like no other when things need to happen.
If you were ever in trouble with your boat and you had the good fortune to have Ken on the case - you would be a lucky person indeed. So that is why Ken is one of our Georgian Bay cruising characters ... because he lives and breathes boats.
Captain William Everitt
Captain Bill Everitt has been sailing Georgian and the North Channel for 25 years and he has been delivering yachts up to 74' to the Bahamas, Eastern Caribbean, Bermuda, the Turks & Caicos, the North Atlantic seaboard and the Great Lakes since 2002. He is comfortable delivering yachts to any location in the world.
He has logged over 36,000 nautical miles at sea and has many continuous long haul offshore journeys under his belt. Captain Bill holds a British Commercial Master of Yachts Offshore 200Ton Licence (sail and power endorsements) that is recognized internationally by 28 countries.
This certification includes STCW '95 Safety at Sea Training. He has a Restricted Commercial Radio Operator's Certificate and Marine Advanced First Aid training.
He also holds Advanced Coastal Cruising and Navigation Standard certifications with both the American Sailing Association and the Canadian Yachting Association.
During the summer months Bill operates COSMOS Yacht Charters (www.cosmosyachtcharters.com) located in Midland on Georgian Bay and offers luxury sailing cruises around Georgian Bay and the North Channel on a modern Hunter 41' sailing yacht.
Captain Bill knows and understands the value of exceptional service in order to give his guests the most enjoyable, memorable and safe experience on the water. His attentiveness to safety and his expert navigation ability makes his guests feel completely relaxed and safe while on his cruises. Bill’s passion for cooking, the outdoors, and local knowledge serves to enhance the unique charter experience he provides.
If you cruise into the Bay Port Yachting Centre in Midland, that is where you will find Bill - June through October (unless he is out sailing). Bill is known for his easy going patient demeanour and if you see him on the Bay Port docks say hi and he might tell you some tales of his off shore ocean journeys.
Tom & Liz Morkin
Tom and Liz are serious cruisers. In 1985 they left comfortable jobs in Vancouver for an 18 month cruise aboard a 41 foot Ketch. They never came back. Twenty - five years later they are still exploring the world on their 51 foot Sloop "Feel Free". Some of us do getaway for a one year cruising sabbatical. One in a million never stop and just keep going. I just read a pirate novel and was struck by how tuned and adapted folks who live their life on the water can become. Pre electronic era, it was a necessity for survival to understand the subtleties of nature. I did not know that if you stand with your back to the wind with your arms spread and mark two points forward from your left hand you can locate the eye of an inbound hurricane. I do know that I spent a year cruising from Canada down into the Caribbean and back and I learned a lot about myself, my surroundings and about sailing ... and it was a life changer for me. Now I can't imagine having twenty-five years of that experience as is the case of Tom & Liz. The things they have seen and the tales they can tell would dilate the eyes and drop the jaw. Lots of people talk or sing (eh Parrot Heads) about this kind of thing but very few slip the dock lines, throw caution to the wind along with all the stability we mortals seek through all of our working lives and "just go" ... with no preconceived notion or master plan as to "where" we might end up.
They've crossed four oceans (Pacific, Indian, Red Sea, Atlantic) and visited 45 foreign countries and logged 50,000 nautical miles in their travels. Exotic forays to places like Yemen, Sudan, Turkey, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Eritrea just to name a few. Now here's the interesting thing. In the summer of 2008 and again this summer of 2010 Tom & Liz will run the marine operations at Killarney Mountain Lodge www.killarney.com. It's a chance for them to recharge before resuming their world travels aboard "Feel Free". So when you cruise into Killarney be sure to look up Tom & Liz at the Lodge and they might share a few stories and tips with you ... and you'll have the satisfaction of meeting true explorers and adventurers that are "living life large".
Every boater that visits or lives in the North Channel owes Roy a debt for his services. During July and August Roy hosts the Cruisers Net every morning at 9am on VHF channel 71. The broadcast is live from the Anchor Inn Hotel's bar in Little Current. The broadcast covers about a 50 mile radius but boaters relay on the info to other boats that are further afield in perhaps remote anchorages - kind of like native drumming being passed along from one area to another. The owner of the hotel should also be thanked because he provides the VHF and transmission tower which sits on the hotel roof.
Roy starts off his broadcast with a call out to see if anyone has any emergencies to report. The twenty minute broadcast includes Georgian Bay weather, national and local news, sports, local events and a historical look back into the same day historical happenings from past times. Sometimes Roy has guest speakers or traveling cruisers from far off places that he interviews. Following the main broadcast Roy invites boaters to call in their boat and location and pass along any interesting news. Thousands of boaters call in over the course of a season.
Roy's background includes engineering at INCO, teaching and principal at a local high school, lecturer at Laurentian University, teaching computers at Cambrian College's Manitoulin Campus, Captain at Discovery Yacht Charters, a past Commodore of Little Current Yacht Club and Little Current Tour Guide for Lakeshore Excursions.
Roy provides an important and valued service to boaters on a voluntary basis. He knows the North Channel well and can pass on much valued knowledge. His work helps keep boaters safe and in touch with the rest of the world. Next time you're gunk holing in the North Channel and you hear Roy on channel 71 don't forget to call in and say hi and thank him.
Rick Breckbill at Severn Lodge
Severn Lodge dates back to mid 1800’s when the main building served as headquarters for the Georgian Bay Lumber Company. In the 1870’s, the Mordolphton Club of Pittsburg bought the property as a fishing camp. The Mordolphtons travelled by private Pullman coach from Pittsburg to the CNR rail station in Waubaushine. Then they would trek to Port Severn and portage around the waterfalls (before locks) and would then take their launch from there to the camp. In the 1920’s, the camp was sold to a group from Akron, Ohio. It was at that time it was named Severn Lodge and opened to the public. In 1928 William H. Breckbill was a student who worked at the lodge in the summer. He worked his way up to General Manager and, in 1936, he purchased Severn Lodge. William’s wife Jeanne was the matriarch of the lodge and even ran it for several years when William went off to war.
In 1973 and 1974, sons Ron and Rick, respectively, came into the business. In 2007, Ron retired from the business and Rick continues to operate Severn Lodge with his wife Sue and son Sam who is the third generation of Breckbills at the lodge.
Rick and Ron love Georgian Bay and boats. They have a collection of classic boats including a 1922, 37 foot Ditchburn yacht SELVO that is a working boat at the resort. “Georgian Bay is in my blood. I grew up here and I’ve boated here all my life. Our guests that visit Severn Lodge (www.severnlodge.on.ca), come from all over the world and are pleased to see a genuine piece of Muskoka yachting history floating right at our dock,” says Rick. Muskoka history is an understatement, as the Ditchburn is truly a work of art and it is amazing to see that this showpiece is still maintained as a working boat and is not stuck in a museum, dry-docked somewhere.
SELVO was originally built in 1922 in Gravenhurst, Ontario by the Ditchburn Boat Company. It was hull #2522 which was taken from the pencil mark on back of original dashboard and the #22 stamp that is in the cast aluminum stem. Other information including the original owner and the year of manufacture was confirmed by anecdotal information conveyed to William H. Breckbill (owner of Severn Lodge) from Mr. and Mrs. Norman Gray. They indicated that she was originally commissioned to be built for Lady Eaton of the Eaton Department Store family at the Ditchburn Boat Company in Gravenhurst, Ontario and was to be used at their cottage near Cognashene, Ontario on Georgian Bay just north of Honey Harbour, Ontario.
She was subsequently sold by the Eatons to Mr. and Mrs. Norman Gray and moved to their cottage “Glen Ness” at the south end of Gloucester Pool, Trent Severn Waterway, near Port Severn, Ontario. Mrs. Gray was a cousin to Lady Eaton. When her husband, Norman Gray, died in 1941, the boat was sold to William H. Breckbill for $600, a tidy sum in those days. She remains in the Breckbill family to this very day. Her original name is unknown by the Breckbill’s, however William renamed the boat “SELVO” which was short for Severn Lodge.
She was purchased by William Breckbill for the purpose of transporting guests and supplies into and out of Severn Lodge from Port Severn, the nearest road access at that time. It was a 30-45 minute boat ride to Port Severn, so during those years, there were two pick-ups a day, one at 11 am and one at 5 pm. Those missing the 5 pm pick-up had to stay over night in Port Severn. In the 1950’s Hwy 69 (currently Hwy 400) was built, and a road was established into White’s Falls, the connecting point of Gloucester Pool and Six Mile Lake. White’s Falls was only 10 minutes from Severn Lodge which made access to the Lodge much more convenient. After the road was built into the Lodge, her service was changed from that of a water taxi to being a cruise boat. Today her main job is to take Severn Lodge guests for cruises on Gloucester Pool.
Approximately 15 years ago, Rick and Ron Breckbill happened by chance (at Jeffery’s Pro Hardware in Midland, Ontario) to meet and talk with the original driver of SELVO when she was owned by the Eatons. Unfortunately, only verbal information was exchanged, and his name was never written down.
SELVO is a 37 ft Ditchburn sedan model, with a soft chine, white oak ribs, cypress bottom, and Honduras mahogany topsides. She was originally powered by 6 cylinder Sterling marine engine of approximately 250 hp. This motor was replaced in 1946 by William H Breckbill by a 100 hp Buchanan 6 cylinder Meteor marine engine. Then, in 1968 a 230 hp Buchannan V8 (Chevy 327 block) marine engine was installed. This engine still powers SELVO today.
The original cabin was furnished with an attached driver and passenger seat and 4 movable wicker chairs. In 1946 the original cabin replaced with a larger cabin that extended further forward to approximately 4 ft in front of the engine allowing enough seating capacity for 18 passengers under roof. The restoration and addition of this new cabin was done by Midland Boatworks in Midland, Ontario. Fortunately, several of the wicker chairs, the original dashboard, and parts of the original cabin were kept and stored in the attic of the boathouse at Severn Lodge. The new cabin matches the style of boat and has 6 Model T type roll down windows, a light, a sign, and a luggage rack on the roof. Many have said that these modifications made the boat very handsome.
Over the years there were several significant repairs to the boat. In 1970 a new keel was installed by Barron’s Custom Boats, Port Severn. In 1982 minor plank replacement was done by McLarney Boats, Penetanguishene, and in 2001 major work was done by Stan Hunter Boat Works, Port Carling that included a complete re-ribbing with a new bottom, a new keel, a new transom, new motor beds, and new mahogany planking up approximately 1/3 of the sides of the hull.
Rick also cruises in Florida from Hutchinson Island during the winter months. Thanks Rick and Ron for preserving some very important boats with historical significance in Georgian Bay’s yachting history.
Larry O'Rourke started O'Rourke Boat Repairs in 1978. He comes from a family of boat builders including a grandfather on one side that built Lafontaine boats and on the other side a grandfather that built boats and ran a lodge up at Sans Souci near Parry Sound. Other family members have also included a lighthouse keeper and boat builders. The only marine related trade it seems that does not run in the family is pirates.
Larry's business is located at Hindson Marine in Penetanguishine. Larry grew up on the Bay and in his own words "life doesn't exist without Georgian Bay". O'Rourke Boats also includes five very skilled craftsman that have been with Larry for many years. There's not much turnover at O'Rourke Boats and these folks know how to restore boats from the bare hull up. "With a full restoration we start in the bilge and work our way up. There's no job too big and we can turn a flower pot into a boat" says Larry. The only size limitation is the length of the shop which is 72 feet. They have had a trawler in the shop for restoration at 67 feet. They do all kinds of structural and cosmetic repairs including replacing rotted or damaged stringers with mahogany glassed over stringers, fiberglass blister work & epoxy bottoms, balsa re-coring, teak interior retrofits, modifications/improvements to newer production boats and basically anything but engine work and upholstery which they sub out to other contractors.
O'Rourke Boats is probably best known for restoring older fiberglass boats that have a classic pedigree to make for a really worthwhile restoration. Examples would include Bertram and Hunt boats. These originally well built boats have the right bones to work with and they can be restored to better than new condition at a much lower cost than finding a replacement boat. And let's face it; cruising in a custom classic premium yacht (built when workmanship and quality materials took precedence over production costs) is one that can rarely be duplicated in newer production boats.
Larry just finished a 60 foot Endeavour yacht that had run aground up in Britt that had been salvaged and tug floated down to Penetang. We all know how treacherous yet beautiful Georgian Bay can be and O'Rourke gets many boats that come in for repairs that have had an encounter with the Canadian Shield and lost. The California owner of the yacht is almost ready for the re-launch and anxious to resume their world travels in this beautiful yacht.
When Larry isn't in the shop restoring boats you can find him at his island cottage on Georgian Bay doing some fishing in his own boat. Larry can be reached at O'Rourke Boats at (705) 549 3080.