One of Huntsville’s new tour boats has arrived

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A ship in harbor is safe — but that is not what ships are built for.John A. Shedd

Boats are built for cruising and Stephen Wylie, quoting John A. Shedd’s words above, says he can’t wait to put his newest boat into service.

Wylie, who owns Lady Muskoka Cruises in Bracebridge, is bringing boat tours to Huntsville. The first of two boats, the Tom Thomson, arrived at Deerhurst Resort on September 18 after leaving Ottawa more than six weeks prior. Two more boats—the Algonquin II which will be moored at Huntsville’s Town Dock and a third that will be used in Bracebridge—are part way through their journey to Muskoka but won’t complete the remainder until the spring.

As far as Wylie knows, a boat of this size hasn’t travelled the canal between Fairy and Peninsula Lakes since the steamer Algonquin was retired. That historical ship carried passengers from Huntsville’s train station to South Portage at the east end of Peninsula Lake from 1905 until 1952 when she was retired. She was eventually taken apart in 1958 after having sat partially submerged for several years.

Wylie is still finalizing the fall colour tour route for the Tom Thomson but says that passengers on board will hear a narrator tell the history of Peninsula, Fairy and Vernon lakes and about the steamships that plied their waters in the early decades of the 20th century. Over the winter, the boat’s interior will be renovated to replace its tour seating with tables and the Tom Thomson will commence a variety of dining, corporate and special event cruises in 2019.

The Algonquin II, once it arrives in the spring, will be strictly a tour boat launching from the Town Dock.

Tour boats are a tourism offering that has been missing from the Huntsville area. When Wylie initially presented his idea to Huntsville’s General Committee in April 2018, Kelly Haywood, Executive Director of the Huntsville Lake of Bays Chamber of Commerce, said that after where to eat, boat tours are the most-requested attraction from tourists visiting the chamber’s visitor information booths.

It’s been a long journey, and Wylie is relieved that the first boat has finally arrived. When it left Ottawa in the last week of July, he wasn’t sure how long it would take to coordinate all of the steps required to get it to Huntsville. From Ottawa, it sailed to Kingston and then to Trenton where it entered the Trent-Severn Waterway. At Washago, the boat paused for almost a month and got an interior paint job while Wylie arranged for trucking to bring it up Highway 11. It required two cranes to lift it from the water onto a large transport truck which, with the help of police escorts, brought it up the highway as far as Port Sydney, the only location on the Huntsville-area lakes where it could be offloaded with cranes into deep enough water. And then, finally, on the afternoon of September 18, the Tom Thomson made its way up the Muskoka River, through the Brunel Locks—which it cleared by about two inches, says Wylie—into Fairy Lake and through the Canal to Peninsula Lake and the dock at Deerhurst Resort.

The voyage covered more than 500 kilometres and included dozens of locks.

“Don’t try this at home,” Wylie quipped once the boat was securely moored.

Above: (left) It took two cranes to lift the Tom Thomson off the truck for its launch into Mary Lake at Port Sydney (Photo: Stephenson District Lions Club/Facebook); (right) the boat waited at the Port Sydney dock until it could be piloted up the Muskoka River and eventually to its new home at Deerhurst Resort

The Tom Thomson follows the route steamships once took through the canal

The Tom Thomson followed the route steamships once took through the canal on its way to Deerhurst Resort

The Tom Thomson on Fairy Lake near Deerhurst

The Tom Thomson on Fairy Lake near Deerhurst Resort

Fall colour tours will launch from Deerhurst Resort in the coming weeks

Crew members secure the boat at the dock at Deerhurst Resort. Fall colour tours will launch from the resort in the coming weeks.

Information about the tours will be available at algonquincruises.com—watch for the new website soon, as well as a Facebook and Instagram page.

Related story: Boat tours could return to Huntsville this summer

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14 Comments

  1. I was campaigning on Sam English Road (off North Mary Lake Road) yesterday and happened to be at the Muskoka River as the Tom Thomson went by heading upriver to the Locks. What a beautiful addition to Huntsville’s tourist attractions. Can’t wait to take the tour myself.

  2. Doesn’t look much different than The Miss White Pine that was used at Expo in 1967 and moved to Huntsville in the 70’s and operated for a number of years here by Doug Russell of White Pines Resort.

    • I remember Miss White Pines & our family lived close to Doug Russell & his family. There were tours many years ago from the Britannia Hotel on South Portage Rd. Huntsville. So happy there is a boat returning to Huntsville. Looking forward to a cruise next summer.

  3. How much does it cost to go on the tour and when do they start running ? My cousin is coming to Huntsville next week and saw this and wants to go on it. Any answers?

    • Elizabeth Rice - Doppler Publisher on

      Information about the tours will be available at algonquincruises.com—watch for the new website soon, as well as a Facebook and Instagram page.

  4. Would be a wonderful addition to have boat tours start in Port Sydney. Mary’s Lake would be a wonderful venue to add to the new and much wanted boat tours throughout Muskoka.

  5. A narration will be supplied for boat riders about Mary Lake and its settlers…from my book “These Memories I Leave to You”.
    I hope that you’ll find it interesting.

    Ryan Kidd

  6. Well, now that driving a boat yourself has become one more step more complex with all the boating card rules I suppose going for a cruise is the next best thing.
    I know our area is supposed to be ever so beautiful and all that, and in some ways it is but I have to wonder about cruises like this. Once one has seen a few miles of shoreline, the trees and rocks bit and gone a bit crazy looking at a few cottages, one soon finds that a cruise is mostly an endless repeat of this same scene with a few very minor variations.
    The narrative will be a good thing.
    If you can squeeze in a bar and casino you will probably fill the boat every trip!
    Like the SS Bigwin I wonder if there will be many repeat cruisers or if it will tend to be a “one time” thing?
    If it can be hooked up with some other events, like maybe the train ride and or a dinner at a lakeside restaurant as part of the cruise package it might work better than just the “water, trees and rocks” thing.
    Good luck, lets see how it works.

  7. This is fantastic news: I only wish that it could have been accompanied by news that the long-awaited passenger train from Toronto to Huntsville was imminent. What a boon for tourism in our area. Also, please tell me that Mr. Wylie wasn’t actually surprised that the Tom Thomson cleared the Brunel Locks “by about two inches”. As this was the only constriction on the navigable portion of the waterway, surely the boat should have been sized accordingly; with just a tad more clearance.

  8. Just went on the boat cruise. Tickets were available at the Kent Park Information booth, Credit or Debit only.
    It was a great cruise…they have a few small bugs to work out but they will get there. The crew and narration were great.
    As someone else mentioned, it would be perfect if the cruise had a connection to other venue’s around town, like The Portage Flyer train, Museum, Hunters Bay Trail…
    AND YES, Lets get OUR PASSENGER TRAIN service back, it would be another way to bring tourist in and just maybe, a few tourist / entrepreneurs might decide to bring their business here diversifying our employment opportunities instead of just selling off shoreline for condo’s etc.

    All the best and success to the owners of the Tom Thompson boat cruise !

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