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 Wyllie, quoting John A. Shedd’s words above, says he can’t wait to put his newest boat into service.
Wyllie, 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 Wyllie 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.
Wyllie 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 Wyllie 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 Wyllie 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 Wlylie 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 Wyllie—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,” Wyllie 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
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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