That One Time at the Yacht Club

Over the last few months or so, I’ve posted stories from my previous travels abroad.

But every once in a while, I’m reminded that within my own city, there are opportunities to feel like a tourist without even setting foot onto an airplane.

Over a month ago, my colleague (and direct supervisor) says I need to replace a work-mate on a weekend work assignment.

Admittedly, I grumble at the prospect.

When I’m told what the assignment is, my grumbling’s replaced with a slightly raised eyebrow and some cautious side-eye.

It requires a trip to a yacht club. The Royal Canadian Yacht Club.

Cut to that Saturday morning.

Two of my work colleagues and I enter the small terminal for a private passenger ferry (also referred to as a launch) that’ll take us over to the island clubhouse. It – and the adjoining marina – inhabit a small island separate from the other Toronto Islands..

A few people are sitting in the terminal lounge, chatting amongst themselves, and casting glances our way (presumably because [1] of the equipment my colleagues are carrying and [2] we are obviously not members).

We’re not even there five minutes before we’re joined by a young lady, who – as it turns out – does public relations for the yacht club, and is accompanying us to the island today.

The launch itself is a tiny vessel, with seating for maybe a couple dozen people – operated by a compact, snowy-haired, stone-faced older man.

This is going to be interesting, I think to myself.wpid-IMAG0005.jpg The launch ride from the mainland to Snug Harbour Island is about 15 minutes long; it’s not long before the tall masts of sailboats parked in the marina come into focus.

As the launch docks and we come onto land, one of the club members turns to my colleague and asks her if we’re coming to film the wedding taking place later in the day. Interesting, indeed.

The yacht club was founded in the mid-1800s (primarily as a sailing club), but over time, has expanded to offer other athletic activities to its members, both on the island and in the city, as well as organized social events.

As our small group walks along the pathway past the clubhouse, I spot members in tennis whites playing on the partially-obscured courts to my right. In the distance, close to the clubhouse, members are lawn bowling on a perfectly manicured green. The scene before me brings to mind the image of “the country club” that I’ve only seen in movies. It is truly another world.

Today, though, we’ve come to interview two members who happen to be competitive sailors. The first interview takes place inside the hangar-like tent where they keep their gear.

As I wait for the second part of the interview – which is on the side of the tent facing the marina – I take a moment to gaze out at all the docked boats of all sizes. A hare hops by. It’s strangely idyllic.

A bit later, the public relations rep takes me on a brief walk around part of the island. We pass the clubhouse, which has been rebuilt twice (it burned down in 1904 and 1918). Around the side, on the huge “veranda”, people are seated for lunch.

Around the back of the clubhouse facility, there’s a garden, where various vegetables and herbs are grown and used in the meals served in the clubhouse dining room.IMAG0013And on the other side, away from the house, is a beautiful view of Toronto’s skyline which rivals any you can get from any of the other nearby islands. Not too far away, staff are setting up a small number of tables and white linens – likely for that aforementioned wedding taking place.

We join the others, who are waiting for the sailing crew to set up their boat and get it into the water. When they finally do, we board a motorboat to accompany them as they practice.

IMAG0014These guys sail a type of catamaran that is lightweight, and – as a result – really fast. In fact, it only needs a bit of wind to get it moving.

As it picks up speed, the sailors maneouvre the boat sideways onto one of its hulls, just gliding and turning. I know absolutely nothing about sailing, but watching the boat in action is just a little bit mesmerizing.

I can only imagine the rush a trained sailor must get operating one of these vessels.

The sailors continue their practice, but for my work colleagues and me, our time on the water – and at the yacht club – is over. We have to get back to the mainland, as we’ve got some work to finish.

I’m not sure if this will be my one and only time at the yacht club. (Membership fees are several thousand dollars which – despite what the PR person says about being “decent” – is a bit too dear for my bank account.)

But if the club ever comes up with a special occasion to allow non-members such as myself to check out the yacht club, I might be on one of the first Kwasind rides over there.