Saturday, April 26, 2008

Lake Erie Stories update

I'm expecting Lake Erie Stories back from the printer a week from Monday (May 5).

As you might expect, I'm equal parts excitement and terror at this point, but it'll be pretty great to finally get this, my first crack at writing a book, out and on the bookstore shelves.

If you've preordered Lake Erie Stories, I would expect your copy should arrive in your mailbox around the third or fourth week of May. (If you haven't preordered and would still like to, it's not too late. Click here for more on how to do so.)

I'm also told there will be a bit of media leading up to the "official" launch date of June 14. So keep an eye out for me on your local community access station and way, way up your AM dial. I'll try to keep that info, along with any reviews that may pop up online, posted on this blog.

Happy reading!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Shipwrecks online

If you're interested in Lake Erie shipwrecks, today's Cleveland Plain Dealer has a web site for you.

The paper ran a story about a new site, (or officially Shipwrecks & Maritime Tales of the Lake Erie Coastal Ohio Trail), where professional divers, sport divers, students, and Great Lakes history geeks of all types can go to learn more about the many wrecks that lie in Ohio's waters. Once there, you can check out interactive maps and, on some wrecks, detailed histories, photos, and even video footage taken by divers.

You can visit the site, run by the Ohio Sea Grant, by clicking on the link above or here. I've also added it to the "Great Lakes links" nav bar on the left side of this blog.

To read the Cleveland Plain Dealer story, click here.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Well, last week I said it looked like summer was just about to burst -- and this week, lo and behold, it did. This meant it was time to haul the boats down from their winter slumber for the first paddle of the year.

In what's becoming an annual tradition, my wife Amy and I like to make our first paddle of the new season over to the Toronto Islands. The best way to get there by canoe or kayak is to launch from Cherry Beach, cross the channel they call the Eastern Gap, and you're pretty much there. Wetsuits are a good idea for this trip, which overall is a pretty easy paddle, but the Gap can really get rolling in a strong wind, and the water in Lake Ontario at this time of year is only about 5C.

The Islands are a unique community in Toronto. Aside from a group of permanent residents who live in a tight cluster of eclectic little houses on Ward's Island (the easternmost of the chain), they're pretty much all public parks and beaches. They're also home to a number of yacht clubs, the most notable of which being the storied Royal Canadian Yacht Club, which can trace its roots all the way back to 1852 and runs two vintage ferries back and forth from the city for its members. The islands are also home to the Gibraltar Point lighthouse, one of the oldest on the Great Lakes. You can read more about it here.

Yesterday, the islands were a beehive of activity. Boats were being untarped. The sound of sawing and hammering wafted through the air. Cranes and winches worked overtime to get freshly painted craft into the water as their owners watched from shore and dreamed of the nautical adventures to come. They're pretty much all sailboaters (or "stickboaters" as my father derisively referred to them), with boats with names like "Calamity II," "Breezy," or my personal favourite, "Sloop du Jour."

Being part of the city, of course, the islands have their wilder side. For the more risque, a clothing-optional beach is located on Hanlan's Point. But the devil-may-care vibe isn't limited to this little stretch of sand; in a very clothing-mandatory cove on Algonquin Island we came upon a couple of, let's say, amorous, Torontonians who did an amusing scramble for clothing when we glided our ever-so-silent kayaks in to see if we could spot some wildlife.

We weren't disappointed.

For more on the Toronto Islands, click here.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Ice out

Well, this weekend was a bit of a washout (literally) for anything outdoor-related in the Toronto area, and the kayaks remain solidly tethered to their cradles in the garage. But things just feel like they're about to perk up.

About a week or so ago, the ice finally released its grip on the northern shore of Lake Ontario. And last weekend saw the first real sunny days of spring, prompting us to take the short trip up the shore to my in-laws' place in Brighton, Ontario, near the gates of Presqu'ile Provincial Park.

As we wandered the beach, I couldn't help but notice that, aside from the lack of any real greenery and, of course, the nip in the air, the place looked almost like it was high summer. Of course there were no campers, which makes spring a pleasant time to visit Presqu'ile, which is one of the busiest parks in Ontario's system, and a big draw for birders.

Presqu'ile Point also marks the entrance to Presqu'ile Bay and, according to Ontario Parks, its lighthouse is the second oldest operating light in Ontario, having been put into operation in 1840. Remarkably, the original keeper's cottage still stands intact beside the light, even though its original oil lantern has long since been removed.

Now the Presqu'ile Point lighthouse looks somewhat incomplete, with only a small electric beacon gracing the wide, flat top of the light's tower.

Soon, it'll be guiding vessels of all shapes and sizes into the safety of the Bay -- just as it has for the last 167 summers.

For more on Presqu'ile Provincial Park, click here.

For more on the Presqu'ile Point lighthouse, click here.

Friday, April 4, 2008

April Fool's Day, 19th-century style

Today's Owen Sound Sun Times features something that I couldn't resist posting: an 1887 April Fool's joke featuring, of all things, a shipping canal.

The Bruce Peninsula, which neatly splits Lake Huron and Georgian Bay, has been a menace to navigation for time immemorial. No longer, proclaimed an article in the March 28, 1887 Wiarton Echo (which was reprinted in today's Sun Times). According to the Echo, a new canal had been finished and opened just days before that would allow ships to pass through the Peninsula between the Bay and Lake Huron, thereby giving the tip of the Bruce, a known magnet for shipwrecks, a miss. The new canal was nothing less than a marvel of technological achievement and a boon to marine safety.

The description of the opening ceremony and its "Carnival of Nations," in its flourish of, let's say, colourful, nineteenth-century English, is worth quoting here: "Every known people on earth, civilized or uncivilized, was represented -- from the pure skinned Canadian to the tailed dwarfs of Central Africa, and each caravan was busily engaged in their own peculiar industry."

But, sadly, just as central Ontario's hopes for a safer waterway were raised, they were quickly and cruelly dashed upon the rocks. According to Owen Sound writer and historian Andrew Armitage, who reprinted the Echo article in today's Sun Times, it was signed "H.O.A.X. April Fool!"


To read the full story, click here.