Saturday, March 28, 2009

Evolution of a barge

A sunny Saturday certainly brought the masses out in Toronto today. It sent me down to the portlands to see what was going on in the city's often-overlooked harbour.

There have been many efforts to rehabilitate this part of Toronto's waterfront over the years. None have truly caught fire, and as a result this part of the city, from Cherry Street east almost to the Beach neighbourhood, is still struggling to emerge from its past as one of the city's manufacturing hubs. Exactly where the area is going is anyone's guess. But the harbour is always worth a visit. You never know what you'll find there.

Today, among other things, it was literally awash in lake freighters, including this intriguing specimen:

The Metis used to be a fully formed lake freighter, hauling cement to a number of Great Lakes ports (you can see a picture of her in her heyday, back in 1983, by clicking here).

From what I can tell, she spent a long time languishing in port at Windsor until, at some point, her wheelhouse and other superstructure were severed off and she became a "cement barge," basically used to haul cement while being pulled by a tugboat. Exactly what advantage a cement barge holds over a full-fledged cement-hauling laker is unclear, but a quick Google search reveals the Metis has been towed into many ports, on both the Canadian and U.S. shores of the Great Lakes, since at least the early 1990s.

Now she rests near the base of Cherry Street, silently awaiting her next load. She made fascinating viewing as we stopped for a snack on our way back downtown.

More on some of the other lakers currently in port in a bit. Meantime, you can find a few facts and figures on the Metis, and some interesting photos other freighter enthusiasts have taken of her, by clicking here.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The thaw

Spring definitely made an appearance in eastern Ontario last weekend. We were there mainly to visit relatives and hit the Warkworth Maple Syrup Festival (specifically its pancake breakfast). But after we'd had our fill, Amy, my friend Hadley, her beloved canine Luke and I decided to take a ramble into Presqu'ile Provincial Park to see the evidence of the changing seasons.

These unknown berries were found hanging from the branches of a small tree just off Presqu'ile's main road. We were unsure if they were new or remnants of last year, but they made for an intriguing picture nonetheless.

Amy, Hadley and Luke approach a deceptively inviting-looking Lake Ontario. There was not a whisper of wind that morning, and if you set the chilly temps aside, you'd swear it was high summer. Luke got so caught up in the mood he decided to go for a quick dip...

Never underestimate the canine tolerance for cold water. I've watched dog owners at Cherry Beach in Toronto chuck sticks far out into the lake this time of year, then stand by as their oblivious pets swim out and back, again and again, to bring them in.

No signs of hypothermia this morning, either, though Luke did perform this unique high step (to everyone's delight) for a few minutes before finally giving up.

In other news, my talk at the Port Dover Harbour Museum last Thursday seemed to go over really well. It was a great opportunity to road-test my new Lake Erie history PowerPoint presentation (yes, I'm available for parties).

Thanks again to curator Ian Bell and his staff for being such great hosts!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


The staff at the Port Dover Harbour Museum have done a great job of putting together a poster to promote my talk at the museum on Thursday night. I'll be taking the ride out to Port Dover from Toronto in the late afternoon, and I hope to see you there.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Coming event

If you're already thinking spring, and eagerly counting the days until you can get out on your favourite Great Lake, I invite you to join me on Thursday, March 19, for a presentation on Lake Erie history at the Port Dover Harbour Museum.

I'll be bringing along a slideshow that includes many of the images I collected while I was researching the book, plus a number of fun facts about the lake. I also hope you'll be keen to share some of your favourite Lake Erie stories.

And, of course, I'll be selling books, too. Here are the particulars:

March 19, 7:30 p.m.
Port Dover Harbour Museum,
44 Harbour Street,
Port Dover, Ontario,
N0A 1N0
tel.: (519) 583-2660
Admission: $5

For more details, click here.

Hope to see you there!