Boaters are buoyed by getting back on the water

Dave Wilson of New Hamburg, Ont., spent May 15 at the McDonald Turkey Point Marina preparing his boat, Wilabee, for the water. Michelle Ruby/Postmedia Network

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Dave Wilson spent a sunny spring afternoon getting his beloved cabin cruiser Wilabee seaworthy.

“I should be done tomorrow,” he told Brad Thomson, general manager at McDonald Turkey Point Marina, on May 15. “Do you think you can get it in the water by Wednesday?”

Wilson, who lives in New Hamburg, Ont., and has been storing his boats at the Turkey Point marina for 20 years, can’t be blamed for being anxious to get the Wilabee back into Lake Erie waters. Ontario boaters who have spent the last two months at home in self-isolation to reduce the spread of the coronavirus were buoyed on Thursday when Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced the first phase of the province’s cautious reopening as recoveries from the disease continue to outweigh confirmed active cases.

Among the seasonal services and activities allowed to resume on May 15 were marinas and golf courses. Private parks and campgrounds were permitted to open to prepare for the season and allow access for trailers and recreational vehicles whose owners have a full-season contract.

A long list of other services and businesses were to resume operations on May 19, the beginning of the first phase of Ford’s reopening plan.

Thomson said he’d likely launch about 75 boats on May 15. With 750 seasonal boat slips, McDonald Turkey Point Marina is the largest freshwater marina in Canada.

Thomson said there was a lot of concern as the pandemic continues that the boating season would be significantly delayed.

“For us to open is a great relief not just to us but to our customers.”

The opening, however, comes with restrictions: only one person at a time is allowed in the office; boat ramps are controlled to limit the number of people on a dock; gatherings of more than five people aren’t permitted; guests aren’t allowed aboard boats unless they are people who live in the same home.

“People are getting it,” Thomson said of the rules. “We haven’t had to speak to anybody. We’ve all never been here but I’m confident we can work together.”

Anticipating the all-clear to open, Thomson said marina staff have been busy pulling boats out of storage barns so that owners can clean and repair them for the water.

Wilson, who is a truck driver and has been considered an essential worker throughout the pandemic, said he “completely understands that we’ve got to respect what the premier and local mayors are telling residents.

“They said come on down but that could change at any time.”

On Saturday, Thomson got started tightening his boat’s bolts, filling the battery, washing and waxing and checking that everything fared well over the winter.

“You enjoy your backyard but when you get down here it’s a different mental state,” he said of the lakeside. His wife Sherri agreed.

“The sooner we’re in the water the better.”

 

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