Building The Docks

By Al Woolnough and Charlie Tatham

When CYC became an official entity, we immediately began building wood docks. They were fabricated at the old Peerless Factory on Peel St just north of Hanna Ford. Barry Loft, our first Commodore, owned the building at the time.

Barry had a 30-foot double ended sloop. I recall Charlie Tatham and I going out one windy night with Barry. We beat out into the big waves and then surfed back towards the harbour. After about three of these round trips Barry was turning green, so we dropped him off and took his boat out for a couple more laps.

One of our early members fabricated all the corner stiffeners and connectors at a fabricating shop he owned in Toronto. He also fabricated a crane for launching small boats, which members also used for placing masts on their sail boats. After the docks were fabricated, they were transported in Barry’s “chicken truck”, to the harbour where they were wrestled into the water. Dan Molloy, a CYC member, and a manager for Barry’s KFC business, at the time, was our primary contact.

Meanwhile other members had fabricated a raft complete with a tripod and hand operated chain fall. This would be used to place concrete anchors for the floating docks.

We had been busy casting concrete weights at the Martin Ready Mix (now Lafarge) batch plant. We set up reusable forms and left prefabricated reinforcing steel inserts which could be pushed into the forms after they were filled with concrete. The drivers would place concrete remaining in their trucks upon returning to the batch plant and push the rebar provided into the fresh concrete. We would strip and reset the forms and a stockpile began to grow. This system worked great. The batcher would often mix a little extra so that the drivers would have some to place in our forms upon their return to the plant. It is probably safe to say now that “beer was involved.”

One night after closing a local bar, member number 3, Joe Draper and I decided we should go down and strip the forms and reset them ready for another batch of anchors. We parked the car leaving the headlights on and began work. The local constabulary, to their credit, noticed the suspicious activity at the ready-mix plant and drove in to investigate. After explaining what we were up to, they decided we probably weren’t going to steal 300 lb weights and left us to it. It is probably safe to say once again that “beer was involved.”

When we had cast enough anchors, the community support system kicked into gear. The ready-mix company loaded the weights onto an Arnott Construction float truck (courtesy of member Wayne Arnott). Arnott’s front-end loader followed it to the harbour and unloaded the weights onto what we now refer to as the Kilgour Pier, named after Jim Kilgour, who wrote our monthly newsletter COLYAC for many years. There we attached the no longer used ski lift cable (courtesy of Ernst Mansberger, manager at Alpine Ski Club) with muffler clamps, attached a float to each weight and pushed them into the harbour. 

The raft, mentioned above, was then floated over each weight and it was lifted off the bottom and floated to the required location, lowered back down and attached to our floating wood docks. Due to the wood construction maximum boat size for club members was limited to 30 feet. That was a big boat in the 1970’s.

The flotation for those early docks was open cell white Styrofoam. This material worked fine but had two distinct disadvantages. First the harbour muskrats thought that the Styrofoam was a great place to live and secondly the foam absorbed water over time and lost some buoyancy.

  One of our early members Karl Pulerits was a world-renowned Marine Engineer. Karl initiated the building of a stone filled, concrete topped, timber crib which served as a service dock and a foundation for a small boat crane. Karl also designed and headed up the construction of a 160-foot-long floating wave break which closed off an open section of the federal dock on the west side of the basin. It was fabricated in two sections utilizing 8- 16 inches X 2 ft X 80 ft BC Fir timbers obtained from the Shipyards when it closed. This structure served the club admirably for over 35 years before being replaced.

I’ll never forget my first contact with Karl. I had purchased an Olympic Class Sailboat called a Soling and was actively trying to encourage other club members to join the fleet. Karl called me one night and started the conversation, after introducing himself and before mentioning that he’d like to join the club with “What do you think of the Soling?”  I think I responded, “What do you think about fresh sticky buns?” Karl became the proud owner of the second Soling in the club. Others soon joined the Soling fleet, including George Bartlett, Fred Jardine and world class sailor Bill Gooderham who had raced in the 1948 and 52 Olympics representing Canada. Bill used to say that he had sailed all over the world and there was no better place than Georgian Bay. Amen to that.

A couple other early members were particularly interesting.

Cooper Bath, a farmer all his life, was probably about 70, when he joined CYC. Cooper had lost a finger in a farm accident and received a cash settlement (government or insurance, I don’t know but it doesn’t matter). He took the $6000 and bought a Viking 28 which he called CANDU and became an active sailor. He also put in many hours of manual labour for the club. I particularly remember he worked hard on construction of the timber wave break mentioned above. He cruised a lot with Jim Kilgour every summer. The boat is still at CYC now called K-force and owned by Ken Forsyth.

Steamer Clark was another. Steamer was a lifer at the Collingwood Shipyards. He single-handedly constructed a 30 something steel boat in his garage and added a steam engine. One would often see Steamer in the outer harbour taking someone for a once in a lifetime steamboat cruise. I don’t think the boat ever left the harbour. He is depicted playing his clarinet on the large mural on the Loblaws building. He had a fully functioning machine shop in his basement on Minnesota St., how he got the huge steel lathe down there I don’t know. You didn’t stop to chat with Steamer unless you could spare a considerable amount of time.