Commodore’s Story #1

By Al Woolnough, Charlie Tatham and Louie Foubert

In mid-1973, Charlie Tatham had ordered a Northern ¼ Ton from Northern Yachts in Ajax.  The promised completion date had been put back several times but finally was declared to be early September.  

At that time, Louie Foubert operated the BP gas station on the site now occupied by Circle K convenience store, just south of Sporting Life.  He offered a towing service and had a Dodge Power Wagon he was quite proud of. I had offered Charlie my Soling trailer and Louie was insisting that he would tow the trailer with his Power Wagon.  

So off we went early one sunny September morning, trailer in tow, in Louie’s tow truck with the three of us in the crowded front seat.  I was in the middle and had various shifting levers literally between my legs.  As we headed east on 92 towards Barrie, an explosion of bangs and clunks erupted underneath the floor, and we limped to the side of the road.  After the shock subsided, it was determined that the one of the drive shafts had uncoupled and it was lying on the ground.  Louie was convinced that I had somehow moved a lever to cause this calamity.  I hadn’t.  Miraculously, a Chrysler dealer in Barrie had the part we needed and after a two-hour delay, we were on our way again.  

This was before cell phones and Charlie was so nervous about the boat delivery aspects that he called his wife Louise and asked her to phone the factory and tell them we would be two hours late.  Louise called him back to say that when she phoned the factory they said not to worry because the boat wasn’t ready.  She told them it better be ready because we were on our way and were not leaving without it.  

When we got to the factory, we were informed that if we left them alone, the boat would be ready by 4pm.  So off we went down to sniff around boats at nearby Swan’s Marina.  

Driving along the service road the Power Wagon began to backfire and sputter.  Now what?  Thank goodness for small mercies, we spotted a BP service station up the road a bit and limped in there.  The owner (a BP guy just like Louie), opined that the problem was the distributor, to which Louie said, “No way – my mechanic keeps it in perfect running order”!  The BP guy responded with “Ok, then let’s give it a valve job”. Silence. The repair took about 20 minutes.

Finally, back in Collingwood, it was time to launch the boat in the Collingwood Harbour at the Town boat launch.  For some reason we had disconnected the safety chains and loosened off the locknut on the trailer hitch.  I got up on the boat and Louie backed us down the relatively shallow launch ramp when suddenly the boat lurched over a drop off.  Louie hit the brakes and because I was in the cockpit the boat slid backwards on the bungs.  The hitch lifted off the ball and the stern were now in the water but would go no farther.  We ran a line (Charlie’s new anchor rode) across to the ferry dock and pulled the trailer backwards enough for the boat to float off.  I distinctly remember Louise, who had arrived to see the ceremonial boat launch, asking, “Charlie! Was that supposed to happen?”  Charlie, who by this time was in shock but believed a disaster had been averted, responded, “Shut up Louise!”  The water was warm, and we were able to get a rope on my trailer and retrieve it, minus one adjustable pad. 

To this day, I can’t remember whether we found the pad or made a new one.  And so went the ceremonial launch of a new arrival at the fledgling yacht club!