Following the drought conditions that many areas experienced last summer, Mother Nature had a very different agenda for the Spring of 2017. In Southern Ontario, she gave us record rainfall which combined with the winter run-off to create high water levels and fast flowing water that I don’t remember seeing before in the eastern part of the Trent Severn Waterway. Water levels had to be carefully managed to prevent flooding in low lying areas south of Peterborough and forced the late opening of locks from Lakefield to Rice Lake this year. The southern flow of all this water eventually wends its way to Lake Ontario which this spring/summer had record high water levels covering entire beaches in many areas from Hamilton to Kingston.
For the third year, The Trent Severn Antique and Classic Boat Association had been looking forward to participating in the Greater Nappanee Riverfront Festival. It promised to be another fun weekend of displaying our marine treasures and then meandering up the Napanee River to the Bay of Quinte. Prior to the event we had been warned that high water levels might hamper the in-water display but the Riverfront Festival organizing committee was committed to doing whatever they could to make our weekend enjoyable. With the expectation of good weather, a warm welcome from our good friends in Greater Napanee and a road trip with Trent Severn Antique and Classic Boat Association members, it promised to be a fun time
“Objects in mirror are closer than they appear”. In my case the object was our 1950 Shepherd. It was great to have her out of the garage and on the road to Greater Napanee. As part of the second convoy from the Peterborough area, our plan was to meet up with the other eight boats at Masterson’s Motel by early afternoon and then proceed as a group to Rotary Park in Napanee for evening festivities. At about 4:00 in the afternoon we were joined in the motel parking lot by Festival event coordinator Dave Pinnell Jr., Greater Napanee Fire Chief Kevin Donaldson and an officer from the local OPP detachment. With lights flashing and sirens squawking, traffic was stopped to allow safe passage of the eight boats through town to the display area at the park
Friday night was a special occasion for the Town. We had the privilege of having front row seats for the dedication of the new $500,000 children’s playground at Rotary Park. Hundreds of people attended and enjoyed the new facility. Did I say - children’s playground? The new equipment looked way too tempting for some of our members and it was proven that playgrounds aren’t just for kids anymore. Jungle Gyms have come a LONG way since I was young. Following the dedication, it was a short walk to the public library lawn, where the event committee had a hot and cold buffet set up as a VIP reception and as always, had gifts for everyone. A very nice show of appreciation for our participation.
Many people may not know the Napanee River has a tide that raises and lowers the water level 6 to 18 inches. Winds from the southwest over Lake Ontario push water to the north shore. This causes a fluctuation in the water level several times a day on the Napanee River. This effect called “seiche” is only experienced in one other river in the world. From past years we experienced the high and low tides while moored at the main dock that runs along the Park. At low tide, it was difficult to board or climb back out of our boats due to the dock height. On Friday night, we saw that at high tide the main dock was barely above water and the dock at the launch ramp was submerged. The decision was made to have the Saturday display on land and for those interested, the Festival Organizing committee would ensure a safe launch for an afternoon cruise.
First thing on a bright Saturday morning, we dried off the boats from an overnight rain and headed for the display area. I must say the variety of boats ranging from a 13’ cedar strip to a 22’ Shepherd really did us proud. Once we were set up, we had the opportunity to enjoy a great pancake breakfast provided by the local OPP detachment. The low-lying area in the park, just to the west of the breakfast pavilion was underwater so deep that on Friday as part of the in-water festivities, school kids actually tried to canoe in the puddles.
The park quickly filled with displays & vendors and at noon, the crowd was treated to a barefoot water skiing display by Canadian Champions & Team Canada Members Becky Moynes and Brem “The Buckhorn Barefooter” Allen. Very impressive! With each pass it was comical to see spectators scramble to avoid the boat wake as it rolled over the dock. As a kid we waterskied behind a Richardson lapstrake and try as we may, we wound up drinking more lake water than we barefoot skied over. I can really appreciate the talent of these two skiers. The noontime demonstration was a preview of the 2018 World Barefoot Waterski Championships to be hosted in the Napanee area. Be sure to google that event for more details.
By late afternoon as things wound down, with the exception of boating diehards Tom and Rhonda Davis from St Catherine’s, we decided not to challenge the River. We had heard early in the day a small cruiser had run aground in the river just up from the park. Apparently, navigation was difficult because high water levels partly submerged the channel markers.
So…it was back to the Works Department compound for overnight boat storage, back to Masterson’s for a quick change (apparently, I needed to get dressed up for dinner) and after our tailgate party in the parking lot it was off to Wild Wing for dinner. What a great place! The food was great and the service exceptional – highly recommended if you are in the area! Two things I learned about Wild Wing…. There are actually 101 ways to make chicken wings and….you can get sauce so hot it will make you cry. Just ask Bill Graham, Murray Parnell or Ruth Giles. Apparently sucking on a lemon is supposed to help take away the pain but I think they dispelled that myth.
For those of you looking for a fun weekend away with like-minded friends, watch for the Greater Napanee Riverfront Festival on next year’s fridge magnet. It is a great opportunity to share the rich marine history our boats represent, a great environment to enjoy the club & its members and (hopefully next time) a great area to go boating.
The people from Greater Napanee that our club liaised with for this event were the unsung heroes that worked tirelessly behind the scenes. Thank you to Dave Pinnell Jr. for the commitment and dedication to the Festival and help making our weekend enjoyable. Congratulations to Ray Callery, CFO and Michelle King, Executive Office Co-Ordinator, Town of Greater Napanee for another great Waterfront Festival (pictured below). Mayor Schemerhorn must be very proud. Mother Nature might have thrown a curve this year but the Greater Napanee Riverfront Festival organizers once again hit it out of the park!