I was extremely lucky as a kid. In the early 1960’s our family bought several waterfront lots on Balsam Lake. My parents had a cottage built on the middle lot, beside my Uncle & Aunt to the south and Grandparents to the north. My fondest childhood memories are all from Balsam Lake. The day after school ended we would load up the car and my mother, two brothers & I would spend the summer in paradise – dad would come up on weekends and his annual 2 week vacation. From an early age we would take to the water in our aluminum Starcraft with 3hp Johnson (we actually had to spin the motor around to go in reverse). A few years later the Johnson was replaced with a much more powerful 6hp Evinrude – redesigned for 1967.
When we first moved to Balsam from older cottages on Lake Simcoe we brought the mid 1950s Shepherd Jr with 4 cyl engine and OMC sterndrive. (I still have a picture of me riding shotgun at the pier beside the Kirkfield Liftlock.) Showing it’s age, the Shepherd disappeared one spring and was replaced with a brand new 21’ Richardson Aquacraft – the most beautiful boat that I had ever seen - blue painted lapstrake with mahogany deck & trim. I wonder what ever happened to that boat? Over the years we spent hours water-skiing behind it and I fondly remember trips to the Liftlock, Shallimar, Rosedale and Coboconk. The cottage remained in the family until 1993 when my father was approaching retirement. I missed that place tremendously after it had been sold, cherished those early memories and had not been on the lake since that last Starcraft boat ride with my 2 young kids in the fall of ‘93.
Fast forward - Spring 2013. For the past several years the town of Coboconk has been celebrating the Fresh Water Summit. A weekend event to recognize a nationally significant singularity. Balsam Lake is the highest point on the Trent Severn Waterway from which water flows downstream to the west toward Lake Simcoe and downstream to the east to Cameron Lake. It is Canada’s highest body of fresh from which a skipper could circumnavigate the world without having to travel on land.
This year the TSACBA offered to join the event with a display of antique boats at the wharf in Coboconk on the Saturday morning. On a clear warm June 15th morning we had 12 boats tied up for people to admire. At mid-day we went as a group to the newly renovated Pattie House for lunch (they actually have a hamburger with 2 grilled cheese sandwiches instead of buns – highly recommended).
In the early afternoon we travelled as a flotilla south on Gull River to Rosedale, our first destination on Balsam Lake. We slowly cruised down the Trent Canal to see the Rosedale Lock, the busiest on the system in 2012, locking through 7719 vessels. Back out onto the lake and as typical of Balsam the wind was starting to pick up. We hugged the shore into South Bay where the faster boats took advantage of the calmer waters. Along the eastern shore of Long Point, I could still recognize some of the properties from years ago. When we rounded the point, I could see in the distance on the west shore, that tall pine tree that always stood as a beacon on our front lawn – it had survived. Down Long Point and past Ant Island, memories of sailing, boating and fishing flooded to mind. As we went further into West Bay I found myself cruising in my old stomping grounds. As we headed north toward the canal, excitement grew as many of the landmarks that I once knew were still there. We rounded the corner and saw our old neighbour to the south. Then we saw trees, trees, more trees…..and then…there it was….the neighbour to the north!? I have been told that the old cottage is still there in much the same configuration as it was but the trees had overgrown so much I could not see a thing! Oh well.
We continued along to North Bay near the Provincial Park and caught up again with the fast boats. For the rest of the trip back to Coby, my mind was stuck in the past. I might not have been able to see the old place but the memories will last forever. It was a great day for me, the weather was good, the boating was good and the company was great. Thank you to my old-boat friends for joining me on my stroll down memory lane.