Monday, June 30, 2008

I know its dead in the winter, but in the summer too???

I had an unusual and most eerie experience yesterday when I sailed around Toronto harbour. I have been sailing these waters for nearly 25 years.

It was a Sunday afternoon in the middle of a long weekend stretching all through Tuesday. The temperature was warm and the skies over Toronto were clear, although there were storm fronts visible in other parts of the sky.

On the lake there may have been 150 boats (a great many of whom were involved in a race associated with a regatta) where one could usually count on more than 500 on any day on a weekend.

Here is what I saw in the inner harbour.

I sailed into the inner harbour around 4:30 in the afternoon. Normally I avoid the inner harbour on such a weekend because it is jammed with boats, usually not less than a 100.

But this time, you could have fired a cannon across the waterfront and not hit anything. There were about 5 other sailboats, and maybe one power boat. There was only one tour boat in operation, although I had seen one other one out on the lake. Normally you would expect to see anywhere from 6 to 10 of these things running around. There appeared to be only one of three ferry boats operating. There was not a ship in the harbour, not even at the Redpath Sugar docks where one is usually docked or trying to dock. The container port was virtually empty – only a handful of containers and no cargo on dockside. Last year it was jammed with cargo.

I saw one police boat. Usually, in 3-hour sail on a weekend I would see at least half a dozen.

I sailed by the Docks entertainment complex. Normally there would be 1,000 people there. There were two customers and two wait staff.

Now, it was a long weekend, school is out, people have cottages up north, the Gay Pride Parade was in progress in the downtown area (it allegedly drew one million people) and there was rain in the forecast (as there has been for nearly every day in June). The U.S. boaters, who primarily favour powerboats and who flock to Toronto, were probably staying away because of the high Canadian dollar and the cost of fuel.

Still, the emptiness of the normally bustling waterfront was almost scary. It reminded me of one those post-apocalyptic motion pictures.

POSTSCRIPT: In searching for a photograph on the Internet to accompany the foregoing post, I discovered a secret about Toronto that I had long suspected. There are almost no pictures of the Toronto waterfront showing any activity. Look at the one above. Google Toronto waterfront or Toronto harbour pics and see for yourself.

Other photographs from around the city show completely empty public squares, a deserted Union Station, etc. And these are sites that provide photos of the city intended to help tourists plan their vacations!!!

I have known for a long time from experience in local politics that the people who are responsible for planning the waterfront of Toronto would like to have a quiet lakefront with no boating or other activity disturbing the tranquility. They have been beavering away cutting down on mooring availabilty on the landside for years. But I was surprised to the find through my search of other than government sites that the mindset of the people of Toronto is to eliminate evidence of human activity.

No wonder they have a problem attracting tourists.

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