The Port of Toronto
Boating in the Harbour from
Recreation to Workmanship
Toronto's beautiful waterfront is the place to take a walk on
along the beach or boardwalk, sit in a cafe or enjoy a bike ride
along a trail. On clear days, you can see boats of all kinds on
the water, far and near: sailboats, yachts, cabin cruisers, fishing
boats, tourist's cruise boats of all sizes, the famous Island ferry
boats, tug boats, and from time to time you might see a majestic
tall ship or fast gliding dragon boat.
For some, the long shoreline is a playground for water sports,
canoeing, kayaking and windsurfing. There are countless boating
clubs lined up along the waterfront from east to west, and many
are near to us, Balmy Beach Canoe Club - one of Toronto's oldest
boating clubs, Ashbidge's Bay Yacht Club, Westwood Sailing
Club, Mooredale Sailing Club, St. James Town Sailing Club,
Water Rats Sailing Club, just to name a few. Look farther toward
the east, there's usually a Great Lake freighter leaving or arriving
at one of the industrial wharfs. You can tell the ship's origin by
their flags, which are often accompanied by the Canadian flag.
Boating, however, is the earliest method of transportation before
roads and railways were built, and long before
airplanes were invented. It brings goods and
people travelling between regions, up and down
rivers, and across the sea from one continent to
another. Also, the Native People saw boating as
a necessity for survival to fish and hunt.
Toronto has a long history with boats and water.
More than just recreational or pleasure, our
waterfront was a working port. For centuries
before there was a city, the Native People living
around Lake Ontario and stretching a mile
out all around the lake were known as the
Mississauga (closely related to the Ojibwa).
When European explorers and traders arrived in
"Toronto Bay", they also came by boat.
At the time, that was the only option. When the
new settlers of Toronto needed to visit family or friends,
they went to the wharf along the lakeshore to take a boat.
Others took daytrips or weekend vacations to the Beaches and stayed at cottages.
Ships full of goods from overseas unloaded on the wharfs, setting up a shore side market.
As boat technology changed, our harbour saw more and more steam powered boats,
and finally, motorized vessels.
During the mid-20th century, as Toronto's industry grew, our waterfront was not
a popular place to visit except for specific park areas like the Toronto Islands,
Sunnyside Park and the Beaches. It was filled with empty warehouses and derelict buildings.
Most of them being shipbuilding companies that lost business because of the coming of the railways.
They were mostly used to store industrial materials.
It was a time when few would think of swimming or fishing in the lake.
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