There's a surprising lot of interesting stuff going on around here, and this space is devoted to discovering and sharing it. We'll post regular updates on merchants, activities and events. Look in often and soon you'll see why Meaford calls itself "The other Big Apple".


posted March 24th, 2015
Around the Bay and Back Again – Stompin’ Tom visits Meaford

After 23 years in Meaford, you’d I’d’ve come across this Stompin’ Tom gem, but I only discovered it today.

From Espanola to Manitoulin
‘Cross the channel I’m bound
I heard a story in Tobermory
That my baby’s in Owen Sound
I was close behind her
But couldn’t find her
So to Meaford, I’m away
Down to Collingwood, that’s where I stood
At the bottom of the Georgian Bay

That’s the first verse of “Around the Bay and Back Again”, which appeared first on Tom’s 1969 LP, “On Tragedy Trail”. It must have been a favourite, because he released it again on “Stompin’ Tom Meets Big Joe Mufferraw” a year later.

Here’s the legend performing the song in 1973, and again, nearly 40 years later, in 2010.

Buy the song on Amazon.


posted July 26th, 2014
It’s never to late to learn to sail in Meaford

Maybe you’ve seen the brightly striped sails of Sail Georgian Bay Sailing School in Meaford Harbour and the Bay beyond, and wished you could join those kids. Unfortunately for us, the age limit is 18. But in Meaford, it’s never too late to learn how to sail.

Jean-loup Dalle urges people to “add sailing to your bucket list”. The experienced Master Yachtsman teaches folks on his 31-foot French-built Kirie Elite, Malaika, based out of Meaford Harbour.

“What I do as a coach is a bit different from an instructor teaching a rigid curriculum,” says Jean-loup. “Our several modules are flexible and adaptable because we listen to our students’ needs. We talk more about confidence, anxiety, communication or creams than ‘sailing by the lee’ or ‘velocity made good.'”

Jean-loup Dalle at the helm of Malaika

Jean-loup Dalle at the helm of Malaika

Jean-loup uses a combination of the NauticEd program – an online theoretical sailing education program which is making waves in the sailing world. That combined with his on-water practical coaching will have you confidently taking the helm in no time.

“My style of coaching is very relaxed,” says Jean-loup. “The emphasis is on learning in a fun and enjoyable atmosphere. I coach folks of all ages to sail with confidence.”

Jean-loup holds a commercial license as Master of Yacht 200 Tons Limited from International Yacht Training, and he’s a certified Sail Canada cruising instructor.

You can get in touch via his website, email (jeanloupdalle@rogers.com) or by calling (226) 668-1978

Or drop by. Jean-loup and a crew of friends sailed Malaika from Toronto to Meaford a year ago May, where she’s currently berthed on B dock, # 36.


posted October 24th, 2011
Adventure travel writer makes “book tour” to Meaford

It’s not every day a best-selling travel writer shows up on your front porch, but that’s what happened early this afternoon in Meaford. Heading out to take out the recycling and compost, we met – or rather, startled by opening the door before he could knock – a Newfoundlander (transplanted originally from Yorkshire, England) by the name of Bernie Howgate. He explained that he was engaged in a Newfoundland tradition (though one suspects that it’s a Bernie Howgate tradition) – that is, going door to door selling your literary wares. In Owen Sound for a wedding, Bernie was making the rounds of Meaford homes before heading to Collingwood to promote his latest travel memoir.

Zen and the Art of Paddling

“Zen and the Art of Paddling”, is the sixth in a oeuvre that includes “Tales of a Travelling Man”, “Newfie or Bust”, “Around the Rock in a Bad Mood”, “Journey Through Labrador” and “Lazy Days in Summer”. Since the early 80s, Bernie’s been financing his solo long-distance cycling and paddling odysseys by writing book-length accounts of his journey and selling them primarily door to door.

During the last 30 years, Bernie spent eight years solo-cycling around much of the world, crossed Canada on a rickshaw, journeyed through Labrador in winter and set out from Toronto to Labrador in a kayak. And at 62, it doesn’t seem like he’s ready for retirement, though he claims he’ll be hanging up the paddles soon. (And his cross-Canada book tours will doubtless continue.)

Bernie Howgate

Bernie Howgate during his early adventures

This latest book covers the 3,000 kilometre sea kayaking journey Bernie took north through B.C.’s Inside Passage to Alaska in 2008 – and with my inscribed copy in hand, I’m ready to settle down for an interesting read.


posted October 18th, 2011
Songs of Georgian Bay

The waters of Georgian Bay have inspired songwriters, surely, beyond recorded history. Its deep waters can be blue and inviting and a summer playground… or turn on you without warning. As Stan Rogers wrote in “White Squall”,

Now it’s a thing that us old-timers know, in a sultry summer calm
There comes a blow from nowhere, and it goes off like a bomb!
And a 15 thousand tonner can be thrown upon her beam
While the gale takes all before it with a scream.

That song, about a laker heading north on either Georgian Bay or Lake Huron proper after losing one of its crew to the “fury of the blow”, reminds us that a “red-eyed Wiarton girl” is left behind – and the liner notes explain that more than “30 percent of the Captains and First Mates employed in shipping on the Lakes came from this quiet fishing town in the Bruce Peninsula.”

Across the Bay to the east, Gordon Lightfoot’s “Christian Island (Georgian Bay)” paints a sunnier picture of our waters.

I’m sailing down the summer wind
I got whiskers on my chin
And I like the mood I’m in
As I while away the time of day
In the lee of Christian Island
Tall and strong she dips and reels
I call her Silver Heels
And she tells me how she feels
She’s a good old boat and she’ll stay afloat
Through the toughest gales and keep smilin’
But for one more day she would like to stay
In the lee of Christian Island

When Kevin Moyse, an Owen Sound songwriter, read tales of Georgian Bay shipwrecks written by Scott Cameron (Meaford resident and former principal of our high school) – he was inspired to create an entire album and DVD package called “Songs of Georgian Bay”. Visit here to learn more.

Other songs of Georgian Bay

Georgian Bay by Laura Ranieri
The Georgian Bay Suite by D. Bain
“Georgian Bay Sunsets” by Evan Paul (among other songs inspired by the Bay). Hear the CBC podcast.
Paul Motian’s “Georgian Bay”, featuring Keith Jarrett. Listen to a sample here.

Georgian Bay '94 Marine Heritage Festival

And now for some shameless self-promotion. Back in 1994, the communities ringing the Bay from Owen Sound to Midland held the Georgian Bay ’94 Marine Heritage Festival, which featured numerous events and visits by tall ships to many of the ports, including Meaford. Organizers held a song contest, calling for songs that celebrated marine heritage, and your faithful blogger got to work on a lyric – “The Dance of Georgian Bay” – asking Sean Keating and Maureen Keating to join in to write the music and perform the song.

“The Dance of Georgian Bay” won the contest. If you’d like to listen, here’s the original contest demo. (Right-click to download the song or left-click to play.)

THE DANCE OF GEORGIAN BAY
© 1994 Maureen Keating, Sean Keating and Vic Michener

Cedar and birchbark sewn taut as a drum skin
Whispering paddles wove spells in our lees
Lost in the wake of the timber and iron
Rolling like thunder from over the sea.

We’re born to the slap of the waves on the pilings
And someday we’ll rest as our bones are picked clean
Stranded on sand like our poor sister Nancy
Or rotting in drydock for want of a dream

But for one sparkling moment
We’ve lived on this water
We’ve weathered her anger and dreamed through her calms
Passing on secrets
From daughter to daughter
As long as she’s here then our dreams will live on.

Sing us a song to the wind in the rigging
Sway like a bride to the beat of the waves
Sweep us away on the breath of a storm cloud
Dance the dance of Georgian Bay

The turtlebacks challenged the old wooden schooners
And now their own nets lie there dry and unused
Even trusty old freighters rust sooner or later
Each weary side wheeler limps through her last cruise

So drive deep your paddle and fire your engines
Cast for your luck in the old fishing hole
Ride on the wind till the land dips astern
Oh, your voyage may end, but they can’t sink your soul

And for one sparkling moment
We’ll live on this water
We’ll weather her anger and dream through her calms
Passing on secrets
From daughter to daughter
As long as she’s here, then our dreams will live on.

Sing us a song to the wind in the rigging
Sway like a bride to the beat of the waves
Sweep us away on the breath of a storm cloud
Dance the dance of Georgian Bay


posted October 6th, 2011
A fall paddle down the Beaver River

With beautiful sunshine and summery temps predicted for Thanksgiving weekend, this is the perfect time to enjoy the vibrant fall colours of the Beaver Valley from the vantage of a canoe or kayak on the Beaver River. The river meanders gently through the Beaver Valley, curving through forests and meadows making a delightfully relaxing paddle for everyone, from beginners on up. And with three access points, you can choose the length of your journey. In addition to the fall colours, you’ll likely catch glimpses of wildlife, and if you like, you can drop in a line.

Upriver, the highest access point is just north of Kimberley west off the Beaver Valley Road (Grey Road 13). For 10 kilometres, you wind through mainly mature forest, shaded by large hardwoods. While seeming wilderness, the foliage is quite a bit different from the northern paddling most Ontarians are used to, making it a unique experience. You’ll likely encounter the odd log jam, but don’t worry; if you can’t pull the boat over, your portage won’t be more than a few yards.

When you reach the next access point near the Epping road, or when you put in here, you’ll see the canopy open above you, drift through more open spaces with views of the valley, and enjoy the odd slightly swifter current.

The Heathcote dock is on the right bank before the bridge. You can pull out here, or continue through the hamlet to “Slabtown”, a favourite swimming hole. You might encounter a few small rapids and eddies in this section, before you pull out on the left bank before the dam.

Find more paddling info and maps here.

And you can rent a canoe or kayak, and even book a guide and learn some tips at Free Spirit Tours.


posted June 6th, 2011
A weekend of sailing on Georgian Bay

Spent a bit of this past weekend out on the waters of Georgian Bay, or to be more accurate, Nottawasaga Bay, which is our sourthern section of Georgian Bay. It began on Friday, with a trip up to the top of the mast of the Wandering Wind, Jeff Smith’s 33-foot boat, to affix some “thingmajiggys”. “Captain” Smith, eager to sail each spring, forgoes the traditional custom of removing the mast for storage in the winter, which many sailors adhere to but which necessitates raising it again in spring.

But he doesn’t want to leave the delicate – and expensive – wireless wind instruments up there all winter, so he needs to have someone, namely your blogger, head up to do remove them in fall and re-install them in spring. This involves stepping into a bright orange diaper-like seat connected to the main halyard (as well the spinnaker halyard as a backup), and listening to Jeff grunt and groan as he leans into the winch to haul me up. (He says I’ve been chosen for the task as I’m the lightest of his friends, but perhaps he needs to meet more friends.)

With a few screwdrivers and the instruments in a cloth shopping bag dangling precariously at my side, I ascended the mast, then carefully pulled out the instruments, fumbled for the correct screwdriver and carefully screwed in the various set screws and such. All while being extremely careful not to drop one of the screwdrivers or, heaven forbid, the instruments to the deck 50 feet below.

Blogger up the mast

Meaford Haven blogger in the "crow's nest".

Job done, we headed out onto the calm (windless) waters of Georgian Bay for a shakedown of the engines, then drifted for awhile in the suprisingly warm air as the sun set.

Late the next morning, after the rumble of the ferocious thunderstorms that had raged for three hours finally receded, I cycled down to Meaford’s Reef Boat Club to meet another friend, Barry Altman, who had ill-advisedly invited me to crew for him in the Club’s first sailing race of the weekend. I explained that I’d forgotten half of what I’d managed to learn about sailing, I’d never raced before, and my injured finger was not quite up to full ability. Brave man that he is, he didn’t withdraw the invitation.

Now, Barry’s boat is a smaller affair than Jeff’s. Low to the water and short on amenities, the sleek MaryAnn was the smallest, though not the shortest, boat in the race.

(“She’s a Bluenose One design class,” says Barry. “24-feet long and 2000 pounds displacement. She was designed by William Roue in 1945. He was the designer of the famous Bluenose schooner that is on the back of the Canadian dime. The original boats were made of wood and many of them are still racing near Halifax and Chester, Nova Scotia.

“McVay Yachts in Mahone Bay NS started manufacturing the boats in fibreglass in the 1970’s. MaryAnn was built in 1972. I bought her from a friend in Toronto last year. Compared to modern boats she’s very narrow, low and wet and carries a lot of sail for her size. In light to moderate winds she’s very competitive with the newer and larger boats in the club races and won a couple last year.”)

MaryAnn was first off the start line, so for a brief period we were in first place. A group of four boats had pulled ahead by the first marker, but we were around it and chasing them soon after. But as we rounded the second marker with a group of three other boats, the wind suddenly died. We were in a parking lot, as Barry put it, watching as the sails of the four lead boats, still leaning, riding the wind that had left us behind, got smaller and smaller. It was another 10 or 15 minutes before the first stirrings of a breeze had us on our way again.

Barry Altman pilots MaryAnn

Barry Altman pilots MaryAnn

Sailing races are handicapped based on the size of the boat and the history of different models in races everywhere, and while the Mary Ann rounded the final marker in seventh place, our final position was 5th out of 11 boats. Three cheers!