From the Archives
Articles researched and written by Chris Holloway for the GRYC Newsletters in 2010:
- Canada's Centennial - A Very Special Year for GRYC - October 27, 2010
- 1966 - The Year of New Beginnings - October 16, 2010
- Correspondence 1966 - September 29, 2010
- Junior Club Sailing in the Early 60's - September 8, 2010
- Jimmy Brown Reflections - September 2, 2010
- Growth Years - August 24, 2010
- Commodore Fraser-Harris - August 18, 2010
- Pat Evans - August 10, 2010
- Pram Dinghies - August 3, 2010
- Evolution of the Club - July 23, 2010
- First Regatta - July 13, 2010
- 1963 - July 9, 2010
Canada's Centennial - A Very Special Year for GRYC
The year 1967 was Centennial Year for Canadians. It was the year that Canada turned 100 years old and everybody was celebrating in their own special way. In this year, most families had initiated "Centennial Projects" - marked by an event or program with which they wished to do something special. My family had a Cape Islander fishing boat built in Cape Tormentine, New Brunswick, the point where the old ferry used to depart for Prince Edward Island. Our boat was 38' long and we called her "Genevieve." She had a huge high prow. From the bow to the stern, the boat curved down close to the water so fishermen could easily pull their lobster traps up on board. My sister and father mainly, sailed Genevieve up through the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and then up the giant St. Lawrence River, past Quebec and Montreal, through the Thousand Islands and then to cross Lake Ontario and finally to be moored in Hamilton Harbour. When my Dad retired, he and Mom shipped the boat across Canada to Vancouver on a CN flatcar, and sailed it through the Gulf Islands to Vancouver Island. They moored it in Deep Cove and often went fishing for salmon in Brentwood Bay, a huge inlet near Sydney with the depth and breadth of a Norwegian Fiord. So this was our family Centennial Project and there were thousands of them shared by Canadians from Coast to Coast.
Here at the GRYC, the club had its own special project. At a special meeting of the Board of Directors in February of the Centennial Year, the then secretary, Pat Evans, drew up a plan for the club to host a National Centennial Junior Regatta. By March, 1967, the plan was adopted and visiting competitors at the Regatta were billeted with club members who resided in the immediate vicinity of the club. All in all, 20 youngsters were billeted under the direction of Mrs. David Roger. The hosts were impressed with their young guests and what was so great about it, was where all the competitors came from. There were participants from:
- Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, B.C.
- Senneville Yacht Club, Québec
- Royal Canadian Yacht Club, Toronto
- Queen City Yacht Club, Toronto (representing Manitoba)
- Port Credit Yacht Club, Mississauga
- Pointe Claire Yacht Club, Pointe Claire
- Halifax Yacht Squadron, Nova Scotia
- Saskatoon Junior Sailing School, Saskatchewan
- Shadiac Yacht Club, Shadiac, New Brunswick, and
- St. Mary's Yacht Club, Lethbridge, Alberta
Transportation was arranged so that each competitor was met upon arrival and delivered to the home of his or her host. The process was reversed for departure. In addition, transport was required for the visit to Ottawa and a sightseeing tour of the National Capital Region. The tour to Ottawa included a meeting with Dr. Gaston Isabelle, the MP for Gatineau in 1967. He also arranged for the competitors, a tour of the Parliament Buildings, a tour of the National Gallery, the War Museum, the Governor General's residence and the Royal Mint. The competitors were also to see the ceremony of the Changing of the Guard.
The competition was fierce among the four crews who eventually topped the scoring. Winds were good - squirrelly as usual on the Gatineau River - and while the boats were well sailed, it was obvious that some young sailors were used to having someone else rig and unrig! Each night of the week-long regatta, there was a house party and on the night of Wednesday, August 23rd, all the competitors descended upon Ottawa for a buffet dinner. One night later on the 24th of August, a huge Presentation Buffet was held on the Island with 220 participants. Both the Hon. Douglas Harkness and Dr. Isabelle participated in the presentation of awards. Mr. Harkness had a home at the time in Gleneagle and the residents of this home now include D'Arcy Thorpe and his wife Nancy. The Band of HMCS Carleton played appropriate selections at the Island Buffet.
The national junior race regatta included a class of eight Albacors. The number of races was changed to eight, as there was time available, and because one of the boats for the series turned out to be a bit of a ‘lemon.' At the conclusion of the final race, a sailpast beyond the lighthouse took place with the salute being taken by Mr. Harold Leiken, Chairman of the Ottawa Regatta Committee. The races were held under ideal conditions with medium to strong winds on all days. Most courses lasted about 4 kilometers, and there was one long one close to 9 kilometers. This proved to be a real test and most of the young sailors were pleased that such a race had been included. On the whole, the races were cleanly sailed with good starts, and there were few protests. Most of the crews in this regatta were excellent racers and reflected a high standard in this respect.
An official boat accompanied the fleet when racing. And there was careful attention to the rules. Many potential protests were avoided by observance of the rules, but many young sailors were reluctant to retire even when they new that they had made an infraction.
Participants included a definite guest list of 11 couples from the club, 20 young sailors from all points across Canada, and a total of 16 couples invited as special guests. Competitors included:
- Allan Drinkwater and Patrick Finnegan - Royal Vancouver Yacht Club
- Douglas Peckover and Douglas Dawson - Senneville Yacht Club
- Madeleine McLaughlin and Peter Adams - Royal Canadian Yacht Club
- Mark Millen and Mark Hickox - Queen City Yacht Club
- Jennifer Dakin and Judy Watts - Port Credit Yacht Club
- Greg Cockburn and Stephanie Wilson - Pointe Claire Yacht Club
- Heather Robertson and Francis Barron - Halifax Yacht Squadron
- Ricki Antonini and Bill Archibald - Saskatoon Junior Sailing School
- Scott Fraser and Brian Pugh - Shediac Yacht Club
- John Gourlay and Jan Fuchko - St. Mary's Yacht Club
And this is how the Gatineau River Yacht Club celebrated its Centennial Project in 1967. Our club has had its glory days and clearly, this regatta was one of them.
1966 - The Year of New Beginnings
I met with Gordon Grant this past week in the comfort of his home in south east Ottawa. At the age of 92, Gordon is among the oldest living members of the Gatineau River Yacht Club. Others include Eddie Quipp, Allan Richens, and Jack des Brisay. Gordon was a member of the Club Executive at a time when several major events were due to change the club in a way that it would never be the same again. Indeed, the then Commodore of the Club, R.D. Medland, wrote at the time that the "next few years" - being 1967 and 1968 - would be "decisive ones in the life of our club." Those years were decisive largely because of two significant events. A Planning Commission set up by the Club, was to recommend construction of a new club house on the island. And this was to be all-inclusive with something that we all take for granted today - new changing rooms, space in which lockers could be installed, increased lounge space, improved canteen facilities, and club offices. In addition, the water pump needed replacing and the sanitary facilities by then were calling for a complete makeover.
Gordon Grant was one of the members of the Planning Commission, which then made a number of sweeping recommendations including the plan to build an entirely new club house. During our meeting last week, Gordon presented me with five hand drawn maps, each showing various contours of the Gatineau River around the Bennett Islands as they were formed in 1966, when plans were afoot to formalize and own the islands in the name of the Gatineau River Yacht Club. Most significantly, the maps showed Blackburn Road encircled by numerous houses depicting the well known family names of Milks, Mitchell, Rochon, Butler, Bennett, Labelle, Lessard, Taché, Cross, Smith, Roger, Wade, Erskine, Gordon, Church, Corrigan, du Broy, Mandl, Beach, Shoubridge, Richards, Doneit, Robertson, Grace, Leeney, and a host of others.
In my meeting with Gordon Grant, with the two of us crouched over the little coffee table in his living room, and he recalled that there was a time in his youth, circa 1926, when the islands upon which the GRYC now sits, were not really islands. The depth then between the north-west side of the north island and the mainland, was less than 30 feet and the channel would not have led to an island. There may have been a creek of water that was flooded to the extent that the original CPR rail track was covered over. And at that time, new track beginning just north of Chelsea would have been laid shortly after the river was flooded.
The original walkway across to the island consisted of about three log booms. Captain Bennett may have arranged for these booms to be put in place originally, as he had owned the first cottage on the island.
Rear Admiral Tony Wright became involved to assist in the financing of the sale of the club.
Gordon Grant didn't have a sailing boat at the time, but the club was where the activity happened and he was keen to become involved. Around 1965, Gordon sailed in a boat that eventually he bought as a British design… it was a fairly slow craft which did poorly in a heavy wind but sailed well in a light wind. And it had a particular amount of freeboard. The intention of the design was for cross channel racing from England to France where there was a need for good freeboard so the boat wouldn't get swamped.
The sailing qualities were of lesser importance. "Gull" was the model of the boat and it was designed by a fellow named Wood. It had been moored at Edinborough Yacht Club for some years until it came to the GRYC.
By now, it was late in 1966. The GRYC Planning Commission was deep in the planning of a set of guidelines for the development of facilities and services to be provided for the benefit of the club membership. The Commission was to examine three specific areas. In the first consideration, priorities would focus on ~
- Construction of a new Clubhouse.
- Construction of a new Boathouse and Dry Sailing Area.
- Provision of a reliable crash boat.
- Construction of a wading area for younger children.
- Procuring of a new access boom and reconstructing the permanent dock on the mainland side.
- Provision of new mooring facilities.
- Construction of two new barbeque pits, and
- Making arrangements on a continuing basis to maintain the natural beauty of the islands.
Coupled with these several recommendations, the second priority of the club would focus on a reorganization of the club's financial structure.
A third priority was to propose that consideration be given to amending the constitution of the club to allow for an upward revision of the membership limit. The membership fee considered at the time included:
- Family Memberships - $50
- Senior Single Memberships - $35
- Intermediate Memberships - $20
Moreover, just when the items including maintenance fees, mooring facilities, club house construction, the access boom and other similar issues all came to a head, another issue became paramount largely because Canada came into its Centennial Year... but that has it's own story for next week...
Correspondence - 1966
Through the dusty yellow rays from the lamp on my kitchen table, I sifted once again through the files of the early '60s and came upon a plain brown manila envelope. It was both sealed and unmarked, save for the one label upon it - "Correspondence 1966". This was the year that the club received its formal incorporation, and the incorporation as written was in the file also. But back to the manila envelope. I opened it with the aid of a long thin knife.
Pulling out the letters from inside was as if taking a step back in time. Here from the Canada Yacht and Boat Centre was a letter to club Secretary Pat Evans, responding on the first documented problems with the O'Day Pram Dinghies. The dinghies had taken some abuse through their use in the junior sailing program and apparently the goosenecks on the masts had become defective and parts around the goosenecks were getting lost. William Wentworth from the Boat Centre wrote back to Mr. Evans, "The only way I can see to keep from losing these pieces is to burr the end of the threaded shaft after they are in place." He added, "You should still be able to back the holding nut off enough to slide the gooseneck off the track of the mast."
Obviously as we know today, the O'Day pram dinghies were to last a lot longer. In yet another letter, Pat Evans, club Secretary at the time, referred to the repairs, noting that the club had already procured the necessary wood to repair the gunwales that had split apart, and that new mast steps had been constructed for the old steps which had also split. In yet another letter, Mr. Evans detailed the dinghy problems: "After three summers' hard usage, we find that certain parts of the prams are not standing up and feel you would like to know. The mast steps in several cases have split, whilst others have drifted away from the hulls." Pat Evans ordered new parts, which the Boat Centre supplied, and the dinghies are still in service today, nearly 50 years later. Needless to say, they have had further repairs and modifications.
The second series of letters I opened were as different from the pram dinghies as chalk is to cheese. This second set of letters talked about a lease... not in many ways different from other leases regarding shoreline land. In this case, the letter came from the later club secretary, Ted Jackson, to Mr. Maurice Couture, Supervisor of the Real Estate Department at the Gatineau Power Company, then a subsidiary of Hydro Quebec. The club at the time was paying an annual river shore lease of $10 and an additional $30 annually, for a lease on the contour line of the islands occupied on the Gatineau River. In this case, the Gatineau Power Company had awarded the leases... much in the same way that it had leased wharf space to the owners of the float planes moored at Cascades further north up the river. In this instance, the leaseholds at the GRYC covered the period from June, 1966 to June, 1967. They were to remain in effect until the incorporation of the club was made a reality in November, '66, and until the land on the Bennett Islands was deeded officially to the Gatineau River Yacht Club.
An invoice was mailed to the club in the same year - 1966. It came from the St. Lawrence Valley Yacht Racing Association and included dues for membership to the Canadian Yachting Association and the St. Lawrence Valley Yacht Racing Association. The GRYC Vice-Commodore was later to write that the invoice of $105.00 was not valid. New billing was submitted for $60, which the GRYC executive agreed to pay. Hence, the name of the Gatineau River Yacht Club became official under the auspices of the Canadian Yachting Association.
During that same year - 1966 - the club was not without some dazzling social events. In this year, the club held a Roman Evening on the island. The date was August 20th. The intent was to have an atmosphere of purely Latin with all the pleasures and fun of old Rome. So the order of the day was to brush the cobwebs of your old toga and join in for a big step back in time. There was a "Feast" late in the evening (Roman Style) with a lot of cushions provided for comfort. The word of the day was - VIDI TU EN ROMA - Live yourself in Rome. And the word to the members was to advise the Chief Social Convener, Mrs. Pat Bromley, to be there in their best bib and TOGA.
The origin of Moonlight Madness also came in 1966. There were at least two moonlight races during the summer season in the first two years of the club's operation. On a warm summer evening, sail by moonlight was a wonderful experience and in this particular year, Tuesday, August 30th, featured a full moon. The advertisement at the time went something like this: "Let's add to our fun and enjoyment of the beautiful Gatineau River - we could have a campfire, cornboil and singsong... how about it?" The idea took off and moonlight madness races have become part of the GRYC sailing season since then. The winner has paid for the corn boil and many times, Muriel How, had to divvy up for it. One year, she beat Jack des Brisay by about five seconds. Not that Jack minded... He didn't have to pay for the corn!
In that year, Jimmy Brown and Bruce MacDonald brought credit to themselves and to the club by placing first in the Canadian 420 championships held on Lac St. Louis in Montreal. Also In 4th place out of 34 boats sailed at the time was Kent Omholt-Jensen and David Morrisette both from GRYC. The only girl skipper in the whole event was Shirley Brown and crew Betty Grant. Unfortunately, they didn't do as well as the other two... but they went on to become famous names in the Gatineau Hills in later years.
All of this comes from the manila envelope marked "Correspondence - 1966", which until the date of this writing was sealed and closed in an old brown manila envelope.
Junior Club Sailing in the Early 60's
In 1963, Rod Daugherty met his first wife, Barbara, when he came down to sail in "Orange Bowl" - the 420 owned by Fraser Fraser-Harris, the legendary sailing coach for the juniors at the club in the early 60's. As the man in charge of acquisitions for the Canadian Navy, Fraser found a French dinghy called the "420", as a replacement for old wooden dinghies. The juniors at the GRYC were on to him all the time to borrow his boat and then to make sure it was put away, "...which none of us did," noted Rod. In 1964, Jimmy Brown decided to sail his sleek 420 "Bluebird" at the club. It came with speed that would take anything. Jim was also a good sailor, which came from lots of practice and having his own boat. Both Jim and Bruce MacDonald went on to be national champions.
Fraser Fraser-Harris was good to the boys as juniors. His theory was that, "If you are old enough to defend your country, you're old enough to drink." While club members were having a party on the island, he offered his house on the other side of the river for the juniors. Fraser also had a cottage that was at the top of the hill close to Blackburn's Creek where he lived there in the summer with his wife and son, Billy. He devised a wonderful system with a platform that went up the hill to take the groceries to the cottage. He had a rope tied from the platform to the bumper of his Austin 1100 and drove it so the platform would rise up the hill. The boys put all the beer on the platform and Fraser got in the car and drove it up the road. But knot that was tied to the hitch came apart. The platform came slithering back down to the road, with several cases of beer stuck together. They all landed in the river. Fraser got out of the car. He didn't say anything to anybody. Somebody should have been able to tie a knot better than that. At that point in time, the juniors felt equally worthless. They walked up to a pump house shed at the bottom of the road, which had snorkel gear and gas and oil for the boat... all that kind of stuff. Then they used the snorkels to recover the beer. Rod later reflected, "The fact that Fraser didn't say anything... made us all feel properly useless." "It was something we would laugh about in later days..."
In the first year that the boys were on the island, Fraser had obtained many dinghies for the club. And Rod became the first Club Manager. The pay was a dollar an hour. The catwalk then from the mainland to the island was three boom logs wide. If three people stopped to talk on the boom at that time, the whole thing would sink. What a surprise to visitors! People surely when they got onto the catwalk then, had to keep going until they got to the other side. Someone had managed to get logs from the Gatineau Boom Company to make it. Rod noted that the logs by that time were getting a little waterlogged and it was a bit treacherous. The river was full of logs, even though they did boom them up at Farm Point. The log booms would often break, and it wasn't unusual to see the bay at the Club full of logs. The east wind which was prevalent at the time had also many times broken the tail boom at Tenaga. "And," said Rod, "... this would invariably happen just before a regatta."
There were a host of different makes and models of wooden boats in these early years of the 60's. The Albacores were called Albatrosses before their new name. There were also Wayfarers, the Rhode's Bantam, another wooden boat, and lots of Y-Flyers. Rod remembered that the club had many of the Y-s from the Meech Lake Fleet, including Y-4 owned by Ernie Mahoney at one time. Y-99 also came over from Meech Lake and has since undergone a wonderful restoration by Mark Ranger in Wakefield. Peter Guy, at one time a member of the Municipal Council in West Hull, also had a beautiful Y-Flyer moored at the Club.
Marilies Wood's father, Johan Steiner built the Y-Flyer, "Red Devil." Bill and Danny Fell also had a Y-Flyer. Bill Fell was a good friend of Fraser-Harris and the interesting thing about this friendship was that like many, a large number of the GRYC members at the time were vets. They all had their own war stories and they fascinated the juniors with their stories. Fraser had been shot down several times and crash landed in the African Desert. He had been given a suit that was filled with liquid to equalize the pressure on their bodies from turns and sharp dives. He had been instructed to destroy his suit... he finally riddled the fuel tank with bullets from his revolver and lit the plane with a Zippo. He then walked back through the desert to the Allied line. As a member of the Canadian Navy, he was in the Fleet Air Arm and often flew off aircraft carriers.
Bill Fell once told a story that when they were escaping from France, they were taken in by a family and the family threw a rabbit into the pot. The skipper reached into the pot and got hold of the head of the rabbit. Someone looking on said "... why don't you pick its teeth and see if you can get a few carrots? ... a dry reference to Bugs Bunny.
Years later Rod Daugherty and Jimmy Brown sailed with Fraser from the North Eastern U.S. to the Bahamas. They picked Fraser in Moorhead City, N.C., which sits just behind Cape Hatteras.
Fraser used to lend Rod his shotgun. Jimmy Brown also had a shotgun. And Bruce, one of the other three musketeers, had one. Fraser's shotgun was a Purdy Shotgun which was engraved with his name on it. They used to start the sailing races with shotguns... and in the autumn, they'd finish the races and then go off to Blackburn's Creek and shoot ducks.
All of the juniors met again years later in the Turks and Caicos Islands. That was the last time that Rod saw Billy Fraser-Harris, the son of Fraser. He was living in Vermont or New Hampshire at the time, and Fraser had retired to live in England on the south coast. Rod sailed with him with his new wife, Jeannie, at Annapolis, Maryland, on Chesapeake Bay. Jeannie is an American and had come to England just prior to the war. She was a talented piano player and musician... which didn't mean anything to Fraser because he had a tin ear and couldn't decipher a note.
The first year that the club finally settled on the island, Hazel Honeywell, who had a home in Kirk's Ferry close to Sarah Ried's store on the 105, ran a fast food franchise out of the kitchen in the old Bennett cabin. Basically, she was given the franchise by the yacht club and she cooked the best hamburgers in the world. She took a lot of kidding from the juniors and was always graceful in her response. She shouldn't be forgotten.
Jimmy Brown Reflections
When Jimmy Brown visited back here at home last week, he was able to offer several perspectives on his life both at the Gatineau River Yacht Club and later in the Turks and Caicos Islands. In a recent meeting, Jimmy reflected that the Junior Sailing Program at the GRYC in the days of the mid to late sixties was very strong. There were a total of four Canadian champions that came out of the club. Among them were Jim Brown (420), Mike O'Sullivan (Y-Flyer), and Cynthia des Brisay (Albacore). All the GRYC instructors in the CYA program were of Level 6 proficiency and were very good in sailing instruction.
Those who sail on the Gatineau will know that the winds on the river are tricky and often go around in circles. The juniors soon learnt that if they were going to go anywhere, they had to keep their eyes open, move effortlessly and be gentle in the boat. "Don't move in the boat like a bloody elephant" was the favorite expression of Fraser Fraser-Harris.
There was a nest of experienced sailors on the Gatineau River. Adam Kerr went on to become the International Director of Hydrological Surveys in based Monaco. This organization produces all charts for all the oceans of the world. Adam Kerr now runs the National Trust Lugger Boat Program out of Cornwall, England. Luggers were old Cornwall fishing boats in England and the National Trust has established a program to restore and care for these boats.
Billy Fraser-Harris, the youngest son of former Canadian Naval Commodore Fraser Fraser-Harris, is now chartering his own sailing boat out of the Virgin Islands. At one point, when Fraser was demonstrating the advantages of self-inflating life jackets, he put a life jacket on Billy and the jacket didn't inflate so Billy dropped to the bottom! Billy had to swim to the surface on his own. Fraser also had a missing toe so each time he swam around, he would circle to the right.
Back in 1964-65, Marylies Wood's father, Johan Steiner, built a Y-Flyer in his basement. He didn't like to race because he liked to sail! "That was his expression" as Jimmy recalled. Y-Flyer's are great on the Gatineau River.
Jimmy Brown bought a 505 in 1964 with Rod Doherty. Jim has noted that sailing a 505 is like driving a Porsche with the accelerator stuck to the floor. At one point he said to Rod, "Let's go down to the yacht club with it." He went on, "While we were late across the start line, we ended up beating everybody by ten minutes and we didn't even put the spinnaker up... but we could never get anyone to sail with us because the 505 was so fast." There was no competition here to race it. A 505, if there is any breeze at all, as a standard sailing boat, will clean anything. Jim concluded that the big competition was with the 420 fleet in the Navy Club at Dow's Lake and also at Brittania.
Mike O'Sullivan in a Y-Flyer was the Canadian Y-Champion in 1965. And also at one time, one of his crew drowned and it was a tragic thing then for the sailing community.
During the interview here at home, Jimmy reflected on some of the differences he has seen between the islands in the Caribbean. He notes that there are volcanic islands and coral islands there. The Turks and Caicos rise to 120' high at the highest point over the sea and this contrasts with the British Virgin Islands which are a cone shaped set of islands, and these climb to be several hundred feet over the sea.
On the Turks and Caicos, there are coral reefs surrounding the islands and these are good for catamaran races particularly with Hobi 16s, which are perfect for shallow water.
In contrast, the British Virgin Islands could handle upwards of 300 sets of sails at any one time. There are huge charter boat businesses in the BVIs with boats from 27 feet to lengthy exotic charters with eight guests and several crews. "Endless Summer" was the name of one of the ketch rigged boats in the Caribbean.
Jimmy reports that one of the interesting places he did meet up with his old sailing instructor from GRYC, was in Newport, Rhode Island. Fraser Fraser-Harris wanted Jim to come down and help set up a charter delivery. Jim met Fraser in the War College at Newport. Fraser-Harris had been in Newport as a Canadian Naval Officer and he could keep his boat at the War College facility. This was in 1976. Jim reflected, "We were tied up at the dock after another sail and at the time, a submarine captain showed us the first workable GPS... and it could show us which side of the dock we were tied up on." He reflected that later on, his crew went for dinner at the Grand Ball Room of the War College. "It was spectacular," he reflected, "... with endless tables of seafood." In the autumn of that year, Jim ended up sailing the boat to Nassau. It was to result in the coldest winter on record at the time. It actually snowed in Tampa, Florida, that year. Chesapeake Bay froze over and the birds on the bay were starving as there was no feed. It snowed on January 8th, 1977 in Nassau and at the time, the sailors talked about the snow falling in through their hatch.
Fraser, who initially taught Jimmy to sail at GRYC, wound up in the yacht delivery business after he retired from the Canadian Navy. He would bring boats across the Atlantic for delivery to the States... and he began to write articles. Fraser Fraser-Harris left the sailing business eventually, and every time Jimmy visited Fraser in England where he eventually settled, he would bring him up to date on Canadian politics. Fraser-Harris was dismissed from the Navy at the time when Paul Hellyer was trying to unify the Canadian Forces with similar uniforms. Fraser-Harris resigned as a Commodore at a time when he had been on the list for a promotion to Rear Admiral.
In later years, Jimmy was involved in construction and development with Bestiga Construction, a locally owned construction company. Jim's team built a few hundred houses all through the Gatineau Hills. His Dad was part owner of Mt. Cascades in 1974.
When the Turks and Caicos were discussing plans to join Canada, there were Canadians buying a lot of property on the islands at the time. Jim ended up purchasing a couple of lots on the south end of the islands. Then with Rod Doherty, his construction partner, planner and architect, he took an option in 800 acres of land in the middle Caicos. The two had financing in place, and then found that the seller, who purported to own the land, was in fact a member of one of many families who owned the land. The deal fell apart.
In 1978, the government on the Turks and Caicos invited the Canadians to come back and see if they could make some kind of a deal. They offered the two five acres on the beach if they could build a 25 room hotel. They did this with Armand Thiele who also owned Orme's Bakery in Wakefield at the time. They built the hotel in 1978 and managed to get the right to buy 100 acres of land. They constructed the infrastructure, roads and power, and found out later that their profit would really come from selling the land. They had some partners from the Ottawa area. And in retrospect, Jim observed, "We had good years and bad years. In bad years, we shut down... and in good years, we sold."
The Canadian interest in taking over the Turks and Caicos faltered when Mike Manley, Prime Minister of Jamaica, threatened that Jamaica would nationalize all of its businesses there.
The amalgamation would never work. Jim observed that the Turks and Caicos embody a social attitude that is contrary to Canadian value systems. The Turks and Caicos are now a British Crown Colony. Any Brits coming to the Turks and Caicos need to have work permits and residency permits. Yet people from in the Turks and Caicos could participate in all British health and social privileges. "Canadians," he thought, "Would never tolerate such an attitude. In addition, there are no taxes in the Turks and Caicos... and if Canada were to take it over, there of course would have to be taxes.
The Turks and Caicos comprise some 30 islands and only the main 8 are inhabited. The main island where development has taken place is Providenciales. Jim reports that 80% of the business on the islands is American, 12% is Canadian and the other eight percent is European. Club Med has attracted a lot of French people to come and invest there. The Turks and Caicos are not generally well known... but they are known as the Islands that wanted to Join Canada.
This year, Providenciales was noted as the number one sun and sea resort destination in the Caribbean. While there are no taxes, it's not cheap to live there, and electricity for instance, is expensive. The clientele on the islands are high end wealthy people and Jim reports that it is not unusual to see several private jets on one end of the runways... Bruce Willis is the most famous to visit there but the majority are high end industrial organizers.
Jimmy Brown has returned to the Turks and Caicos... and we look forward to his next sojourn home.
The years 1965 and 1966 were definitely in the realm of growth years for the Gatineau River Yacht Club. And the stage for movement in these years was set as early as 1963 when the then Vice-Commodore Arn Wilson, drafted a detailed memo to the Secretary, Pat Evans, outlining a method by which the Bennett Islands as they were known then, could be purchased and used by the club. Capital to purchase the islands was sought both from within and without. The end purchase price was $12,000 and $6,000 of this came through an agreement with the Royal Trust, guided by financial officer Tony Wright, who was also a member at the club and a former Rear Admiral and supply officer in the Canadian Navy. The balance of the money to purchase came through a series of commitments to loan the club X dollars for up to 5 years at which time the members would be reimbursed or they could at that time donate the money they had loaned to the club.
There were two things that were notable in this era. These were the days before computers came into everyday use. So generally, seven copies of original letters were made through imprints using layers of carbon paper. And in these days, only seven copies of key original documents could be found. This was a marked difference from years later when computers permitted the storage of files in electronic format even on floppy diskettes. The second notable element was that property including land and dwellings could only be obtainable for at least 50 percent of the market property value of the land. In this sense, money was harder to come by and moreover, in order for a land transaction to go through, the Yacht Club had to become an incorporated body. It was to take a year for the incorporation to become a reality. The letters patent were finally drawn up on November 24th, 1966 and the goal of the organization was stated as follows:
- "To assist and promote yachting, boating and other aquatic activities amongst its members and to develop and foster friendly recreational and social relationships amongst its members, and to hold, purchase, provide erect and maintain convenient clubhouse, buildings, lands, premises and other conveniences for the accommodation of members of the club, and for the purposes aforesaid, or for any purpose incidental thereto; and generally to afford the members of the club and their friends, all the usual privileges, advantages, conveniences and accommodation of the club for such purposes."
Generations to follow would build on the goals developed in this original incorporation.
It is interesting to note that Rob Daugherty and his wife Linda will be joining us for Club Night on Wednesday. Rod was Jimmy Brown's pal along with Bruce MacDonald and they were the originals of the Junior Program. Rod has not been on the island for more than 30 years as he lived in the Turks and Caicos. Rod will be here to offer his reflections of long ago.
This past week, we had a visit from one of the originals at the Gatineau River Yacht Club. Jimmy Brown came home to Chelsea from his beautiful perch in the Turks and Caicos Islands and spoke to us about his early days of sailing at the Club. His days were influenced by the Canadian Naval Commodore Fraser Fraser-Harris who steered the junior sailing program in its early days at the club. Commodore Fraser-Harris was the man behind the O'Day Pram Dinghies. As the head of Canadian Naval Public Affairs, he canvassed all his friends from various aviation equipment and engine manufacturers to donate funds toward the purchase of the club pram dinghies. Fraser Fraser-Harris changed Jim's sailing life. In the early 60's, he taught Jim and his friends to sail fast in heavy weather and to glide through the water in dead calm. Through the energetic coaching by the Commodore, the boys learned to keep both calm and still on quiet days and to concentrate on the wind shifts, which to this day mark the variety of rapidly changeable wind patterns on the Gatineau River. On calm days, the Commodore would bellow to the crews... "Stop moving about like bloody Elephants!" ... and so intent was he on this rule that his one time junior skipper, Rod Daugherty, fell overboard without Fraser noticing until the boat started to take an erratic course. He found Rod swimming along behind.
Jim Brown's dad bought him a 420 in 1963 and in all, the juniors had about 12 boats of the 420 class for match sailing at the club. As well, the boys also participated in rotating regattas at the Dow's Lake Navy Club and the Britannia Yacht Club. The 420 class had the largest fleet of recreational sailing boats in the world at the time, with some 50,000 world wide. It wasn't too long before Jimmy Brown's boat started to beat Fraser's - and Fraser in fact thought it was great - a credit to his teaching ability. Jimmy and his regular crew, Bruce MacDonald, went on to place second in Canada in 1965, and in 1966 they became the Canadian champions in the 420 class. They placed second in North America and came 33rd in the World Championships in 1967, where there were 160 boats in the challenge.
Over time, Jim learned much of the life of Commodore Fraser-Harris and why this man had such an influence on the juniors at the Gatineau River Yacht Club. Fraser was born in Halifax in 1916 and was the only child of David Fraser-Harris, an eminent Scottish-born doctor who came to Canada to teach physiology at Dalhousie University in Halifax. At the age of 13, Fraser was sent to the Royal Navy College in Dartmouth, England, as a naval cadet on a Canadian Commonwealth Scholarship. He became a Midshipman in the Royal Navy in 1936, and in 1938 took flying training and a naval fighter course with the Navy's Fleet Air Arm. He got his wings in 1939. Fraser Fraser-Harris was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross for bravery and resolution when in command of the 807 Squadron, and during his time with the Fleet Air Arm in Britain, flew 38 types of aircraft and was responsible for 50 squadrons during the build-up to the Invasion of Normandy. He served the last of the Second World War as Commander in a Naval Flying Station in South Africa, and then transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy. At age 32, Fraser-Harris was the youngest Acting Captain in any Commonwealth Navy. He retired when the Canadian Forces were amalgamated in 1965 and left Canada to sail the Caribbean as Master of the ultra-luxe charter boat Ring Andersen (... a boat featured in Playboy magazine.) On one occasion, on a dare, he raced against the Bluenose and won.
Fraser Fraser-Harris was a considerably gifted sailor... and he was a hero. He clearly inspired Jim Brown leading Jim down a true and steady path toward an honorable life of his own. Jim later headed to the Caribbean and eventually managed two blue sea boat deliveries from the Northern United States to the Caribbean Islands also. Jim later developed a successful career in the Turks and Caicos as a real estate agent and has returned this summer to visit his friends and reminisce here in Chelsea. It is a pleasure to have him home.
Extract from the writings of Pat Evans - 1962
- "It's hard to realize that any member of the Gatineau River Yacht Club under the age of twenty-five has never known the time when our Greek (GRYC) Islands have not been home port for the club. They cannot remember, and most of us can't, when the islands were not islands but part of the river's west shoreline. Then came the construction of both the Chelsea electrical dam and the one at Farmer's Rapids. Their erection in 1925/26 of course backed up the water, widening the river, making new islands and "drowning" others. The railroad had to be relocated prior to the flooding, as did the highway. In fact, the old highway was the road that leads to the club and which now stops at the river's edge.
- In 1951, I moved to the Gatineau from Ottawa, staying with friends who had built a permanent home at Larrimac where they once had cottaged. I became their "star" boarder for some thirteen years. About the mid 50's, against my friend's well intentioned advice about logs in the river, I decided to buy a sailing boat. Upon the tip from a sailing friend, I made a bid for a 14 foot Rhodes Bantam, which was the class boat of the Civil Servants' Recreation Association. The R.A. sailed their fleet at Dow's Lake and were at the time changing the class of old Bantams for a more modern one. My bid was successful and I became the proud possessor of my first craft."
This was Pat Evans... and he was to become of the key founders in the historic sailing club which sits on the former Bennett islands today.
Old Prams where once new for sailors too:
The pram dinghies at the GRYC are known as the "O'Day Otter Pram" and they are almost 50 years old. The dinghies were the brainchild of Commodore Fraser-Harris. He canvassed for donations to the prams from many of his industry chums and there are letters in the donation file from the Fairey Aviation Company of Canada, Edo Canada, Bristol-Aero Industries Limited, The De Havilland Aircraft Company of Canada, Litton Systems of Canada, Canadair, the Canada Yacht and Boat Center, Computing Devices of Canada, and United Aircraft of Canada. Commodore Harris had friends in high places. In all, eight corporate donations were made in 1964 for eight O'Day Otter Pram Dinghies. Each donation amounted to about $350. Two of the boats were originally coloured in Riviera Blue, one was White, one was Sea Island Green, one was Jade Mist, one was Sand Drift, and two others were in O'Day Beige.
For almost 50 years, these boats have been restored and refurbished and still float the Gatineau River in the Junior Sailing Program.
Evolution of the Club
Allen Richens has spoken several times on the evolution of the club. In a recent interview, he outlined again the scenario when the club first began in 1962. The earliest sailing group at the Yacht Club was organized by Commodore Fraser Harris, who had a cottage at Blackburn Creek. He was one of the original commodores of the club. George Cochran was the Commodore when we were working to purchase the property. In the group to organize for the purchase were Fraser Harris, Arn Wilson, Frank McIntyre, Allan Richens, Pat Evans and Alec Wiley. The group had been told by Mrs. Mitchell who had rented her cottage to the original club, that as far as she was concerned there were too many people in her cottage. The cottage, she said, was not fit for 110 people, which was the size of the membership at the time. We were then looking for some other place ... and we were looking up near the Kirk's Ferry store to shift the yacht club up there. There used to be a railway station along the road up there. There was in fact a siding at Kirk's Ferry where the train could store a few cargo cars. We thought we would have some room there to build a dock and shift the club there. So we were working toward that when all of a sudden, Air Commodore Bennett, who owned a cottage on the islands, decided to sell. Frank McIntyre was a member of the club and had considerable realty interests in the Hills. He had started as a math teacher at Glebe Collegiate. He left the teaching profession to assist his father in the real estate business. Air Commodore Bennett listed with Frank McIntyre. At the time, the club members thought this is the greatest thing since sliced bread. After several meetings, we were sort of desperate to move onto the islands. The only facility on the island was a small cottage with two bedrooms, a living room, and a small kitchen. The small buildings near the wharf acted as a guest house and a tool shed. These now house all the wind surf board and things like that. Air Commodore Bennett and his wife had to row over to the mainland shoreline and stored their boat along the boom until they came back again. We could see that the cottage would have tremendous potential. In the final meeting after several, we were in Frank McIntyre's house and were deciding whether we would go for this. Frank was representing Air Commodore Bennett. The islands with everything included - sold eventually for $12,000. We had to give a down payment of $6000 and the other $6000 would be assumed in a mortgage. Raising the money was fun... but that of course is another story.
Ivan Herbert lived down near the edge of the river and worked at CJOH when the television station was in the early stages of its operation. Ernie Bushnell, Geoff Erskin's Grandfather, lived just around the corner looking over the river with a nice flag pole and nice lawn, and Ernie Bushnell was the man who started CJOH. He agreed to host our so-called first regatta, with a little buffet. While running the races, he used his flag pole as a start line. All the sailing boats from the RA Centre came to participate. It was a wonderful time there on Ernie Bushnell's lawn and that's how the GRYC made a name for us. Because we had Ernie Bushnell, the RCN Association fellows courtesy of Fraser Harris, and the RA Centre crowd, competed together and they comprised 10 or 12 participants from the Navy. A lot of people never knew anything about the Gatineau River Yacht Club until they showed up at the club. And only then did they realize how nice a place it was in Chelsea.
One of the first trophies that we ever had was the CJOH Cup. This was one of the first that people could actually compete for and it is still on display at the Gatineau River Yacht Club. By this time, the year would have been in 1964.
Right behind where Fraser Harris lived on Blackburn Creek, there was another family with Bill Fell and his wife, Jane. Bill Fell was a good friend of Fraser Harris and was in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He served during the war and was on one these bombing raids. His plane was shot down and he wandered around Germany for about two weeks before they put him in prison as a prisoner of war. After the war, he was brought back home and remained in the air force. Bill Fell had a Y-Flyer. He and his wife and kids were active members of the fledgling yacht club. Fraser Harris ended up as a prisoner as well as he had had a plane in North Africa which was shot down. He smashed up his foot and toes and by then was an officer... in charge of things. Both were great friends. Their lives on Blackburn Creek were situated only a few moments from where the club is currently located on the islands. They were enthusiastic club members and for many years handled a great part of the club operation.
Because Fraser Harris had a connection with the Royal Canadian Naval Association located at Dow's Lake, he introduced the Dow's Lake sailing members to our operation in Chelsea. Periodically, there were regattas over the summer with 420's off the end of Summerlea where the log booms were located down near the little white cottage owned now by Yvonne Jergens. The sailors brought their boats down there with a few nails and tied them up on the booms.