Sailing boat

Kayaks, Canoes & Paddleboards

The Royal Hamilton Yacht Club has storage racks, easy water access and great paddling along the shores of Hamilton Harbour.  Please have a read of Jeff Mahoney article from the Hamilton Spectator.

Hamilton Spectator

Jessica Jones took me out to the bayfront earlier this week to show me her boat, Little Blue, and I hardly needed coaxing.

There's a gorgeous urban development going on there, eons in the making, called "the harbour," and I mean, the evolving geography itself — the water, the bowl of earth it sloshes around in, the frame of forest and shoreline, it's a Liberace jacket of sunlight.

Out past the patio tables and lawn of the Royal Hamilton Yacht Club, past the marina and beyond the breakwalls, boats with fanciful names bobbed on the choppy surface, a lyrical trigonometry of mast, boom and sail.

But Jessica's boat was not moored to a slip, or tied to a bollard. It was hanging on a rack, recently built for the purpose by the RHYC. Hanging on a rack?

Jessica's not a sailor. She's a paddler. Her boat's a 17-foot kayak (good for Great Lakes).

For the first time last Saturday, the RHYC featured kayaks in its annual sail past ceremony, kicking off the season. And Saturday, as the RHYC welcomes visitors to its open house and on-water demonstrations, kayakers will for the first time be a featured club presence.

The colourful kayak racks (actually they're designed for several different kinds of boat, including canoes) were put up by the club earlier this year. Before that it was sawhorses.

"They (the club) did a great job designing and installing them. It's nice access to the harbour," says Jessica, who began kayaking nine years ago with husband John Donachie.

The historic yacht club is, of course, strongly associated with sailing and yachting. But, says Robert Mazza of the RHYC, "the club has become the gateway to the bay for all types of environmentally friendly watercraft."

The club, he adds, sees part of its role as being steward of the harbour, and that means developing opportunities for involvement of future users and caretakers, of many different kinds.

As Jessica, who works as a midwife, says, "Some demographics don't own yachts and sailboats." But they might have a kayak or canoe.

"It's not just a place to store it. I can come here with people for business meetings or a family lunch. People are still coming to grips with the new image of the harbour.

"I've taken friends — ooh, look, I'm a member of the yacht club — and people are surprised by the city. We had a visitor from The Netherlands for a home stay. We had dinner and kayaked. She wanted the quintessential Canadian experience."

Seeing Hamilton from the water gives fresh perspective, she says. There are such contrasts. "I love taking people out. The industrial shoreline is beautiful from the water and then you can go by the RBG. I like to get out on Canada Day and watch the fireworks or head over to the fish gates in Cootes Paradise. And we kayaked up to the Haida. Nothing makes you feel so small as paddling up to a warship."

There aren't many kayakers in the club yet, says Jessica. But kayak culture is coming along. At the sail past last week she and John met, for the first time, fellow RHYC kayakers Kate Longridge and Rob Brown.

"They put us (the kayakers) near the front on a modified route, with the slower boats," says Jessica of the sail past. Our salute to the commodore was a vertically raised paddle."

Jessica and John have actually been members for a few years — they were poking around for a spot to put out from and store; to their surprise, the sail club said yes — but only now is there active kayak programming, like the sail past.

Maybe one day there'll be races and kayak school.

Kayakers don't normally name their vessels, says Jessica, but she and John wanted to put something on their registration. So Little Blue it was.

And John's? "Das Boat." Of course.