From Coal Yard to Boat Yard – 70 Years

From coal yard to boat yard — what a difference 70 years makes.

In 1951, a group of hydroplane racing enthusiasts converted a leaky shed in a disused coal yard into the first clubhouse of the Toronto Hydroplane Club — no water, no toilet, and a lot of coal dust, but plenty of room to build boats, even though it was a good four kilometers from anything resembling open water.

We celebrate our 70th anniversary with a different name — the Toronto Hydroplane and Sailing Club — and a much more pleasant and inviting location in Ashbridge’s Bay, on the north shore of Lake Ontario. We’re adjacent to the boardwalk, the Beach, Queen Street shopping, and acres of beachfront parkland. And the club offers a wide range of boating facilities, including excellent dockage, with individual finger piers for approximately 100 boats, and dry storage for trailered boats.

Our current clubhouse is notable for a lack of coal but has excellent facilities for functions and individual use, including a fully equipped kitchen, showers, and lockers. The patio offers barbecues and shaded tables, making it a perfect spot to relax after a day’s sail. The grounds include parking, a workshop, boat and mast storage facilities, a dry sail launch ramp, and a mast crane.

In the early days, hydroplane racing was a big deal and THC played an important role. In 1954, the club got the first permit in Toronto for a Sunday sporting event — racing on protected water south of the Canadian National Exhibition. Crowds were so enthusiastic many didn’t wait to buy tickets — they simply pushed over the snow fencing and walked in. In conjunction with a weekend of racing, the club also got the first liquor permit ever issued for the Exhibition grounds.

The coal yard clubhouse on Blake St. only lasted a few years, until the club got a lease on city property in Ashbridge’s Bay. For a clubhouse, members bought a house at Leslie St. and Eastern Ave., which was part of the city’s stock of wartime housing. They built a foundation on the new property and then jacked the house up and transported it, completely without a permit, to the new location — knocking the chimney off but not even breaking a single window.

At the new site, members could sometimes race their machines right off the beach. When the water got too rough to race, they opened the bar and sold hot dogs and booze to spectators.

In 1965, a group of catamaran sailors asked if they could use the property to store and sail their boats. They became associate members and built a small dock and a launch ramp. As time went on, more sailors joined and in 1976 the name was changed to Toronto Hydroplane and Sailing Club to reflect our changing nature.

Hydroplane racing dwindled in popularity and although some club members were still active in the scene into the 1980s, their powerful machines now live on only in the club’s name. Current members remain proud of their gas-powered heritage; look around the clubhouse and you will see many many photos and trophies commemorating founding members’ triumphs.

When Ashbridge’s Bay Park was created and Ashbridge’s Bay Yacht Club moved to the south bay, TH&SC expanded and built the current three-storey clubhouse. We continue to improve the property: We have just completed a four-year rebuild of the seawall, carried out almost entirely by club members; the kitchen was recently completely redone; and the docks are currently being enhanced with new modular decking.

The strongest resource at TH&SC is our club members. We come from all walks of life and bring diverse experience to the club. Our common bond is our love of boats and boating. TH&SC offers an ideal range of activities, from cruising to racing, for boaters who are looking for camaraderie, convenience, and value. Download our two-page Visitor’s Guide with map or phone 416-694-6918.

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