• 27 Jun 2019 5:08 PM | Matthew Burpee

    The first sailing club in the Portlands area of Toronto recently celebrated 50 years of providing low-cost and low-impact access for sailors and paddlers. See event announcement for background. 

    The day

    Event organizer Jordan Mitchell opened with how the event came together and how the club has transformed from a post-apocalyptic wasteland to a beautiful green space. Also, mentioned that during the planning of the event, some incredible stories came out of the woodwork (e.g., Water Rat costumes from the early 1970s, the Poona Pot Sail/Ski Championship and the Water Rat 10 Commandments).

    Club member Jimmy Sabourin joined in for a land and water acknowledgement in Mohawk tradition, gave thanks to the land, water, winds and rains and talked about the importance of bringing your best self. 

    Julie Dabrusin, MP for Toronto–Danforth, as a member of the neighbouring Windsurfing Club, she hadn't seen the Water Rat from the inside and was amazed at how beautiful the grounds were. She talked about the importance of having access to the water so close to downtown and the importance of protecting it from plastic waste.

    Paul Henderson, Club founder, spoke for about 20 minutes on the development of the Water Rat and all of the clubs along the Portlands (see his Canadian Yachting article). He later cut a cake and showed the members the first membership badges for him, Gordon Norton and Bill Cox. 

    Norm Lamb, our Chief Rat, thanked the 50th anniversary organizing committee and talked about the importance of member-run clubs where so many people dedicate their time for the enjoyment of others.

    Paula Fletcher, City of Toronto Councillor for Toronto Danforth, talked about the tenacity of the club members for fighting to stay put on an incredible piece of water and land. She also planted a silver maple tree. 

    Photos and video

    YouTubeFlickrFacebook and Instagram.

    50th Slideshow

    For 50 years The Water Rat Sailing Club has championed dinghy sailing in Toronto's Outer Harbour. 200 members and their families participate in dinghies, catamarans, canoes and kayaks. The volunteer-run non-profit co-op was founded in 1969 and has one of the largest Laser fleets in Canada.

  • 21 Jun 2019 12:00 AM | Matthew Burpee

    Discussion online

    Randy McMeekin: "Ray Davies is the 2019 European Masters Champion! You have done Water Rats, District 3 and all of Canada very proud! Al Clark from British Columbia won the Grand Master division as well. Two Canadians at the top of the podium and this international event.Well done Ray! Beers on us when you get home."

    Johan van Rossem: "Congratulations Ray Davies! This is a big deal, to win the master division in Europa is a big deal and he is not just any old Rat. He is a Water Rat. Well done Ray."

    Ray Davies: "Thanks everyone for the warm wishes. Overall, I had a great time and was very pleased with my results. Only had one bad race over the 9 race series. The venue hosted the World Masters previously and I can see why - consistent sea breeze, sunny and warm water. We didn’t race in anything less than 5 knots and the final race was probably gusting to 25 knots offshore. Excellent race management and was fun to race the trapezoids reaching in the gusty winds. Very proud to rep Water Rats and Canada at this event.

  • 15 Jun 2019 9:53 PM | Matthew Burpee

    The first sailing club in the Portlands area of Toronto celebrates 50 years of providing low-cost and low-impact access for sailors and paddlers

    Press Release (PDF) | Event Registration

    TORONTO – The Water Rat Sailing Club will be hosting its 50th Anniversary Celebration (1969-2019) on Saturday, June 22, 2019 from 11am to 4pm (rain date: Sunday, June 23) located at 4 Regatta Road, Toronto.

    At 1pm, the club will welcome Julie Dabrusin (MP for Toronto-Danforth), Paul Henderson (the club’s co-founder and former Olympian) as well as a tree planting ceremony with Paula Fletcher (Ward 14 Toronto-Danforth City Councillor). The event will round out with a no rules open Team Challenge/Poker Run (sailing and paddling) in the afternoon.

    The Water Rat Sailing Club was the first sailing club established east of Cherry Beach in the Portlands area of Toronto. Paul Henderson, Gordon Norton and Bill Cox gathered a group of sailors from the Royal Canadian Yacht Club (RCYC) in 1969 and worked with the Toronto Port Authority to lease a piece of land that had served as the test site for the Leslie Spit. The hot water discharge from the nearby Hearn Generating Station allowed the keen sailors to continue racing year around. The name of the club “Water Rat” originated from Kenneth Grahame’s children’s book The Wind in the Willows and the founders borrowed a line from the book for the club motto: “There is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats”. Willow trees were planted in 1970 at a time when there was sparse vegetation in the area and have grown to create a picturesque site, used over the years as a backdrop in several Canadian TV programs and films such as Down the Road Again (see clip).

    Shortly after the establishment of the Water Rat, seven additional clubs sprung up along Regatta Road, making it a hub for dinghy sailing, windsurfing and paddling in Toronto. The Water Rat Sailing Club is well-known for its casual atmosphere; instead of a “commodore”, the top executive is known as the “Chief Rat” and for more than 40 years, the clubhouse was a ship wheelhouse from a freighter.

    As of 2019, the Water Rat Sailing Club continues to be a vibrant, not-for-profit co-operative club with more than 200 members. The focus is to provide low-cost access to sailing and paddling with a minimal environmental footprint. The club is proud of its connection to the Laser sailboat, a four-metre single-handed dinghy sailboat designed by Canadian Bruce Kirby, built by Ian Bruce with the sail designed by Hans Fogh. The Laser has become the Water Rat’s largest fleet with more than 75 boats. Many Water Rat members compete regularly in weekly club races as well as Canadian, U.S. and international regattas and throughout the club’s history, several Olympic and National champions have honed their sailboat racing skills at the club. In addition to the Laser, there is also a large fleet of catamarans, mono-hull sailboats, wind surfboards, kayaks and canoes. 


    Matthew Burpee, Water Rats Communications, e-mail, 416-270-7701

    Jordan Mitchell, 50th Anniversary Celebration Committee member, e-mail.


    Weather forecast

    Articles about The Water Rat Sailing Club

    • Joe Berkeley, Rat Pack, March 23, 2016 
    Articles about the Laser


    Paul Henderson was instrumental in assisting with the founding of the Outer Harbour Sailing Community including The Water Rat SC, Mooredale SC, St. Jamestown SC, the Hanlan Boat Club and more.

    The clubhouse was a former ship wheelhouse for almost 4 decades. More: Flickr 

    One of ten willow trees planted in 1970

    Waterway acknowledgement

    Ontarí'io means "Lake of Shining Waters" in Huron. The Water Rats Sailing Club is grateful to have the opportunity to enjoy these shining waters and leased beachfront park. We are accountable to our local relationships and reflect on the past. For millennia the waterways by this Great Lake, marsh and rivers behind us have been the passageways and home for many indigenous peoples. In the 2nd millennium the Huron-Wendat and Petun First Nations, the Seneca, and most recently, the Mississaugas of the Credit River have lived in the vicinity before us and keep living here now, as we live here and keep living here. We also note that after more than a century of newcomers to Canada's largest province, with now the fourth largest city in North America, there has never been a purchase of the Great Lakes, just parcels of land around them. 

    About land acknowledgements

    Event registration 

  • 14 Jun 2019 12:45 PM | Matthew Burpee


    On Saturday June 22nd, we will be celebrating the 50th Anniversary party. Among others, sailing legend Paul Henderson will be joining for the celebration.

    To add to the festivities during the day we will be holding the first annual Water Rat Team Challenge.

    Here’s how it works:

    Each team must consist of 5 sailors and three boats as follows:
    1 Laser with 1 skipper
    1 catamaran with 2 crew
    1 kayak or canoe with 2 crew

    The teams will assemble, rigged, dressed and ready to go on either the south beach or the lagoon depending on the wind/weather.

    First off the beach will be the Laser- Le mans style with as much help from teammates as possible. The Laser will sail a short distance to an anchored boat where they will receive a playing card. The Laser will sail back to the beach and tag the catamaran to go next. The catamaran team will sail to the boat and receive 2 cards, sail back and tag in the kayak/canoe team who will paddle to receive 2 last cards and then will return to the beach.

    Best hand wins the competition but bonus points may be awarded for best time overall and maybe for best costumes, or maybe for something else totally random. Note the judges are omnipotent and are to be revered, but will likely be easily bribed.

    There are basically no rules. All methods of propulsion, cheating and misbehaving are permitted. However, safe boating practices must be followed with appropriate PFD’s etc. Boarding, contacting, or ramming a competing boat is not allowed, but mooning and mocking is encouraged.

    You may form teams on your own, or if you’d rather you can simply be assigned to a team on the big day.

    The winners will receive huge prizes of little value and one year of bragging rights.

    If you are interested please let me know as soon as possible at, or via FB messenger, or via text at 416-712-7444, or by smoke signal.

    Should be a blast and will allow us to get to know each other better. May the best team win.

    Race Rat Randy (RRR)

    Facebook Event

  • 04 Jun 2019 2:19 PM | Matthew Burpee

    Please RSVP and add these social events to your calendar or Facebook. Volunteers are always wanted so contact the Social Rat, Monika Roschlaub

    June 22 50th Anniversary CelebrationRSVP | Add to calendar | Facebook

    July 11 BBQRSVP | Add to calendar | Facebook

    August 8 BBQRSVP | Add to calendar | Facebook

    September 12 BBQRSVP | Add to calendar | Facebook 

    December 7 Holiday PartyRSVP | Add to calendar | Facebook 

    Google Calendar

  • 04 Jun 2019 3:46 AM | Matthew Burpee

    Top 3 Laser Full Rig

    1.) Gord Welsh

    2.) Pat Wachholz

    3.) Ray Davies

    Top 3 Radials

    1.) Andrew Mahoney

    2.) Julie Stewart

    3.) Pam Shinkoda

    Thanks to all the volunteers who made this regatta a success, particularly those who covered for me while unexpectently away on business.

    Thanks Ben and Brett Slykerman for the great day 2 and awards pics.

    See you all at Fall War 2019! - Randy McMeekin

    Select image to expand:

    June 8, day 1, provisional results after one discard

    Registration form:

    Notice of Regatta

    Laser Standard, Laser Radial, and Laser 4.7

    June 8-9, 2019. Water Rat Sailing Club, Toronto, Ontario

    Organizing Authority: Water Rats Sailing Club, 4 Regatta Road, Toronto, Ontario. Main Contact is Randy McMeekin or via cell at 416-712-7444.

    Rules: All races will be governed by the rules as defined in the Racing Rules of Sailing 2017-2020 (“RRS”) and Laser Class rules, except as modified by the sailing instructions.

    The Sailing Instructions will be available online at and during onsite registration.

    Eligibility and Entry: Laser Standard, Laser Radial, and Laser 4.7. Each class must have a minimum of 5 entries for a separate start. Competitors shall enter by completing the entry form available on the event website and paying the required fees. 

    Entry in the event is not final until registration is completed. All competitors must check in on site to complete registration.

    Entry Fee: $40.00

    The entry fee includes coffee and muffins each morning, water between races, a Saturday after racing BBQ (hamburgers and Sausage) and a Water Rats 50th anniversary t-shirt. Bring your own refreshments if desired to after racing socializing.

    Format/Racing: The low-point scoring system, RRS Appendix A will be used. Short courses will be set to allow 4-5 races per day. One (1) race shall constitute a regatta. The number of races per day will be determined by the Race Committee.

    Schedule: Saturday June 8 Skippers Meeting 1000 hrs
    - First Gun 1100 hrs
    - Sunday June 9 First Gun 1000 hrs

    Equipment: Regatta is open to all Laser boats with class legal equipment. Note however that non-legal sails (ie, Intensity brand sails) may be used in the regatta. All sails should have a number identification of some kind.

    Insurance: Each competitor is required to have third party liability insurance no less than CDN $2,000,000. 

    Venue and Race Course Area: Racing will be held south of the Water Rat Sailing Club in the Toronto Outer Harbour. Boats, trailers, dollies and cars may be stored at the WRSC free of charge. Camping on site may be permitted upon request. Information about the sailing club can be found at

    Additional Information: Check the event registration page at or contact Randy McMeekin at or 416-712-7444

  • 04 Apr 2019 11:10 AM | Matthew Burpee

    A personal account by Paul Henderson, The Pope of Sailing! "The Water Rat and Outer Harbour Sailing"

    Please read more in the article from Canadian Yachting:

    Mar 28, 2019

    Water Rat Celebration

    By Paul Henderson

    From my point of view, sailing is a sport, which relies totally on the environment. Sailors use a renewable resource—wind—for our power. Our boats sail across lakes and oceans, and we do not scar the surface. Sailors are extremely concerned about the environment. In fact, one of our 1972 Olympic medalists, Paul Cote, was a founder of Greenpeace.

    I first became aware of environmental issues in 1966 when I was invited to a luncheon at the Argonaut Rowing Club organized by Gordon Norton and Bill Cox with Jack Jones, the forward thinking chief engineer of the Toronto Port Authority. Jack had built Ontario Place and other marinas along Toronto’s waterfront using landfill. Toronto was going through a dynamic construction boom with a number of large office buildings going up in the downtown core. This required digging large foundations to house subterranean parking lots and shopping concourses, and the earth had to be dumped somewhere. Jack’s solution was to build a large spit out into Lake Ontario at the foot of Leslie Street, which he justified by saying that all this earth had once been under the lake before it receded centuries earlier. Lake Ontario is a huge body of freshwater about 400 kilometres long, 100 kilometres wide and 200 metres deep. There is a ledge east of Toronto Harbour where the lake is only 10 metres deep, and this was where the spit would be constructed. Some three kilometres offshore, the lake bed drops off dramatically to about 100 metres.

    An environmental lobby tried to stop construction of the spit on the grounds that it would ruin the natural mating ground of the soft-shelled crab. Sounding a different alarm, a left-leaning New Democrat Party (NDP) city councilor said that the spit would take up some of the surface area of the lake. I could not believe this uninformed rhetoric—Lake Ontario pulsates minute by minute due to small changes in atmospheric pressure. The lake is also subject to strong east and west winds and depending on wind direction, the water piles up at one end and then runs the other way. The surface area of the lake is constantly changing, and the 200 acres of the proposed spit would have a negligible impact on its overall surface area.

    At the luncheon, Jack Jones rolled out his engineering plans for the spit and informed us that they had poured a small test area about 100 metres long at the east end of Cherry Beach to test whether it would be subject to erosion by winter storms. They found that this test spit built up as sand collected along its edge. Jack suggested that we should grab it to ensure a footprint for recreational sailing in the waters to be protected by the spit, which would come to be known as the Outer Harbour. We needed 

    to come up with a reason to convince our friends at the Toronto Port Authority to allow us to use it. It so happens that the Hearn Generating Station used water from the lake to cool their generators, returning the slightly warmer water back into the Outer Harbour. This kept the area ice-free during the winter. We prepared a letter asking that sailors be allowed to use the test spit for winter sailing, and the Toronto Port Authority gave us a temporary permit to do so for six months in 1968. We purchased eight Sunfish dinghies and sailed almost every weekend all winter long (see photo). It was a very bleak, treeless area housing derelict fuel tanks, salt piles, mounds of aggregate and scrap yards, but it gave us our much needed access to the water. The sailors are still there.

    Gordon and Bill

    Gordon Norton and Bill Cox, Founders of The Water Rat, preparing to sail a Sunfish at the inaugural Water Rat Regatta December 1970. This shows how the Toronto Outer Harbour looked when we started to use it. The rocks were there to protect the erosion of the shore which was happening before “The Spit” was built, planned by Jack Jones.

    The barren wasteland, with no trees, is where the community sailing, rowing and windsurfing clubs now operate. The land was allocated by the Hon. Donald MacDonald.

    The Martin Goodman Trail now winds between the Water Rat and the Hearn Power Generating Station. More recently, the same group has tried to get a rowing/dragon boat course dug out north of the Water Rat to save it for recreational use.

    Bill Gooderham, Head Cheese of the Water Rat, planted the first trees there.

    Gordon Norton, Bill Cox and I are proud of the fact that we started the recreational use of this industrial wasteland guided by the vision of Jack Jones of the Toronto Harbor Commission.


    The Water Rat:
    We needed a name for our new venture. Gordon Norton was quite politically astute. He observed that since the Toronto city council had been taken over by the left-leaning NDP, it would be ill advised to use the words “Yacht Club” because he felt these words would carry connotations of privilege to the proletarian-minded NDP. Norton believed we should call it “The Water Rat” after the famous line in Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind In the Willows where the water rat says to the mole, “Believe me, my young friend, there is NOTHING—absolutely nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing . . . .”

    Norton also decreed that we should not have a commodore but a “head cheese,” and the always helpful Bill Gooderham was so named. One day I went down to the barren Outer Harbour and saw Bill planting a dozen willow trees which he had purchased. If you go down there today, the 25-year-old trees are very grand.

    So The Water Rat was founded. We needed a fence to enclose the area to protect our boats, which we left on the shore but The Water Rat had no money. Colonel Frank Ovens, our mentor and manager of the RCYC, allowed Cox and me to access the membership roll and send letters to our RCYC friends asking each for $100 to underwrite the cost of the fence. This raised the required $10,000. Sailing was now possible in Toronto all year round. The print media that first winter were very supportive.

    Thanks to the Port Authority, which was breaking up old lake freighters, we inherited the captain’s cabin and wheelhouse of the Victorious and converted them into a unique clubhouse. The structure was detached with cutting torches, loaded with the Port Authority’s unusually large crane onto a truck, and installed at The Water Rat. We also needed a dock. Commodore Grant, who owned Overland Transport, donated a flat-bed from a semi truck, and it still serves as a very functional dock.

    Maury Edwards, also from the RCYC, was CEO of McCord’s Concrete. He said that most nights they had leftover concrete in their trucks and were dumping it out at the spit. If we would meet the trucks at The Water Rat, we could get free concrete for our boat park and thus secure the land. We had a detail of members worked out, and when McCord’s called we would all hurry down to The Water Rat with our rakes, shovels and hip waders. As luck would have it, one night the concrete pumps broke at one of the big building sites downtown, and we got seven trucks each carrying 12 cubic yards of concrete. The Brymer boys, Stu Green and, as usual, my Mary were there to help. That is a hell of a lot of concrete to spread!

    Norton was right. At a city council meeting, NDP leader Jack Layton stood up and announced that The Water Rat was the type of recreational facility Toronto should foster, as opposed to the “royal” yachting clubs. He demanded that The Water Rat be designated on new city maps. We were now kosher! I never told Layton that The Water Rat had been founded and funded by members of the Royal Canadian Yacht Club, which over the years has been the glue that holds all sailing together in this region. The Water Rat has since been turned over to its present users with no strings attached. I trust they remember that it was the RCYC sailors, together with the vision of Jack Jones, who made it all happen, and that it has allowed many entry level sailors to enjoy sailing on Lake Ontario.


    Outer Harbour Sailing Federation:

    In 1972 there was a very close federal election. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was fighting for his political life. I am not a card-carrying anything, and I usually vote for people I know. I am an entrepreneurial businessman with a social conscience, and am equally as concerned about where tax money comes from as I am about where it is being distributed.

    Mary’s good friend Ruth Hutchinson was married to the Honourable Donald Macdonald, M.P., who represented the federal riding of Rosedale where we live. Summoned to a policy meeting for the election, I asked Don what he wanted me to do. “Work for the opposition,” was his tongue in cheek reply.

    His advisers felt that the election would be very close and that the densely populated high-rise apartment buildings of Toronto’s St. James Town would be key to the outcome of the election. I had an idea. The St. James Town YMCA had ushered in a new concept for community sailing to introduce newcomers to Toronto, aged 20 to 40, to the sport. It had proved so successful that it spawned similar projects out of the Westwood YMCA, North Toronto YMCA and Mooredale House, all operating out of the Toronto Island Marina. The City of Toronto, which owned the marina, was in the process of evicting them, however, and they had no place to go. Two of these clubs were in Macdonald’s Rosedale riding, as was The Water Rat—Port Authority land is a federal jurisdiction. I suggested that if Macdonald would promise to allow the community sailing clubs to operate on the unused Port Authority wasteland east of The Water Rat, he would be doing a great service to the community.

    I told him that the next Wednesday I would be giving one of my monologues on sailing to the St. James Town and Mooredale community sailing clubs and that he should make an appearance at the meeting. I would introduce him and he could make the commitment publicly to give them a new home. My own involvement with these initiatives came about as a result of the established sailing clubs’ refusal to allow these new community clubs to race with them, ostensibly because they had a long-standing exclusive racing alliance. Bill Gooderham and I made it a practice to enter all the keen racers from the community clubs at no charge under the aegis of the RCYC, and in this way we were finally able to break the stalemate. The community programs have in fact proven to be excellent feeders to the established clubs.

    At the Wednesday meeting, Macdonald signed up 30 residents of St. James Town to canvass voters on his behalf. The Trudeau Liberals won the election by one seat. Macdonald carried the St. James Town polls by 600 votes, which proved decisive in the Liberals’ extremely narrow margin of victory in Rosedale—he hung on to the riding by only 400 votes! By virtue of our modest initiative, Trudeau carried the country.

    True to his word, Macdonald delivered the land east of The Water Rat. Peter Van Buskirk, then manager of the RCYC, became the first president of the Outer Harbour Sailing Federation, guiding it through its early years, and was especially skillful in his dealings with the Port Authority.

    For some reason the North Toronto YMCA did not take up its slot, so the Hanlan Rowing Club took over, adding a new aspect to the use of the Outer Harbour. Over the years they have tended to act as if theirs is the controlling use, and occasionally I feel compelled to remind them of Olympic rower Marnie McBean’s observation that rowers sit on their ass and look backwards.


    Paul Henderson

    Paul Henderson has represented Canada at three Olympic Games: 1964 Enochima in the Flying Dutchman, 1968 Acapulco in the Finn and at the 1972 Schilksee as coach. He also qualified for the 1980 Olympics at Tallinn in the Star but Canada joined the Olympic Boycott against the Soviet Union.

    He was a member of the founding group that set up CORK (Canadian Olympic Regatta Kingston)

    The first time Henderson represented Canada at the International Yacht Racing Union, was in 1970 to advise on the sailing venue for the 1976 Montreal Olympics. He stayed active for ISAF for over 30 years.

    Henderson dedicated five years as a volunteer in his leadership of the Toronto Olympic Bid, to host the 1996 Olympic Games and was also consulted to the 2008 Olympic bid and to the 2010 Vancouver bid.

    Henderson was elected President of the ISAF in 1994; the first non-European to ever hold this position.

    Please read more in the article from Canadian Yachting:

  • 17 Jan 2019 1:03 PM | Matthew Burpee


    "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." 

    "And now for something completely different" 

    "Pinball Wizard"

    1969 was a pivotal year. The first human landed on the moon, the Concorde plane flew, Nixon started the draft, and the Woodstock generation began. Closer to home the TD Centre went up, John Lennon and Yoko Ono played at Varsity Stadium, and Trudeau made French and English official. Telesat Canada was formed, Ontario Science Centre opened, and the first ship passed through the Northwest Passage. 

    And Water Rats began! The story about how we started in 1969 is one of equal opportunity and importance to the events above in this author's opinion. It began when the chief engineer of the Toronto Harbour Commission suggested at a lunch meeting that a recreational sailing club start by a spit they were building.

    The first Laser sailboat "TGIF" may have been brought to Water Rats and sailed in December 1970 by three people: Laser co-inventor Ian Brucecompetitive sailor and sail maker Hans Fogh, and our club founder aka the “Pope of Sailing” Paul Henderson.

    Learn more in this entertaining account...

  • 09 Dec 2018 11:47 PM | Matthew Burpee

    2018 Holiday Party

    Our seasonal holiday party brought us together to celebrate our sailing community, our wins, our volunteer efforts, our friendships and even musical and dancing abilities. The dinner was delicious and the cheer even better. We'll be celebrating our 50th in July.

    The event was held Saturday, December 8, 2018 from 6pm-11pm at 30 Ashbridges Bay Park Rd, Toronto.

    Photos/video by Matthew Burpee (album) and Yvonne Pennefather:(album).

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