By Robert B. Townsend
Port Whitby has a special place in the heart of Bob. It is where he learned to sail, where his family learned to sail, and was the home port throughout most of his sailing career.
Historically, Whitby Harbour, one of the few natural harbours on the Great Lakes, has been a key factor in the Maritime trade of Upper Canada, the Province of Ontario. Produce, crops and manufactured goods, hampered by the lack of roads and more significantly by the steepness of the Rouge River valley and Highland creek valley (which were then, as now, a bottleneck impairing the free flow of traffic to and from Toronto) had to be transported by ships to the major trading centres of Ontario and New York State.
In its day many fine ships were built in the harbour, and many more made Whitby their Port of Registry. Two of the larger and more famous schooners who made Port Whitby their home were the TRADE WIND and the OLIVER MOWATT. Old photos show that horse drawn wagons were lined up from the bay to almost the Dundas Highway waiting to load the farmers crops onto the waiting schooners.
With the decline of commercial shipping brought on by the railway, and by the more prevalent use of motor vehicles, the harbour declined in significance and use, particularly after the decision was made to create a commercial harbour in Oshawa, only five miles to the east, to meet the needs of General Motors, the mainstay of that city. The harbour at Whitby continued to be hame of Macnamara Marine, a huge dredging company with dry dock and repair facilities for larger steamers..
Recreational sailing became a factor in 1932 when n group of Whitby citizens formed a yacht club on the west side of the bay, but by the end of World War II, the club no longer existed.
The harbour is easily identified by the two bright orange harbour range lights (lights-in-line 354°) and the outline of Lasko Steel, a large barnlike structure to the east of the harbour entrance. The seaway width of the entrance and the large turning basin make it convenient for a present day sailor to sail into the harbour in any weather condition before lowering his (her) sails.
The present harbour boast two main yachting facilities; a hug municipal marina at the north end of the bay, and The Whitby Yacht Club at the south, or lake end of the bay. There is also a very active launching ramp for the many fishing boats that use the harbour and its easy, protected, access to the lake.