Boat tour offers different view of Haliburton
By Angelica Ingram
Published July 28, 2016
The Lady of the Lake has a calm and unassuming presence.
Unlike some boats she's not loud and fast but rather, as her name would suggest, graceful, elegant and classic.
With a long body that comfortably seats 10, plus a driver, the boat has dark green stripes painted along the side and a charming matching canopy above.
With flags on each end, a wooden floor and dark green leather seats, the boat is reminiscent of a time gone by, when life was simpler.
Highland Boat Tours has been operating on the waters of the Haliburton Highlands since the late summer of 2014, offering private charters aboard the Lady of the Lake.
The tours are led by HBT owner/operator Paul Dillon, whose passion for the business almost match his enthusiasm for the Lady of the Lake.
The name for the boat was derived from classic Arthurian legends, according to Dillon. Although there is some superstition when it comes to changing a boat's name, Dillon said the vessel had undergone a considerable renovations, throwing superstition out the window.
“While the boat was undergoing its retrofit that first winter there were a few glasses of wine enjoyed by the fireside in our cosy wee cottage here in Austin's Narrows contemplating the choice of a new name,” Dillon wrote. “We felt Lady of the Lake was a fitting name considering our plans for her to be the vehicle through which we could share the history and beauty of our Highlands.”
A resident of the county since 1970, Dillon purchased Lady of the Lake in 2012, and went to a great effort to have it restored and operating again.
An ‘89 Gozzard, the boat is named after its builder, Ted Gozzard of Goderich, Ont.
Lady of the Lake operated as a tour boat in Huntsville for 15 years before Dillon purchased it, he said. The classic fantail launch has a full displacement hull and a small diesel engine that can reach 12 horsepower.
“The hull is not designed to get up on the wave ... which means it’s a slow boat because once you reach what they call hull speed you’ve created a bow wave and then the more power you put on it just butts its nose into the wave and buries the stern,” said Dillon. “When I’m running it I’m running it two thirds throttle, which is 200 rpm ... it just sips on gas ... so it’s very economical.”
Dillon drives it at about 10 kilometres an hour, which he describes as a “very pleasant speed.”
Dillon began doing private charters a few years ago, steadily increasing his business every summer.
Operating from June to October, weather depending, the charters explore Haliburton’s five-lake chain, typically beginning and ending in Head Lake at the town docks.
As we begin the trip on a glorious and sunny Wednesday, the kind of day that makes you fall in love with summer, Dillon steers the boat towards the Haliburton Highlands Secondary School and we’re on our way.
Wildlife dots the shorelines as we put past a few ducks here and there, a turtle sighting and then a heron.
Dillon shares snippets of history as we cruise over to Grass Lake, pointing out properties that were once home to historic lodges and resorts.
Timeshares now fill many of those spots, others are vacant or home to private dwellings.
To date boaters who have gone aboard Lady of the Lake have come from as far as the U.S., says Dillon.
There have even been picnics enjoyed on the boat by guests, which Dillon describes as “quite lovely.” More in-depth historical tours have been organized in conjunction with the Haliburton Highlands Museum.
A stop at the halfway mark, Bonnie View Inn provides a restroom opportunity, a chance to buy lunch or an ice cream (on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays) or just a moment to soak in the beauty of Lake Kashagawigamog.
Like the first leg of the trip, the return cruise offers picturesque scenery, taking in Haliburton from a different perspective than the everyday norm.
HBT also offers charters round trip from private cottages or docks. Packages can be customized and start from $150.
For more information on Highland Boat Tours, visit www.highlandboattours.com or call 705-457-5442. To book a tour email firstname.lastname@example.org.