April 19 • 02:38 PM

'Great Lakes Cruiser' prompts journeys

Kawartha Voyageur at a beautiful overnight stop.
May 30, 2007
"Great Lakes Cruiser" magazine (no longer published) of December 1995 had a story, "Through The Glittering Lakes on The Kawartha Voyageur" by Bruce Jenvey. I was thoroughly entranced and since have taken two fall cruises. One with Mabel Smith from Peterborough to Big Chute on the Trent-Severn Canal, the second with Ada VanDyke from Kingston to Ottawa on the Rideau Canal. The fall trips were awesomely breathtaking but, I knew one day I had to experience the first cruise of the season, known as Springtime Plus Cruise which offers an extra night of accommodation and additional sightseeing for the same fare. This time my cruising companion was daughter-in-law Lynda Brooks.

We left on Sunday morning May 13 with every good intention of meeting the bus in Peterborough at 5:45 p.m. that would take us to meet the Kawartha Voyageur at the Rosedale lock. If you have an Ontario map you can trace the KV's route from Big Chute on the Severn River near Georgian Bay through the Kawartha Lakes, on through rivers and lakes to Kingston on Lake Ontario. Another cruise is from Kingston up through the Rideau Canal to Ottawa. Rosedale was the KV's home for the winter, above Fenelon Falls.

We started out on Hwy. 7 which was a scenic two-lane highway when Mabel and I went nine years ago. Now it is a four-lane highway with many new elaborate homes and much construction. We stopped to stretch our legs and get a bite to eat when a gentleman noticed us looking at the map and asked if he could help. He suggested we get off Hwy. 7 and go over to 401 where we could make better time. O—Ho! Five minutes later we ran into snail-pace driving with all three lanes bumper to bumper. This went on for miles and miles with no one to tell us what was the hold-up. Finally it came over the radio that a big truck had overturned and burned. That happened in the morning. Off we got and ended up getting lost in Toronto. Lynda called the boat telling them we would never make the bus. Capt. Marc Ackert said not to worry, his brother Capt. John would go to Peterborough to pick us up and even inquired as to how I had been since my last trip with them eight years ago.

That is what I like about cruising with the Ackert brothers. They and the crew make you feel like you are a part of the family. It all began with their father, Lloyd Ackert, as a Boy Scout leader, and a charged-up troop of farm boys in 1966, building a 32' x 14' raft called the "Ark Lark." It was complete with a tent, outhouse and 20 h.p. outboard motor. They spent 10 days and nights on the Trent River.

Next step. Lloyd and son Paul who was an experienced boiler-maker, welder and millwright, incorporated a company called Ontario Houseboat Cruises Inc. and decided to build two 18 passenger houseboats to operate weekly cruises on the Trent-Severn Waterway. But, seven banks and two government agencies evaluated them as "just farmers" and said they were incapable of building, operating or marketing such a venture.

Lloyd started dreaming again. They would build one ship and all the children (John, Ann, Paul, David and Marc) would do whatever they could. Mom and Dad would mortgage their future. The Royal Bank at Kincardine nodded, and on Feb. 1, 1982, Paul laid the first steel of the Trent Voyager.

Paul supervised the construction in a farm shed at Holyrood in Bruce County. Marc was 'gopher' in his after school hours. Information sent to travel editors about this first-ever service in Ontario resulted in hundreds of letters and phone calls resulting in a 95% booking for 1982. The Coast Guard gave Paul a Temporary Master's Certificate to operate the wheel. Marc lassoed the bollards off the fore deck while Lloyd played rear admiral in the stern. Lloyd and Paul's wives served up "ROFGS'' (real old fashioned gut

stretchers) and most passengers commented that "this is the best holiday we've ever had!" In 1983 Paul and wife Cheryl decided on a less hectic life.

The first steel for the Kawartha Voyageur was laid Feb. 1, 1983. It was built indoors in Parry Sound. It wouldn't fit in the barn.

Since my last trip in 1989, there has been a bow addition, it was chopped in two and seven cabins added, air conditioning, and awning on the top deck. A large wheelhouse with sleeping quarters for the captains and their wives and a radar arch has been added. The brothers take turns doing the captain's job.

The food is still "ROFGS" and they use mother Helen's recipes which are in a cookbook 'Galley Recipes' of which I am proud owner. They serve family-style meals with breakfast beginning with porridge (oatmeal), followed by a farmer-style main course. Fresh-baked warm cookies at 10 a.m., large lunch, a mid-afternoon LARGE snack, ROFGS dinner and evening snack. I gained 5 lbs!

It is a laid-back, relaxing cruise. No TV or radio. Lots of jigsaw puzzles, card games and visiting. Lynda took 3 books (and read all of them) plus knitting. I took a book plus I read from their library where I got the above. What I enjoyed most was the awesome beauty of the many different trees and bushes budding and leafing out as seen from the top deck or from the bow. Canada geese families with their goslings, osprey diving for their dinner, many song birds singing to us when we would stop for the night, stopping traffic at the swing bridges.

One dear little 84-year-old bombshell of a lady has been on the various cruises 22 times and has signed up for 5 more this season. They should pay her, she is so entertaining. By the end of the cruise we all felt like one big family. There were 47 passengers, plus 11 crewmembers. More next time.

— Country Cousin

Castle Creek
04 - 19 - 19
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