Islanders take Toronto Boat Show by storm

At the Toronto Boat Show, Bonnie Kogos is happy to see CYC North’s Ken Blodgett who spoke at the boat show, providing tips for sailing the North Channel.

by Bonnie Kogos

TORONTO – I couldn’t stay away from the 62nd annual Toronto International Boat Show, which is highly regarded among marine manufacturers and retailers as the flagship economic indicator for the boating industry in Canada.

I flew up from NYC to Toronto to walk around the show 20 times in three days, listening, interviewing and learning what’s new. Every person I looked at, I could tell we were all dreaming of spring and summer. Happy boaters and their families were buzzy with looking and learning. The exhibitors were happy as well, as three buildings were full of activity; so many energized people who love boating, so full of curiosity. Each exhibitor I talked to reported that this show surpassed expectations.

And I wore my favourite jacket made by My Ol’ Blues for three days, because it was great and I was proud to wear it. It features both the Canadian and American flags. One lady came up to me and with delight, showed me her My Ol’ Blues jacket.

“Ah, Bonnie, this is the hit of the show,” Bryan Milne of Bridge Yachts said as I gazed at the 11 ft. grey outboard electrified rigid inflatable Zodiac boat with the Torgeedo engine. “The time has come, as you can run it for ten hours, and then plug it into shore power. After the payment, there is no upkeep. And no pull start!” Oh, was I tempted.

These days, while I’m still a keen sailor, it was 30 years ago that I cruised and navigated the Caribbean Sea on the lovely 40 ft. yawl Quadriga, sailing from the British Virgin Islands, 26 islands south to Grenada. That was my basis and training to become a busy New York-based travel agent specializing in sending clients to the Caribbean. And now to Sudbury and Manitoulin.

I’m thrilled to sail around Manitoulin and the North Channel. The Great Lakes Cruising Club was  founded in 1934 and has 2,500 US and Canadian members, with over 1,100 separate harbour reports available on their web site. Sail and power boaters can go to 

“Ontario has a large sailing population and we’re a strong association promoting safety,” Rick Layzell, CEO of Boating Ontario told me. “Forty-seven percent of all boats sold in Canada are sold in Ontario.”

At the Boat Show, I learned the demand of exhibit space continues to exceed venue capacity. 

“Over 1,200 boats were on display, with 550 exhibitors, 300-plus seminars and workshops, as well as thousands of accessories and services in the marine market place,” Cynthia Hare, show manager, reported that 69,530 attendees made the rounds.

I couldn’t stay away from The Nautical Mind Marine Booksellers booth, happily browsing with owners Dorothy LeBaron and Ross Wilson, offering nautical charts and amazing sailing adventure books.

Remembering real old teak and holly soles, learning about synthetic decking, Permateek was a shock! Yet seeing the new types of fishing gloves, full-face snorkeling masks, snazzy flotation vests and stylish boat shoes had me going.

Lectures were plentiful, with renowned Manitoulin’s Cruiser’s Network VHF radio host, Roy Eaton, speaking about safely sailing the North Channel of Lake Huron. Gore Bay’s knowledgeable Canadian Yacht Charter’s owner Ken Blodgett also gave valuable tips on cruising the North Channel. Go to He spoke about sailing around the Benjamin Islands, those amazing pink rocks that enchant everyone. And to Baie Fine too. I sat there so happy that I knew what he was talking about. Sailing from Little Current, Kagawong and Gore Bay.  

A delightful evening was spent at the Toronto Hydroplane and Sailing Club. I was greeted by Charter Yacht Specialist Jessica Perraton and Rear Commodore John Greenham. John explained, “We’re a community yacht club. All the members run it. No one works here. We’ve rebuilt the sea wall ourselves.”

Hazel Penn presented a delightful, informative talk, explaining all the British Virgin Islands have to offer. She invited us all to attend the upcoming 48th BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Fest, taking place this March 30 to April 5. Go to

To complement Hazel’s presentation, charter yacht specialist Jessica Perraton told us more about chartering in the BVI. “Warm water, hot racing and cool parties,” said Jessica, owner of The Yacht Charter Company. She shared information about charter boat options, anchorages, what to do and where to sail. “The British Virgin Islands are referred to as the chartering capital of the Caribbean. With warm trade winds, calm, pristine bays, coral reefs, and a close-knit island chain, you’ve got everything!”

Plenty of Canadians will ply the azure waters of the BVI…yet I wait for spring on Manitoulin waters.


Bonnie’s new novel, ‘The Boat That Brings You Home,’ begins from Gore Bay…to the Caribbean.