Roy Eaton and his Cruiser’s Net sign off for another year

Cruiser’s Net host Roy Eaton signed off for another season on August 31. photo by Warren Schlote

LITTLE CURRENT— The 2018 run of Little Current Cruiser’s Net has come to a close, as host Roy Eaton hangs up the microphone to enjoy some well-deserved time off.

People had begun to file into the second-floor conference room at Little Current’s downtown Anchor Inn starting around 8:40 am. They had gathered around the long banquet table adorned with freshly-baked muffins, fruit snacks and coffee.

While Mr. Eaton set up his station at the side of the room, the crowd began to grow in numbers and volume as old friends reunited and shared their stories from out on the big water.

Gary and Michelle Holtze volunteered to help transcribe the show’s guest list and Mr. Eaton made sure his show notes were in order. Between sips of coffee, Mr. Eaton kept a close eye on his watch as the time ticked ever closer to the top of the hour.

When only 15 seconds remained, Mr. Eaton called the room to order, and the audience fell to a hush. This was the moment for which boaters across the North Channel had been waiting.

The clock struck nine and Mr. Eaton’s hand immediately jumped to the voice key on the microphone situated in front of him.

“It’s 9 am, and welcome, boaters, to the last Cruiser’s Net broadcast for the 2018 season,” he said.

Well over 60 people in various locations around the North Channel heard those words—that was the number of boats who had participated in the roll call, but Mr. Eaton knows there are many more listeners who do not participate. Visitors to the studio included Bob and Phyllis Jernstadt from Muskegon, Michigan, Keith Holtze, Kathy Anderson and Michael Coombs, Margaret and Jim Van Camp, Don Mickalko and Anne Westlund.

Mr. Eaton began by acknowledging the boat crews that had joined him in his studio for the show, which included Escape, Gabriel and Slow Motion among several more. Then, he sent out the usual call for any emergency medical or priority traffic, for anyone in need of any assistance. Although nobody on the water called in with any problems, Mr. Eaton raised one final warning about the Heywood Island bear on which The Expositor has previously reported. Next, Mr. Eaton ran through a weather forecast for Little Current and the Environment Canada marine forecast for Georgian Bay. He noted that when the show started this year’s run in July, there were two more hours of daylight available.

Mr. Eaton then ran through the major Canadian and international news for the day, with sports updates added at the end. He followed that by looking back at major events that happened that day in years gone past, from the 1994 Irish Republican Army ceasefire to former U.S. President Barack Obama’s 2015 proclamation that Mount McKinley, North America’s highest peak in Alaska, would be referred to by its traditional Indigenous name, Denali.

Mr. Eaton’s Friday program usually includes a local history question in partnership with Turner’s general store, with a prize for the first boat with the correct answer. However, that segment wrapped up the previous week.

In commemoration of the end of the season, Mr. Eaton reviewed the history of how Little Current Cruiser’s Net came to be. He heard and participated in sharing Canadian news on a similar station in the Bahamas, when he visited there in 2001 with his wife. In 2003, the Little Current Yacht Club opened, becoming the first yacht club on Manitoulin. The following year, Mr. Eaton started Cruiser’s Net, partly as an incentive to encourage people to join the club. He did not keep formal records until the following year, 2005.

Mr. Eaton made note of the 155 burgees hanging around the room, all mementos from the home yacht clubs of visiting boaters who had given them as gifts during the season.

Next, it was time for the boater check-ins. Mr. Eaton read a number of text messages he had received, then opened the lines for boaters to call in. He particularly enjoyed hearing from Endorphin in Spider Bay—young Lily handled the radio duties, and Roy said he was pleased to have met them at the Anchor Inn earlier in the summer. He wished her whole family a good year at school—Lily’s parents are both teachers.

Mr. Eaton then called out in case anyone had any questions or assistance needed before he began to conclude his show. Since nobody needed any assistance, he gave a brief recap of some of the numbers his show has garnered through the years. In 2005, 342 boats submitted a total of 1,024 calls. Traffic peaked in 2012 with 6,844 calls from 1,022 boats. 2018 numbers were 5,914 calls—Mr. Eaton no longer keeps track of the number of individual boats.

In his usual captivating way, Mr. Eaton drew his show—and the 2018 season—to a close.

“In the Ojibwe language there is no word for goodbye,” he began. “And so I say, to old friends and new, to those who have dropped in for a broadcast or two, to those who have helped taking names down, to those who call in but whom I’ve never met. To those who don’t call but regularly listen. To those who have helped their fellow boaters in so many ways this summer. To powerboaters, to sailboaters and to no-boaters at all: Those who listen in on land. To each and every one of you, here’s to a lifetime of voyages filled with memorable times and enriching moments. And to each and every one of you, I say for the last time this summer: Fair winds, safe harbours; 73.”

As his finger lifted off the transmit key, the room burst into applause and waves of thanks. In a remote setting where interacting with the outside world can be difficult at times, Mr. Eaton is more than just a resource to share key information to keep everyone on the water safe and sound. He is a friend, a member of their crew, and somebody who they know will check on them every morning, right on time.