A fine cottage-free weekend was spent by many on Toronto Island and in particular this city’s nicest beach, Hanlan’s Point. Each day had long lines for ferry tickets due to Wakestock, but once tickets were purchased the wait area was not crowded and boat boarding was easy. On Saturday some dramatic looking clouds kept the crowds away, while on Sunday there were upwards of 1000 people on the beach. A few of those Wakestockers wandered over from Centre Island and were sitting on the beach saying, over and over, “lookitthatgirl lookitthatgirl lookitthatgirl” while complaining they were wasting the $30 they paid for the event (yet conspicuously not in any hurry to leave the beach).
These photos were taken on the quieter Saturday. The water was (as usual) dominated by boats parked (too) close to the beach. It is the equivalent of parking an SUV in the middle of a park. If the boats were just floating there innocuously they would be tolerable — though some are a little too generous in the way they share their Margaritaville/Trance Techno sound-systems — but they aren’t harmless. When there are boats at the beach, the otherwise clean and clear water will be coated with an oily sheen. It’s extremely local pollution, and the culprits are sitting in their cabins above it all, while their boats leak what we joke is “special skin softening cream” into the water. On a quiet weekday or when weather keeps boats in their docks, the lake is back to its usual crystal condition.
Hanlan’s is one of the most popular beaches in Toronto and yet it doesn’t have those floating buoys that “rope off” the swimming area and keep the boats a reasonable distance from shore. All the boats in the above pictures are in water shallow enough to stand in (you can walk out quite far as there are big sandbars this year). On recent trips to beaches in Croatia and Malta I found that most popular beaches were roped off approximately 1/2 kilometer from shore, making for safe and clean swimming experiences. Interestingly, the northern non-clothing-optional part of Hanlan’s, where very few people actually go (relative to the crowds on the other side of the fence) has a lifeguard tower and a roped off area (and a rowboat that they use to tell people to back off) while the clothing optional part sees boats nearly beach themselves at times. The unregulated nature of Hanlan’s point is actually a nice thing and works just fine — it really is one of the finest expressions of Toronto’s urbane freedom that allows people to be whoever they feel like being and feel safe doing it — but a simple rope-and-buoy barrier keeping boats away would be ideal. Kayaks and canoes could get through (check the current issue of Spacing for the article on how easy it is to canoe to the island) and the boats will have the rest of the-entire-Great-Lake to mess about in.
TIP: As it was Wakestock Weekend, the line up for the ferry was busy (stretching to Captain John’s at one point) and chaotic (Wake-people with open cans of that Smirnoff stuff were cutting in line, causing a tense scene like the one I saw last year). If you go, don’t take the far right ticket line, as it’s the one people will try to slip into, and it is the Canadian thing to avoid conflict rather than take it head on. Take one of the middle lines (and check to see if that long long single line is funneling into all ticket wickets or not before you wait in it). Or better yet, stop by during the week when it isn’t busy and buy a book of tickets so you can bypass the line by taking the pre-paid entrance at the far left. And you can sell them to your friends, and they’ll be happy to buy them off you.
Finally, two nice finds. The new clocks and wayfinding signs found around the island are lovely and look as robust as public infrastructure should. Kudos to the Toronto parks department for doing a good job — or “Metro Parks” as these neat and sort of stained anachronistic “Metro Parks” life jackets found on the ceiling of the Wards Island ferry proclaim. Look at that great stencil font — probably the work of some poor summer student in the summer of ’84 or thereabouts.