By Sarah Ryeland
Seasons change. The history of our land evolves and faces fade from memory. As time marches on, it’s comforting to know that while some of us lose sight of our heritage, certain folks never will.
Bruce Jamieson, or “Captain Bruce” as he is affectionately known, is the owner/operator of Lake of Bays Boat Tours, now in its 10th season on the water. His three-hour tours are known for both the fun factor and the cool info he provides.
Thanks to his many friends and local contacts, Jamieson is a wealth of information and makes a living out of telling other people’s stories. But before you start to worry about what gossip he’s spreading; relax. He tells the tale of only one great lady: the Lake of Bays.
Jamieson has a deep connection to the lake. His family has summered on its shores for 60 years, beginning with his great grandfather, once the operator of the Iroquois Hotel in Dorset back in the 1920s and ‘30s.
Born and raised in Toronto, the future “Captain Bruce” always wanted to make a living doing what he loved – spending time on the lake. Although he wasn’t sure what kind of business he’d have, he knew that he would eventually find his niche.
“I was at a high school reunion a while ago,” he laughs “and one of my old friends reminded me of what I had written in our yearbook.”
Under his picture, Jamieson had written down his goal for the future: to operate a business on the Lake of Bays.
“I didn’t even remember writing it,” he says. “I was completely blown away.”
The dream, sometimes retreating to the back of the young man’s mind, would take a while to come into reality.
Working as an interior design consultant, Jamieson and his wife lived happily in Toronto until his wife became pregnant. Knowing they didn’t want to raise a child in the city, Jamieson and his new family packed up house and moved north.
That was 14 years ago, and Jamieson has never looked back.
“We have absolutely no regrets,” he says.
Now offering private charters, daily trips and even fall colour tours, Lake of Bays Boat Tours is a staple in the area.
“I’m a fixture here,” says Jamieson. “Not just a flash in the pan.”
But it didn’t quite start off that way.
It began when the Bigwin Island Golf Club was created in 2000.
“I took a chance and approached the club,” says Jamieson “and asked them if they needed someone to take care of their transportation. They thought it was a great idea, so we went from there.”
Transporting golfers from nearby cottages to the club and back was the idea. But first, Jamieson had to get himself a boat.
“I bought a 21-foot Sea Ray and I could accommodate up to eight golfers and their clubs,” says Jamieson. “You could say I was ‘testing the waters’ to see how the business would do.”
And he was very happy with the results.
The taxi service evolved into a full-out tour company, with Jamieson at the helm. It’s still a one-man show, but the captain has incorporated a historical aspect that is a real treat for his passengers.
“I get my information from books written on the area, interviews and conversations with older people in the community,” he says. “I love personal anecdotes from the older generation. I like to add flavour to them without embellishing.”
Jamieson has large collection of black and white photos of times gone by for his passengers to look at. Sometimes, he’ll even stop the boat and show his guests the exact spot where the picture was taken.
Depending on the type of crowd, the captain will also talk about environmental issues facing the lake, or even the Lake of Bays Monster.
“Kids love to hear about the monster,” says Jamieson, adding that children get a free picture of the famous beast.
He also hands out prizes to his guests from time to time. Bright passengers who can answer his trivia questions might receive butter tarts from the Baysville bakery, artwork, or fun merchandise from the local brewery. It’s all part of the captain’s philosophy of supporting businesses on the lake while giving his tours flair.
While Lake of Bays Boat Tours can create a custom tour to suit your needs – think a romantic sunset cruise for your anniversary or a cottage-hopping party with Jamieson as the designated driver – the fall colours tour is always popular.
Doling out hot apple cider and warm blankets to snuggle beneath, the captain will take you on a special route – one with the best views of Ontario’s spectacular autumn colours.
“Viewing the colours from the water enhances the experience so much more,” he says. “You can see the reflection of the leaves on the water.”
No wonder it’s such a hit. Travelling down the eastern arm of the lake, passengers marvel at tall rock faces topped with beautiful turning trees mixed with pines for a stunning visual experience.
Fall colour tours run until Thanksgiving, and that’s when Jamieson takes off his captain’s hat for the season. But just because he’s not on the water, doesn’t mean the water’s not in him.
“The lake’s in my blood,” he says. “I have a real passion for it.”
And it shows.