On launch day at the Ashbridges Bay Yacht Club, club member Graeme Jannaway was lining up to grab a rope and help pull a yacht weighing thousands of pounds across a pair of greased wood planks.
“This is the way the ancient Egyptians used to do it,” he said cheerfully. “Except we’re not slaves, and they don’t kill us after we launch.”
The ABYC is one of the last clubs on Lake Ontario to launch boats in such a traditional way.
Cradled in the wood frames where they are stored all winter, most of the more than 270 boats get hand-pulled by volunteers to a powered winch line that then hauls them to the lake.
Larger yachts get hoisted in by a hired crane, with crews working quickly to harness each boat and guide it safely through the air and over the docks to water.
“It’s very much a community effort for us,” said club member Krista Slack, noting that about 350 people joined this year’s launch.
“We all participate in some way.”
Another club member, Nancy Wilson, says she found her role on the traditional side of launch day.
For 13 years, Wilson has suited up in white Tyvek to oversee the “tallow” crew that melts drums full of slick, artificial beef tallow that they brush over the club’s launching rails.
Each boat needs a fresh layer before it can slide off, so by day’s end the whole tallow crew goes home smelling like French fries.
Still, Wilson’s loyalty is unwavering.
“It’s a great little club – lots of stuff going on all year long,” she said.
“You can get out of the city by car, or you can get out in a boat. It’s like being out at a cottage in 15 minutes.”