Lower water levels aid planting of Northwinds' iconic Canadian flag

·2 min read

The Canadian flag that sits off the shore of Northwinds Beach in the Town of the Blue Mountains has been raised, marking the start of the summer season.

Every year for the past 20 years, longtime friends and neighbours Bob Woodcock, Robert Turner and Pamela Spence work together to raise a 22-foot flag pole off the shores of the Georgian Bay.

The flag, which is installed on a small sandbar a kilometre from the shore, has become a symbol of the start of the summer season and a landmark for swimmers and paddlers alike.

“Almost immediately there were paddlers out to the island as the flag marked the destination,” Spence said, explaining that this year's flag installation commenced on the morning of May 15.

“Fortunately it was a beautifully calm day with good light but not harsh sun,” said Spence. “The flag was raised at about 4:30 p.m. to relief and fanfare from the guys. It was an all-day, heavy-duty job but well-received as testified by neighbours and Facebook posts.”

Over the years, the Georgian Bay has challenged the team in not only planting the flag but keeping it there through rough waves and rising water levels.

When the project began some 20 years ago, the neighbours would paddle out to the island, park their canoe and plant the flag on dry land.

Last year, the men found themselves wearing hip waders in chest-deep water and using a step ladder to climb back into their canoe.

“Thankfully, the water was down about a foot or 15 inches from last year. Being calm and lower, it was almost comfortable working conditions,” she said.

Similar to the rest of the world, 2020 was a rough year for the flag, which was taken down by a storm on the September long weekend, prompting Woodcock to develop a new and more durable design for this season.

“The work on the flag and equipment began last year. Bob ordered a load of rocks, fashioned the round gabion and planned the installation out over the winter,” Spence explained.

In order to secure the base of the flagpole, the neighbours moved six boatloads of rock to fill the gabion base.

Spence said the new design also required planting the flag pole in the gabion base that is now three feet above standing position.

“It was no mean feat to get the flagpole in the gabion base, but Bob had planned for that with a brace and pulling mechanism rigged up,” she said, adding that the flag that was installed is a “high-wind” flag and is expected to fly well throughout the coming summer months.

The neighbours aim to keep the flag raised for the entire summer with plans to remove it in October.

Jennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca