The Old Man in a Boat Tour

This is the story of a man who was very passionate about the environment, a very special little boat, and a very long trip.

Keep scrolling to learn more about the tour…


The Old Man

In the days when I really could climb the CN Tower!

Ian Robertson is a retired Mathematics teacher living in Grimsby, Ontario. An avid sailor and long time environmentalist, he is also a keen woodworker. How better to combine these interests than by building a boat (actually more like helping to build a boat with builder Skip Izon) and then sailing and rowing it a long way to help fundraise for his favourite environmental group – the World Wildlife Fund (Canada)?


The Cause

Or perhaps the “be-cause”…  I want to do this trip both for myself (as a personal challenge and because I really like sailing) and to raise funds for the World Wildlife Fund (Canada) – a wonderful organization I have been supporting for over 30 years.  They are doing tremendous work to raise awareness of the damage we are doing to our natural environment – particularly our watersheds – and are proposing nature-based solutions based on close consultation with and involvement of First Nations’ peoples.

Donations can be made through the World Wildlife Foundation’s own fundraising portal and every dollar donated goes directly to them. All costs associated with the construction of the boat and the trip itself are coming out of my own personal funds, and furthermore I am committed to “matching” all donations made, up to a total of $8,000.  I have a goal in mind of raising about $10,000 but if the idea of this trip resonates with enough people it could be a lot more.  I really hope people will see it in this light.  I am also trying to do everything I can to ensure this trip has the lowest possible carbon footprint.


The Boat

Fast forward to 2021 when, after recovering from health issues, I felt inspired to try again. 

I took my idea for a rowing “shell” with a narrow sailing boat grafted on top of it to Skip Izon, a very well-known small craft designer/builder in Grand Bend, Ontario and we have been building it using the “strip-plank method” over the winter although at a much slower pace than hoped for due to the restrictions caused by Covid.


The Tour

Once into Georgian Bay, I will sail along the south shore until the Bruce Peninsula and the town of Wiarton.  Here I will put the Greta T up on its wheels (a neat launching and retrieving device that stows in the boat, called a “C-Tug”). It’s only about 11 km. across to Lake Huron at this point versus a long way around the peninsula via Tobermory with very few safe harbours on the way so as a precaution I am going to haul the boat (it’s pretty light) overland to Lake Huron.  I see this as being the half way point and hopefully the sail down the Lake Huron coast to Sarnia and then through to Lake Erie will be relatively straightforward.  Arriving back to the Niagara region at Port Colbourne, another haul-out and walk with the boat on its wheels is needed to get back into Lake Ontario at Port Weller.  Fortunately, the path alongside the Welland Canal is pretty flat.  From Port Weller, with favourable winds, it’s a day’s sail back to Grimsby.  Total distance?  It’s hard to judge too accurately as sailing sometimes won’t let you go from A to B directly, but I would say at a minimum it’s going to be about 1,300 km. and possibly up to 1,800!  If everything goes well, I think it will take up to two months to complete – but that depends a lot on the pandemic and any Covid restrictions at the time.


The Land

I would like to formally acknowledge, with respect, that all of my journey for the Old Man in a Boat Tour will be over waters and on lands that for thousands of years have been the traditional home and passageways for many Indigenous peoples such as the Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg, the Huron-Wendat, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee, and more recently the Mississaugas of the Credit.

As I travel along the shore of Lake Ontario and the Trent-Severn Waterway (TSW) it will be directly past several First Nations lands and communities:  Curve Lake, Hiawatha-Alderville, and Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nations. Further along the route on Lake Simcoe I will pass the Chippewas of Georgina Island and the Chippewas of Rama (formerly M’Njikaning) First Nations.

I would also like to acknowledge and highlight that the very structure and history of the Trent-Severn Waterway coincides with very significant negative effects that the colonization and European settlement of Ontario has had – and continues to have – on these and other Indigenous peoples and nations.

After leaving the TSW, traveling along the shores of Georgian Bay I will pass the Beausoleil First Nation, the Chippewas of Saugeen First Nation, the Kettle and Stony Point First Nation (Lake Huron), and on Lake St. Clair the Walpole Island First Nation.

I would like to encourage anyone interested in this project to take time to consider our place on these lands as settlers and beneficiaries of the effects of colonization. This project seeks to raise funds and awareness to protect our natural environments and spaces. All such efforts must be rooted in respect for the Indigenous peoples and nations on whose lands we live and travel. They have long been stewards and protectors of these lands and we have much to learn from them.

How You Can Help


Every dollar raised by this project will go directly to the World Wildlife Foundation. Donations can be made directly through their fundraising portal by clicking the button below. The first $8000 raised will be matched personally by Ian.


Follow along

As the project develops we will be trying to post blog updates documenting each new step leading up to (and then including) the final journey.

Latest Updates

Keeping my nose to the grindstone…

A lot of details have been worked upon since my last post, so I thought I’d provide everyone with an update of the progress in the building of the Greta T. Of course, Spring, a new sailing season at both clubs to which I belong and volunteer (Water Rats in Toronto and Hamilton Bay Sailing…

The Old man is back…

You could be forgiven for thinking that the “Old Man in a Boat Tour” has faded away uncompleted – but… we’re back in action! … after a rather unproductive Fall and Winter.  As I write this I am looking back at a blog post that I had written (but never published) in October (2021).  I…

Contact us!

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