Build it, sail it on Lake Lisgar

Scale model battleships, submarines, passenger ships, tug boats, lobster boats and classic sailing boats.

You can see them all at the Station Arts Centre in Tillsonburg for a limited time, March 7-April 2, courtesy of the Lake Lisgar Sailors.

"We have an exhibition of 35 models, which opened Friday evening," said group member Norm Harris. "It's quite impressive. All sorts, and they're all labeled. The largest would be about five feet in a case."

Thirty of the 35 were built from scratch or only using part of kits.

"They're mostly radio control," he added, "and three or four are exhibition-only models – static."

Lake Lisgar Sailors, typically active on the lake with their radio-controlled models from spring to fall, currently have about 20 members. A dozen of them have models on display at the Station Arts Centre.

"Ron (White) has four models, and his work is absolutely beautiful," said Harris, singling out one of the original Lake Lisgar Sailors. "His are mostly warships. It's almost like his own little exhibit."

For some, the appeal comes from building the models. For others, it's just the sailing.

"If you build, and then sail, you get double the satisfaction," said White.

"I still have the model I built for my son almost 50 years ago. But he was only one, he wasn't interested. Having said that, we lived in Tillsonburg for some time before we really started to appreciate the lake."

The Lake Lisgar Sailors, who have been active in town for nearly 20 years, have become a local Canada Day tradition with a popular regatta that includes up to 10-15 in operation on the lake and as many as 90 models on display, and includes visitors from across Southwestern Ontario.

"Lake Lisgar has a reputation for being some of the best water for radio controls in Southwestern Ontario," said Harris. "The facilities, everything about it. It's got the pier, it's sheltered. It's pretty clean, although it's not swimming water. There are no big currents. Absolutely perfect... and it's only getting better."

"The nice thing here is that you can go when you want to," said group member Bernie Raine. "A lot of the other clubs around Southwestern Ontario don't have water available like that. In Hamilton they do a lot of sailing at ponds, fountains, stuff like that. They don't have access to this kind of water."

The town will be installing a concrete slipway where the club can install a shed to shelter its seven-foot dinghy. Currently stored by the Rowing Club, the dinghy is used to 'fetch' boats that run into occasional occupational hazards like low batteries, or weeds on the propeller.


The Lake Lisgar Sailors hope the exhibit sparks some interest. They welcome the public to visit The Station Arts Centre Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 9-2.

"We really would like, if people see this and like it, to get some new recruits to join," said White.

"That is our object, to recruit membership," Raine nodded.

The club's radio-controlled sailing season usually runs from March/April to October/November.

"As soon as the ice goes, as soon as it's warm enough to stand outside," said Harris.

"One of our guys says 'as soon as the water gets soft,'" said Raine.

"You will see some frustration in our eyes," White smiled, "and that's because on January 1st, 2009, we sailed. January the 1st... and we'll be lucky to get on this month. I don't think we will."

The Lake Lisgar Sailors meet monthly, the first Tuesday of every month, either at the Tillsonburg Library or at the home of one of the members.


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