The World is a Stage

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Run Silent, Run Deep... The submarine passed us heading out the river into ocean. It looked majestic silhouetted against the sky, but before she could run deep, she had to pass under the large bridge.

A gnarly old man standing beside us said softly, “when she goes down, she won’t see the light of day for six months.”

Six months? Can you imagine being in a glorified tin can, under thousands of tons of water for six months? You are a better man than I, Gunga Din.

You have the opportunity to learn what it was like, to live in one of the most sophisticate tin cans from the cold war, the HMCS Ojibwa, a true silent hunter.

The Ojibwa was the very first submarine built expressly for the Royal Canadian Navy and the great efforts of hard working volunteers and staff have made it a No. 1 tourist attraction. Oh yes, it is still there and open for business. You didn’t think someone would just sail it away, now did you?

In fact even bad publicity can be a wonderful thing, for people from Toronto, Brampton and other far away places have been coming to see the sub since reading about it in the big papers. People from the cities aren’t afraid to pay the money to see a good attraction, and they are the ones that will keep it afloat.

It is a known fact in tourism that a community that has the attraction will be either blasé or hostile towards it, especially at the beginning. Interesting when you think about it, because they are the ones that could and should benefit from it, yet they are often the last people to even visit the attraction. So the last people the attraction should rely on are the locals.

Around here, the biggest problem seems to be the cost. I think because people live in communities like Tillsonburg, Simcoe, Woodstock and smaller ones like Port Burwell, they presume the cost of everything here will be cheaper. In many cases like real estate, it is cheaper. Unfortunately, many of the tourist attractions are of a much smaller class and chances are you are not going to see a national or world-class attraction. A relatively good example is the Adelaide Hoodless Homestead, which costs $5 to tour. It is a small home, which tells the life of a famous Canadian woman, who was a co-founder in the Women’s Institute, YWCA, VON and more.

The Ojibwa is much more than that, especially in physical size and costs, and once the whole project with Centre is complete it will be a world-class attraction that will honour the men and women who have served us all.

Is the cost of the Ojibwa tour out of line? Let’s compare.

If you go to PEI this summer you will pay $19.60 adult, and $9 youth, to tour the Anne of Green Gables Home. Closer to home, Castle Loma costs $24 adult, $14 child. What do other world-class ships cost to tour? Let’s look at Portsmouth, England where you can tour Lord Nelson’s HMS Victory or Henry VIII’s Mary Rose and other ships? Each costs £18 = $33 CAN adult and £13 = $24 CAN child.

In the grand scheme of tourist attractions of that calibre, the price is not terrible, considering the costs of setting the attraction up and what is left to be done. They need your $19.75 adult and $12 child admission.

Tripadvisor.ca rates the HMCS Ojibwa as 5 stars out of 5. Read some of the reviews, on their website from those who actually toured the ship, not just complained on a blog without even checking it out. The reviews came from people with the cost of a two-hour drive added on. Others rated the sub and guided tour better than one they had gone on in Hawaii.

It is not all about the boat either. It is about the men and women that served you during the Cold War. It is about the volunteer tour guides, whose knowledge and enthusiasm will wow you. It is about the package, not the admission price.

Help them along. Try it this summer, after which I am sure you will be dragging many of your friends and family down to Port Burwell to experience the sub.

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