Sail Parry Sound’s Splash Event was Graced by a Visit from the Pope

Sail Parry Sound Welcome

July 12, 2016

There was no lightning outside on Saturday July 9th but inside the new Sail Parry Sound sail loft the atmosphere was electric.

The not-for-profit community sailing club had scheduled its grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the end of a day of outdoor activity called Splash in the Sound, with its new partners expecting guests from near and far to celebrate the newly created destination on the waterfront.

In the morning, a fleet of keelboats and dinghies with skilled sailors standing by, were all set to take guests aboard to try sailing. The Country Gourmet Café on the Upper Deck was firing up its barbecue; White Squall Paddling Centre had paddleboards and kayaks ready to go on the water with guests, already signing up at the Welcome Desk. Volunteers from Sail Parry Sound and from the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve were at the door.

Then the skies darkened, the heavens opened, and everyone took cover. For the rest of the day, squalls circled over Parry Sound, rain pelting down in sheets.

Jim Shaw of The Country Gourmet Café on the Upper Deck moved the equipment to the leeward side of the building and continued to serve the delicious special-event barbecue.

Once indoors, Sail Parry Sound President Bob Griffiths welcomed the guests to the new waterfront destination, on behalf of Sail Parry Sound, and all the partners: The Country Gourmet Café on the Upper Deck, White Squall Paddling Centres and Parry Sound Bikes.

Griffiths introduced Mayor McGarvey, who recalled the days when Sail Parry Sound was only an idea, during his early years as a councillor. Recalling the sailing school on the beach, and the early regattas, he described the Council’s leap of faith in 2004 to lease the property to Sail Parry Sound. He congratulated the group warmly on its community improvement focus, thanking the volunteers for creating the new destination to serve the people of Parry Sound and visitors as well.


Griffiths then invited a few words from the former President of the International Sailing Federation, Paul Henderson, describing Henderson with his friends nickname, The Pope of Sailing, and listing a few of his international sailing achievements as an Olympian and as the top sailor in the world, who supported Sail Parry Sound from the beginning.

In an engaging and humourous address, wearing his Olympic jacket, Henderson recalled being mobbed at a 1999 speaking engagement in Toronto, by a large group of Sail Parry Sound people who used the question period to say, “We want to be considered to host Olympic Sailing in 2008 if Toronto gets the Olympics.”

His response: “Parry Sound sounds great to me! Why wouldn’t we come there!” got a roar of approval from both the Sail Parry Sound delegation and the rest of the people in that luncheon, sailors all. Henderson quipped, “And I haven’t been able to get rid of them since.”

In recalling his international sailing days, Henderson, who owns a plumbing business in Toronto, described his colleagues at the International Sailing Federation, as including several European kings and princes. Accused of name dropping once, he retorted, “I know six kings; they only know one plumber. Who is more exclusive?”

After he was elected President, one wag had said, “I wish he’d been elected Pope; then I’d only have to kiss his ring.” Hence the nickname the Pope of Sailing.

In a more serious tone, Paul Henderson concluded, “I have been to over 200 sailing clubs all over the world, and what you have created here at Sail Parry Sound is outstanding.”

A single bright strip of sun appeared just in time for the formal ribbon cutting. Sail Parry Sound President, Bob Griffiths, Mayor Jamie McGarvey, and the former President of the International Sailing Federation, Paul Henderson, cut the ribbon together. Many of the guests joined them on the new Café observation deck overlooking the Big Sound.


Almost immediately, the rain began again, and the crowd returned indoors, where Katherine Wheatley’s soaring voice and intricate guitar work easily overcame the noise of the rain. Born and raised in Parry Sound, she has become one of Canada’s foremost entertainers, writing and performing her own songs, and teaching young people to express themselves with music.

At Sail Parry Sound, Katherine Wheatley sings about the places she loves here at home, including the rocks at the old high dive. Her beautiful voice singing Water Moves Me moved the entire audience.

In addition to her planned performance, the first song was a composition from that very day, an ode to Paul Henderson. The subject of the song and the rest of the audience howled with laughter as Katherine Wheatley sang:
You’re out in a storm and you’ve got no hope,
Let’s hope you are sailing with the Pope
I know you think that nothing could be dumber
Than sailing in a hurricane with a plumber.
But it’s good enough for six world kings
So good, you’d better kiss his ring…
…in the sailing world, he stands tall,
In Parry Sound, we are all happy that you’re our friend—
Pope Paul.

Henderson rushed forward to give her a hug. He described the event later as “a great occasion”.

Sail Parry Sound Ribbon


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