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A visit to "Discovery Harbour" at Penetanguishene Bay
Ontario, Canada


Whenever you are in the Georgian Bay area around Midland, we recommend that you visit Penetanguishene Bay and participate on a guided tour of "Discovery Harbour", a former British military and naval base.
Our brief website shows you only a few impressions. We do not want to replace an actual visit. But we think that you should know what to expect.

Penetanguishene, Discovery Harbour, Ontario, tourism, travel guide

Opening hours:
Monday to Friday from 21 May to 28 June
Every day from June 29th to September 2nd

Penetanguishene, Discovery Harbour, Ontario, tourism, travel guide
The Discovery Harbour in Penetanguishene

It was a rainy morning and we did not see many visitors at the beginning. But that changed quite fast as the guided tours started. We had Australian and Japanese visitors in our group.
The tour through the Discovery Harbor is of course not limited to the relatively small harbor. It shows what life was like in the former British base. Most of the buildings have been reconstructed for this purpose. In most you will find young people who explain in detail what works were done there or how the living conditions were here in the early 19th century.
It was interesting and fun to listen to all the details which were explained to us.

Penetanguishene, Discovery Harbour, Ontario, tourism, travel guide
The Discovery Harbour in Penetanguishene

All the guides and many extras demonstrating life here in a small British naval base wear historical robes.
They were the students who had found an entertaining vacation job here.
Everyone was very friendly and had a good knowledge.
Here in the picture the young man who led us is criticized.

Penetanguishene, Discovery Harbour, Ontario, tourism, travel guide
Our friendly guide is getting disciplined

Naturally that was all fun and Elizabeth enjoyed it.
Elizabeth told me that our guide was criticized because his clothing was not up to the required standards. His superiors used a strange English slang which I was not able to understand.
I assumed that this was part of the show!

Penetanguishene, Discovery Harbour, Ontario, tourism, travel guide

As early as 1793, Sir John Graves Simcoe recognized the strategic importance of Penetanguishene Bay to protect trade between Kingston, Ontario, and the northwest of the country. It was mandatory to carry out necessary repairs to the vessels involved.
With the declaration of independence by today's USA and the following war the importance of the harbor increased and it was further developed.
In the year 1820 about 70 people lived here to maintain around twenty larger and smaller ships.
Naturally, qualified craftsmen were required.

Penetanguishene, Discovery Harbour, Ontario, tourism, travel guide
Here, a young lady demonstrates how certain woodwork was done

Penetanguishene, Discovery Harbour, Ontario, tourism, travel guide
Accommodation of the sailors - how do you manage that after too much alcohol?

The living quarters of the officers and other important people were quiet different to those of the sailors or craftsmen.
The latter ones had to share one room in a separate house. This room was used for living, cooking and sleeping. In order to use the room efficiently the inhabitants had to sleep in hammocks which were attached to the ceiling.
The young "sailor" demonstrates how to get into and out of a hammock.
The payment for the lower ranks was obviously very low because they had to grow their own vegetables.
Despite the ongoing military drill the live in this base was pretty boring. For that reason excessive drinking was common and some of the people even deserted.
The tools to perform the necessary craftsmanship had to be borrowed. A loss or damage to this expensive and mostly imported from England utensils, was deducted from the salary.

Penetanguishene, Discovery Harbour, Ontario, tourism, travel guide
The simple life

Despite the military drills, life in this settlement was perceived as very boring.
No wonder that there was a lot of drinking and soldiers deserted even when it was difficult to find work in this remote area.

Penetanguishene, Discovery Harbour, Ontario, tourism, travel guide
Now you can see why I wanted to be an officer at that time

Unlike the low ranking people everybody with a good title or even specialists enjoyed a much more comfortable life. Some if these people even got the permission to bring their wives with them.
As far as I know such differences are still existing in England. Different entrances to companies, different cafeterias, exclusive parking spots etc.
The guided tour includes the living quarters and work places of the privileged people of this base.
An example is the office of Robert Adams who was the responsible "Quaterman" for the seaworthiness of the ships as well as for the required procurement for the necessary repairs.
Very interesting was also the doctor's practice.
What I understood he mainly could only offer three different medications. One for stomach upset, one opiate and one sugar solution for the simple sailors. The healing power of the latter was based only on imagination and the belief in alleviating the symptoms.

Penetanguishene, Discovery Harbour, Ontario, tourism, travel guide
Elizabeth poses with a shotgun
I never served in any army, so I am not sure wether Elizabeth does handle this historical gun properly.
Certainly she needs lots of exercises and drill to become a professional fighter. She also has to learn to follow orders.
I really wish I could watch that. But certainly I would feel very soon sorry for the poor instructor.
In her young years Elizabeth was considering to join the Canadian forces as a nurse. Her dad served in those during WWII. Today, she does not watch any movies or read books which show the horrors of war - but nevertheless she is still a home made fighter - believe me. I know that after being married with her for many years!
Don't give her any reason to get mad.

Penetanguishene, Discovery Harbour, Ontario, tourism, travel guide
The only original building that dates back to the past

Believe it or not, this building which looks modern to me is the only original one. It was completed in 1836.
This was the accommodation for many officers. They slept here, had their meals, partied and discussed ongoing things.
When I asked why none of the windows could be opened I was informed that the humidity and temperature must be controlled to prevent any damage of the exhibition pieces.

Penetanguishene, Discovery Harbour, Ontario, tourism, travel guide
Our friendly and pretty guide for the harbor

I was expecting larger ships in the harbor. But all the old ones are gone and "H.M.S. Tecumseth" and "H.M.S. Bee" which found a home here are replicas and I do still not know whether these were the largest ones which were used by the British in this part of our country.
Anyhow, we had an exciting tour and the friendly and pretty sailor did a good job in explaining may things to us.
She told us before we left that even the British played occasionally the Yankee Doodle Dandy to make fun of the Americans.
Similar things happened also during WWII between England and Germany. I wish war would only consist of making fun out of each other and share that with a few beer.
We tried to see a performance of the "King's Wharf Theatre" which is located here. Unfortunately, no plays were scheduled for the time we stayed in this area.
If you are interested check the Internet.
A nice restaurant which promised a scenic view attracted me also.
But Elizabeth, insisted to be on a diet because we had eaten too much the day before.
Maybe she did - I never eat too much. I am born to eat, she is born to shop.

Penetanguishene, Discovery Harbour, Ontario, tourism, travel guide
No food for me and no theatre for Elizabeth


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