Alexandra Yacht Club
Founded 1906

Thomas Bick sailing at AYC on Les Girls 2 in his 90th year

And a review of Mediterranean cruises taken in his 9th decade

2012 was a significant year for Thomas Bick at AYC. Thomas is still a very active sailor after 30 years of membership in the club and 78 years of sailing during his lifetime. He has always been an avid sailor on both his own boat and large cruise ships. He gave up cruising 4 years ago and since then he has been even more determined to make the most of his AYC sailing time. You cannot miss him with his signature shorts in all weathers.
Thomas at launch

2012 was his longest season on Les Girls 2 sailing in May (5 times) and October (2 times) with 19 days of sailing in between for a total of 26 day sails. Thomas also sailed a similar number in 2010, sailed 33 times in 2009 and 31 in 2011 which means he completed more than a century of sailing days (116 in total) in the last 4 years. The club provided a great climax to this season for him by celebrating his 90th Birthday at the club’s Xmas party.

Thomas has calmed down a little in those 30 years since he joined AYC in 1982. He used to look for rough waves and high winds in order to make the sailing more exciting. Over the past few years he started checking the weather forecast every time before going out, at first by calling the club each day, then, after much complaining from Ingrid, he learned how to access the official weather and wind reports. So now, he only sails when the wind is just right; light, but not too light and in the right direction. The wind must be blowing around 15 knots. Any less and the sailing would be boring, any more and it would be too challenging. He tries to avoid SW winds – because they cause too many waves around the harbour entrance. The majority of sails (two thirds) were with an East wind and allowed us to sail due south past the island. The rest were South winds that allowed us to do a nice tack west past Ontario Place and across the bay to south of the Humber bridge. On one occasion when there was a south wind we sailed into the inner harbour for a closer view of the city skyline.

On those days when we headed south, we had a magnificent view, on the way back, of the city with its skyline of towers, including the CN tower needle, the landmark Rogers centre (it will always be the Skydome to us) and the Ontario Place dome. Our challenge on these returning tacks was to be able to go around the last buoy at the end of the airport runway and then turn to sail as close to the East wind as possible in order to get back into the harbour on one tack. On most occasions we ended up doing several tacks before taking down the sails and motoring through the breakwater and into the club harbour. The most successful outing was our last sail in the first week of October when we made a beautiful single tack sail into the harbour. It was great to end the season on this high note.

Thomas sailing past skydome

Those views of the skyline from south of the island had me thinking of the many cruises I took with Thomas in the early years of his eighties. Over five years (2004-2008) we went on five Mediterranean cruises and some of the best views were of landscapes and cityscapes as seen from the ship.

The Mediterranean from Gibraltar to Istanbul

I thought a sampling of the sights from some of those cruises would be a nice way of remembering those trips. On one cruise, at the western end of the Mediterranean, the captain of our cruise ship invited us onto the bridge. We had a magnificent view of the rock of Gibraltar as we approached from the straits separating Europe and Africa. After docking we took a tour on the cable car up to the top of the rock to meet the famous apes and look over the straits to see Tangiers on the other side.

Further east, we sailed between Sardinia and Corsica on a beautiful sunny calm day. From the deck, we could see the medieval fortified city of Bonifacio perched on top of cliffs. After we docked we took a road train on the steep and winding streets up to the old town where we wandered through the narrow alleys and poked about in the many small shops.

Though the yachts on the French Riviera in Saint Tropez and Monaco were very impressive, I preferred the natural beauty of Porto Fino our first stop in Italy. It was a small fishing harbour (though now, there are only luxury yachts) in the centre of a beautiful bay surrounded by mountains. We took a walk along a rocky peninsula on which were perched a fort and chapel surrounded by lush vegetation from where one had a great panoramic view of the sheltered harbour and mountains.

On our way down the west coast of Italy we stopped at many ports to access historic and artistic treasures. The port of Liverno was our access point for a visit to the renaissance city of Florence which contained such treasures as the Uffizi Palace and its art gallery. Civitavecchia was the port of Rome, where we visited the Vatican’s art treasures, the ancient Roman forum and coliseum ruins. Other stops were to Naples and Sorrento from where we visited the ruins of Pompeii. On a cloudy day, the dark shady sides of the volcano, Mount Vesuvius, that caused the city’s destruction looked eerie.

Rome Forum

Later we were impressed with the lava flowing from an active volcano, Mount Etna, in Sicily that we could see from our ship as we left our mooring at the town of Messina.

As we entered the city of Venice with all its canals we received another invitation from the captain to view the scene from the bridge. We had a wonderful view of St. Mark’s square as we entered via the main shipping canal and looked down on the low medieval buildings of the city.

Venice canal

One of the most picturesque sites from the water in the Adriatic is the view of the medieval walls on the top of cliffs around the town of Dubrovnik. Those rocks were no place for Les Girls 2. Once ashore we had a great view of the stone paved streets, the old houses and churches as we walked along those walls that completely surround and overlook the town.

Dubrovnik medieval walls

Then it was on to the Greek islands. One of the most spectacular is Santorini. The town is on the crescent shaped rim of the edge of an ancient volcano. We approached through the lagoon at the centre of the volcano crater that is now open to the sea. Our boat anchored at the foot of steep cliffs on what would have been the inside of the volcano. Once ashore, there is a steep climb to get to the top of the rim, where the town is located. Riding the donkeys was the old method of reaching the top. We took the easy new way up, a cable car. To return to the ship, I decided to walk all the way down along the zig zag path used by the donkeys. This way prolonged the sights and sounds of the experience.

Santorini - Thomas in ship pool
Santorini donkeys

Our entrance to and exit from the Mediterranean sea was Istanbul with its spectacular skyline. There, from the water, one could see the domes of the blue mosque and the Cathedral of Santa Sophia. Even from a long way away the buildings looked imposing and the minarets punctured the skyline just as the CN tower does in Toronto. Is there a parallel between the two cities? May be not, but I was reminded of my Toronto home and the scene from our Les Girls 2 on lake Ontario.

Istanbul - Blue mosque

The last few years have been remarkable with many experiences on the water, both at AYC and during our travels on cruises. It will soon be time to think of a new sailing season and Thomas is already champing at the bit and definitely ready to enjoy another season of sailing.

See you on the water soon.

Bernard Lewis (Thomas’ son-in-law)