For Zena Thomas and her husband Mark, nothing beats spending the day boating on Lake Ontario with their three golden retrievers. They’ve been boating for over 20 years and they live only a block away from where they dock their boat at the Newport Yacht Club - Stoney Creek near Hamilton, Ontario.
Through the years, their chosen vessel has grown with their love of boating. They started out with an 18-footer then went through 24-, 29- and 34-footers, eventually landing on their current 40-foot Cruisers Yacht.
For Zena and Mark, every foot they’ve gained in boat length has brought them and their dogs more comfort while boating, and they could not be happier with their 3970 Express Cruisers Yacht. The first two boats they owned were day boats, but they decided they wanted to sleep on board so they got a cruiser for their third boat.
“Then we just kept upping the size of the cruisers and getting more dogs,” laughed Zena.
Their first cruiser was fun and they could sleep on it, but they still felt a bit cramped. After going up a couple of sizes, they are now at the point where they have the comfort they craved. With their latest Cruisers Yacht, they never find themselves knocking into each other and they have the same comforts and amenities they enjoy in their home. Their 3970 has a lovely bedroom and all the essentials so they feel they have their own cottage on the water.
The couple stays busy with their positions at the Newport Yacht Club. Zena serves as the vice commodore of membership, which is a very busy and hands-on position at their volunteer club. As such, she is in charge of introducing potential members to the club, showing them around and initiating them as members.
“I love doing it,” shared Zena. “We get a lot of calls from potential new members. I walk them around the club, show them potential slips and talk about our amenities and what we have to offer. We try to welcome them into our community because we’re very much a community club.”
Zena is passionate about how she presents the club to potential members and feels this enthusiasm could often be a deciding factor in why many people join. She likes to help them feel an air of camaraderie and hopes she is a reflection of the friendship they will experience when they join. Whenever Newport Yacht club gets an application, one of the questions they ask is why they want to join and many new members list how they felt very welcomed when they toured the club.
Mark also holds a position at the club as property manager, putting him and his volunteer team in charge of the property and maintenance at Newport Yacht Club. He’s also a member of the new dredging committee and both Zena and Mark are part of the clubhouse committee as well, so it’s safe to say they enjoy their involvement in the yacht club immensely.
Mark still works full-time, while Zena is retired; however, since her position as the vice commodore of membership is very active, she is never bored.
“I love walking around and talking to our new members,” added Zena. “I try really hard to greet the new members once they come in and I stay in touch with them. That’s really important because that will bring those members back again next year.”
Everybody at Newport Yacht Club likes to refer to their club as the “Hidden Gem on Lake Ontario” because many people don’t know much about them. Even though they are not the best known club in the area, they still pride themselves on their friendly and outgoing atmosphere.
“People are shocked when I tour them around because many of them didn’t know this yacht club even existed,” laughed Zena.
The marina is actually man-made and in the spring of 2012 it changed hands, becoming a non-profit club. This means that members like Zena and Mark volunteer around the club, which contributes to its community-based atmosphere. There’s a strong sense of camaraderie and everybody talks to everybody. Another advantage Newport Yacht Club has is their low rates. They have some of the lowest rates in their area.
They also recently renovated their clubhouse with a bigger deck and tent. Mark and Zena were thrilled to be asked by the Committee Chair to be part of the renovation team.
As a very social club, they make great use out of the renovated clubhouse, throwing social events for the members every weekend. Whether it’s a simple mix-and-mingle or an opening or closing party, there’s always something going on at Newport Yacht Club. The members love getting together at these events with their fellow boaters, friends and families.
With three golden retriever dogs, the couple have become experts on boating with dogs and they never leave the shore without them. They’ve got Levi, their 9-year-old; Ruger, their 4-year-old; and Logan, their 14-month-old.
“They’re our boys and we love them to death,” chimed Zena.
Besides their big 40-foot Cruisers Yacht, they also have a center console tender in the 12-foot range. It has a hard bottom and Zena and Mark go everywhere in it with their dogs. They often go out for three- to four-hour spans of time simply cruising around and taking the dogs to fun swimming areas.
When it comes to boating with dogs, Zena said some of the things to keep in mind are potty breaks and making sure the dogs are comfortable.
“We have to be very cognizant of making sure the dogs have access to potty breaks,” explained Zena, “then making sure they’re comfortable on the boat because, especially with new puppies, there could be a fear of this big machine and we need to help them to understand that they’re safe.”
Zena also emphasized the importance of making sure your dogs are respectful of others without ever overstepping boundaries.
An additional thing to keep in mind is making sure the dogs have proper access to the boat, especially with all the water level changes. Zena and Mark like to carry a ramp for their dogs in case they can’t get back on the boat.
“Other than that you just have to love them because they’re family,” beamed Zena. “Wherever we go our dogs are always the center of attention because they’re goldens.”
Traveling & Relaxing
Zena and Mark also like to visit different marinas and stay for weekends. Although they have traveled a lot in the past, Zena likes to stay close by so that she’s available to walk new members around their yacht club.
“We look forward to the future,” added Zena. “Then we’ll start getting back into traveling for a week or 10 days at a time and maybe venturing down to new parts of the lake.”
One of their favorite places to go is Hanlan’s Point on Toronto Island. It’s got a big steel wall and a place to dock boats so they can enjoy staying there in their boat; however, they also like to pitch a tent when they’re staying for over a week. They love to sit out with their campfire at night, enjoying their beautiful boat docked amidst the skyline of Toronto all lit up.
“That’s our favorite thing to do,” said Zena. “Travel doesn’t have to be going to a million places or every port. That’s not what it’s like for us. For us, it’s all about relaxation, spending time with each other and our goldens.”
For More Information
Newport Yacht Club