After serving the Norway Bay area for many decades, living through a war and two near-death experiences, an old resident has found a second life and purpose in the harbour of Canada’s biggest city.
Now a luxury dream home for one Toronto man, an old ferry called the NORVIC 1 is docked in the city’s harbourfront on Lake Ontario. Today, the NORVIC 1 looks pristine and modern, having had extensive restoration and upgrades done on it in recent years. But behind the envious renovations lies a rich Pontiac history that is still being preserved in the Bay today.
For years, the Norvic serviced the small community of Norway Bay, shuttling passengers and vehicles between Norway Bay and Sand Point, Ont., just across the river. The ferry was made by the Montreal company Vickers Ltd., weighing 82 tons and coming in at about 75 feet long. It was able to transport eight cars or 150 passengers at capacity. It was launched from Sand Point on July 24, 1923, and began its operations as a passenger ferry four days later.
Captain William Dudley Gamble was its owner. He gave it its moniker by fusing the first three letters of the words Norway and Vickers together, resulting in the Norvic. It operated from mid-May to October each year, making 12 scheduled round-trips daily.
Terry Gamble, grandson of Captain Gamble, recalled spending his summers at his grandfather’s cottage and riding about the boat.
“I spent as much time there as my parents would let me every summer. We used to come down from Deep River into Norway Bay. As a kid, I used to hop on the boat, go across and play golf at the Arnprior course,” he said, looking back with a laugh. “It was a pleasure, a nice 15 minute boat ride going over to play golf.”
Though its main job was as a ferry, the Norvic performed several different tasks in its lifetime. According to documents provided to THE EQUITY from Lynda — cousin of Terry and granddaughter of Captain Gamble — and Tom Healey, who lead the Norway Bay Historical Society, the boat was once used to lay telephone cables in 1962. In the second world war, the ferry was occasionally used to make shipments to and from the base in Arnprior, and it was also used to pick up and deliver mail on the train four times a day. Mentions of the ferry being used for moonlight cruises on the Chats Lake surfaced as well.
But perhaps the most beloved use for it was as a diving platform for local teenagers, who jumped into the wake as the ferry left the port, a fond memory or fact mentioned by all those who knew the Norvic’s history.
In 1963, Captain Gamble fell ill, and the Norvic fell out of service, its parts sold and scattered across the region. With the once grand Norvic gutted, it was left to rust mostly submerged in the waters of Cheneaux Boom.
“Ultimately, George Drummond — you know Drummond Fuel in Ottawa and Manotick, they have gas stations — and Charles Bond bought it, and it sat upside down at the Bond Marina in Kars for some time,” Terry said. “I’ve got pictures of when my kids were probably seven, eight years old in the mid 80s, and it sat there rusting away upside down until Bill Teron bought it.”
The Norvic came into the possession of Teron — a successful contractor noted for developing what is now Bells Corners and Kanata in Ottawa — who relaunched the boat as the NORVIC 1, a luxury houseboat, in 1989. The idea first came to him while working in Paris.
“I was looking at river barges people had turned into pleasant homes. I thought it was an idea better suited to Canada,” Teron told the Ottawa Citizen in a 1993 article. “We have more and better waterways.”
The small windows which Teron called “claustrophobic” were replaced with huge panes of glass, offering an unparalleled view of its surroundings. The helm was now accessed through the kitchen and the main area was opened up to make a spacious living room. The upper deck that used to house two lifeboats was converted into a massive patio, and the bow was occupied by the master bedroom.
Teron and his family owned the NORVIC 1 for several years, even traveling in it all the way to Manhattan and Florida.
“How can I ever go back to building buildings after this?” Teron asked.
Years passed, and eventually the opulent NORVIC 1 once again fell into a state of dilapidation.
“From what people have told me, it was in disrepair sitting on a piece of land which is now Kanata,” said Stuart Galloway, the boat’s current owner. “It was converted, but it had gone into disrepair and it was almost half-gutted, so there was no toilet, the electricity wasn’t really working, there were no floors.”
Galloway had been dreaming of living on a boat since he was 17. Teaching sailing in west Oakville, he found himself without a place to call home after his parents moved away from the area. However, instead of renting an apartment, Galloway decided to take an unconventional path. He bought a small $1,500 boat and slept in it all summer. And he loved it.
Since then, the idea of living in a boat had been on his mind until one chance meeting in the Toronto Harbourfront.
“I had been looking for a boat to live on for a few years and then this one literally showed up on the wall at the Toronto Harbour,” he recalled. “So I Googled the name, I believe I got in touch with Chris Teron whose family used to own it. He told me that they donated it to a tall sailing ship school in Kingston, and they put me in touch with the guy that currently had it.”
The boat was bigger than what he was looking for, but he decided it was too perfect to pass up and purchased the old ferry.
For the last five years, Galloway has been dedicating his time to restoring the boat to its former glory. Thanks to him, the Norvic has functional plumbing and electricity, new floors, walls and ceilings. The exterior was stripped of rust and repainted, and new cabinetry in the kitchen is underway.
Galloway estimated he has five or so more years to go until he can call his dream home perfect. Despite the makeover it has received, Galloway noted that he found the original 1989 woodwork beautiful, and has maintained it.
He would eventually like to take the boat on long trips, and has even considered steering it back up to Norway Bay and seeing the original artifacts that have been maintained in the Pontiac.
“It’s just fantastic,” Galloway said of living out his houseboat dream. “There’s nothing better than to wake up in the morning and just have a beautiful view of the harbour, of Toronto Island, the sun rising, ducks and all that kind of stuff. I absolutely love it.”
Though the Norvic has moved onto a new life in the big city, its lengthy history lives on in its homeland.
The ferry’s original bell was donated to the Cushman Memorial Church, and still tolls to this day when the locals gather for service. One of its tugboats was repurposed by Gamble’s oldest son, John, and was lovingly dubbed the African Queen. It can still be seen putting along the river in the summer, Lynda said.
The original helm is mounted in Haughton’s Bay, a private collection of Ottawa River artifacts belonging to Barbara and Peter Haughton, who were once neighbours of Captain Gamble’s daughter, Mary. They also possess several large binders packed full of photos and article clippings all about the Norvic, and a wooden carving of the ship that once acted as a nameplate at the end of Mary’s driveway.
Terry, Lynda and Tom Healey also continue to keep the old Norvic’s heritage alive, just recently donating the Norvic’s original lanterns to the Haughtons’ personal museum. Though the pandemic has prevented Barbara and Peter from opening their collection to visitors, they welcome any inquiries via email at email@example.com.
After everything the Norvic has been through in its nearly a century of existence, it is no doubt that the boat had and continues to have a great impact on many generations of Canadians. While it has had quite a storied past, it looks as though the Norvic’s legacy will continue to be written.
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