Exhibiting at the Toronto Sportsman Show (March 18-22, 2009) was a first for the Blind Fishing Boat. The Show itself has been operating for over 60 years and draws as many as 120,000 visitors over five days (48 hours). It was a real honour to be exhibiting at the Show since attending was always a highlight of my youth. I would often manage to attend twice each spring, and even purchased my first ultralight spinning outfit at the Show when I was 12. A big thanks to the Canadian National Sportsman Show organizers for opening up a space for the Blind Fishing Boat to exhibit.
I teamed up with the Mira Foundation and Ontario Portable Boats in a booth size that measured 10’ x 20’. Simon Melrose from Mira participated along with a Mira demonstration dog named Caddy, and Craig Dill, owner of Ontario Portable Boats, was there to handle questions about the Porta-Bote. With Craig and Simon handling questions about the Porta-Bote and Mira Guide Dogs, respectively, I was able to focus my attention on responding to questions specific to fishing and boating with vision loss, and there were many. Thankfully, I was backed up with assistance from my wife’s daughter, Mimi, who was excellent in explaining how the Blind Fishing Boat works.
To assist the Mira Foundation to share their story, I agreed to serve as their spokes person for central Canada. Mira is 100% funded through public donations, is the oldest guide dog school in Canada, and trains over 75 guide dogs and 75 service dogs each year. The following is a link to one of the published stories:
A five-minute peace ran on CHCH morning TV on March 10 and Several more TV interviews have been scheduled for later in June. Eukanuba, the pet food company that supports Mira with free dog food, is adding a story about Maestro and me to their web site.
-The Fishing Camp for people with vision loss I’m organizing for the CNIB Lake Joseph Centre this summer received lots of interest. Many friends, family members and folks with vision loss left with copies of the flyer. The CNIB also sent out a news item about Blind Fishing Boat at the Show via email to over 350 supporters and friends
-The Rapala exhibit of 13 different crank baits displayed in a Plano box with hook bonnets and Braille nose tags were a real hit. People could pick up and rattle the lures, examine and feel the finish of the lures up close, and not one lure went missing.
-The bite alarm display set up with an ice fishing rod and Shimano 1,000 Spirex spinning reel was a big hit with the kids and ice fishers alike. People would pull on the small carved fish hanging on the end of the line and the alarm would sound a hit. I explained that the alarm was something all Carp fishers use, and that Carp fishing is just one of a number of fishing styles that ideally suit people with vision loss.
-The Gulp Alive display from Berkley was also a big hit as it gave folks the chance to handle a variety of different Gulp Alive baits. The baits were displayed in a Plano box filled part way with water.
-My glass display box contained my electronics as well as a number of Rapala fish handling tools. Electronics included talking depth sonar, talking compass, talking GPS, beeping homing device for the doc, VHF portable radio, and two sonar devices for the front of the boat. People often ask me how I handle the more toothy fish, so having the Rapala tools on display made explaining my techniques that much more effective.
-Scotty installed one of their new Orca clamp-on rod holder on the Porta-Bote drew a lot of attention.
-The Minn Kota Maxxum 40 was mounted on the Porta-Bote along with the Minn Kota Power (battery) Box.
-My Salus PDf hung from a docking rope on the side of the Blind Fishing Boat, with its large hand warming pockets on display [keeping my hands warm and sensitive is crucial as they serve as my eyes].
-The Evinrude E-Tech pop-up display with four photos of the World’s First Talking Fishing Boat also featured in every presentation. Many visitors had questions about NMEA 2000 and were amazed that the E-tech could out put 65 different messages.
-Mira brochures flew off the table and by the end of the show we were out. We also managed to collect a hefty load of cash donations for Mira.
-Auto Tether, HumanWare Breeze and Wilderness Discovery brochures were also picked up by quite a number of visitors.
As always, I met a lot of interesting people with stories to tell of their own experience, direct or indirect, with vision loss. I spoke quite a bit about my own vision loss and strategies for coping, and I think a lot of people found the Blind Fishing Boat to be inspirational.
On Sunday morning, I took a few minutes to mount the casting platform on the fly fishing pond to try my hand. It’s been almost 30 years since I cast a fly rod, but it wasn’t long before I was laying down perfect 50-foot casts. Bill Spicer from the New Fly fisher TV show gave me plenty of helpful hints, and I’m now seriously tempted to give fly fishing another go. The folks at ReelFlies.Ca were great booth neighbours, and offered considerable encouragement to give fly fishing another try. I fly fished in my youth, but then I could still see enough to see the line. I now just proved you don’t need to see the line to cast! But can I catch fish?