My Watermark is Toronto Harbour of Lake Ontario.
A few years ago, maybe this was in the summer of 2013/2014, I was working at Patagonia's Toronto store. A friend and former co-worker was a paddling instructor and was willing to teach people how to stand-up paddleboard for free. She invited anyone and everyone she knew who wanted a free lesson. I had only SUP'd once or twice at most before that, so I was all in.
Around 10 people showed up at the Harbour that day. And the weather was perfect too. Sunny and warm. I remember a few of us had wobbly "sea legs" at first, but by the end of the little outing, most of felt fairly comfortable.
We started paddling at the Canoe and Kayak slip and paddled across to a few slips west of that. I remember people walking along Harbour (around HTO Park) staring at us. Maybe it was because you don't often see a group of people paddling around Toronto's Harbour. Or maybe it was because a bunch of us were doing (or attempting) to do yoga poses on our boards and falling in, laughing because were having so much fun.
I knew it was important to shower after going in the water (at the time, I didn't really know why). Now having worked for Waterkeeper for the past couple years, I'm glad I was quick to clean up at my aunt's place (not far from the harbour). I don't recall getting any infections or feeling sick (and I don't know if anyone did), but knowing now that we were swimming and paddling in CSO-hotspots, I think I was lucky. If that information was more public and more known, I'm sure we all would've taken more precautions to ensure our safety.
The fact that we all went out there thinking that the water was safe for us to paddle and swim in is concerning. I can't recall if it had rained before we went out, but if it did, there was no way we would've known what the qater quality was like.
Regardless of what I've learned since then, this memory is still a positive one. It was so great to see Downtown Toronto from that perspective – and having such a good time with good people.
What I've learned hasn't scared be from the harbour's waters. It's only made me want it more so others can safely experience what we did.