It sounds like the stuff of hard-boiled private eye novels, but family folklore has it that in 1913 John Furlong won a 52-foot cruiser in a poker game and re-christened it Grace Anne after his wife.
The Furlongs had inherited a “dream” summer home and they used the boat to explore and enjoy beautiful Lake of the Woods in their rugged corner of northwestern Ontario. So much did the couple enjoy the yacht that in 1930 John commissioned the building of Grace Anne II. The 85-foot mahogany yacht was considered the finest craft to be introduced into Lake of the Woods. Eventually, the ship evolved into a corporate yacht and for 40 years was owned and operated by the 3M Corporation of Minnesota.
Today, this historic wooden boat is an elegant lady of the lake that, with its sibling island lodge, provides luxurious getaways for discerning travelers and an ideal venue for corporate retreats. With gleaming mahogany decks, Persian carpets and leaded glass, the yacht Grace Anne II transports guests to an era when silverware, fine linens and white-gloved service were unquestioned accoutrements on a wilderness excursion.
Traveling deep into Canada’s north woods aboard this historic yacht with its solid and elegant wood construction is like cruising there in a private club. An attentive service staff in dress whites is ready to attend to your every need—often anticipating that “need” before you do! You also may feel that you are dining in a first-class restaurant, with meals prepared by a French chef, fine wines to accompany dinner and cognac and Cuban cigars (perfectly legal in Canada) passed out on deck by stewards.
One uncommon and highly memorable dining experience is a traditional shore lunch featuring freshly caught fish. Lake of the Woods is an extraordinary labyrinthine waterway sprawling over a vast segment of north woods bounded by Minnesota and the provinces of Ontario and Manitoba. Carved by glaciers receding into the Canadian Pre-Cambrian Shield, the lake has 65,000 miles of shoreline—more than all of the Great Lakes combined.
It contains about 14,600 islands—more than any other lake in North America. Surrounding forests are filled with red, white and jack pines, as well as spruce and poplars. Wildlife includes moose, deer, black bears, wolves and the occasional lynx. Birds include soaring bald eagles and hawks and a wide variety of songbirds (and include, of course, loons, with their distinctive, haunting cries).
Guides are ready to steer guests to the most productive fishing waters, famed for tackle-busting muskie (a famous sight along Kenora’s harbor front is a 40-foot wooden sculpture of “Husky the Muskie”). Also awaiting visiting anglers are lake trout, walleye, northern pike and bass.
Other activities include clay shooting, excursions aboard the yacht or via canoe or kayak, water skiing and exploring woodland trails as a hiker or via a Bombardier all-terrain vehicle. Take an invigorating sauna—or simply relax in a hot tub. There also are guided photography and nature tours and seasonal hunting trips
The Grace Anne II comfortably accommodates eight guests in six staterooms, with space for an additional eight at its hideaway lodge. Built on a 33-acre island, the lodge also provides a full complement of creature comforts. Charters are based on a minimum of eight and a maximum of 16 guests. Prices range from $1,695 per guest (for a 24-hour experience package) to $5,695 per guest for a five-night charter.
The price includes meals, a wide range of activities (including equipment), all wine, drinks, and cigars, plus transportation from Kenora, Ontario Airport. (Transportation can also be arranged from Winnipeg, the nearest major airport.)
Reservations, copies of full-color brochures and additional information are available from Grace Anne II Yacht and Lodge, 1-800-987-3857 or 204-987-3321. The website is www.graceanne.com