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Lunch with superyacht owner...Ron Joyce

Lunch with superyacht owner...Ron Joyce

Joyce’s foray into the food service industry proved a success and soon he was looking to expand. Frustrated at attempts to buy another Dairy Queen franchise, he took over the first shop for Horton and soon after opened the second-ever Tim Hortons doughnut shop – it was the first step on the way to making his fortune. Tim Horton was a famous Canadian hockey player who had started the business as a means of supplementing his income. After a series of twists and turns – including the 1974 death of Horton in a car accident – Joyce assumed control of the business and turned it into part of the Canadian way of life.

By the late 1960s, Joyce was doing well enough to buy a small holiday home in Northern Ontario. ‘I got a Sunfish, then a Laser, which is a little bigger, then I bought a 16 foot (4.8 metre) Hobie Cat. I bought a 15- or 17-foot motor boat and had that for quite a while. From there I went to a C&C 40 – that would be in the early 1970s, probably.’ Joyce learned to sail in those boats – something the navy had failed to teach him – eventually sailing the C&C 40 far afield, including a passage from Hamilton to Fort Lauderdale and back.

The next boat was a powerboat. ‘I can do it alone,’ he says, explaining the switch to a diesel engine. ‘No sails to pull down. I wanted to try power for a while, so I bought a 39 foot (11.8 metre) Sea Ray.’ The next boat was bigger still, a Wellcraft high-performance powerboat that could go 60 knots, and was used as part of Tim Hortons marketing. ‘I called it Timblitz. We had a crew taking it all over the place. We stopped along the way and took people out for a ride. It had its own tow truck. I had it painted the same colours [as Tim Hortons livery], red, black and white. It was really quite a sight, caused traffic jams. I had that about two or three years.’

Joyce’s boat ownership accelerated quickly at this point. ‘The next boat was a pretty 63 foot (19 metre) Ferretti. I had a home in Fort Lauderdale and parked it outside my home; it was a beautiful boat. Then I bought a Donzi sports-fishing boat, a 73-foot (22 metre) and took that all through the Eastern Seaboard. We went down as far as Grenada. We were in [fishing] tournaments and won a few.’ He adds with a smile: ‘I got a 955-pound marlin one time.’

Joyce still co-owns the Ferretti, which he keeps on Lake Ontario for summer use. ‘By that time I had a sailboat, too,’ he says. The sailboat was a 41 metre sloop, a Dubois design, his first yacht since the C&C 40 and bought after he sold out of the doughnut and coffee business. She was named Destination Fox Harb’r, and built at Alloy Yachts in New Zealand, originally for Neville Crichton.

The latest addition to his fleet came after a visit to the Trinity yard in Mississippi. ‘It was six years ago and I was [there] specifically to see Trinity Yachts. There was a new one being built at the yard. I saw the yacht under construction and fell in love with the plans. It was nothing, just wires, but I saw the layout, especially the décor. I loved it and so I did the deal. I had input on it, but it had a dynamite interior decorator from Florida and he did a great job.’ The 49m motor yacht Destination Fox Harb’rToo is now being refitted in Fort Lauderdale, and will travel north when finished. ‘She’ll head up this way. We’ll go to Fox Harb’r, to my golf course. I’ll probably meet it in Newport. I may come up with it.’

Fox Harb’r Golf Resort & Spa is Joyce’s development in Wallace on the Northumberland Shore of Nova Scotia, his home territory. Opening in 2000, it includes a championship golf course (for which Tiger Woods holds the record), designed by Canadian Golf Hall of Fame architect Graham Cooke. Fox Harb’r has its own airstrip, and Joyce’s business interests include the aviation charter business Jetport. Joyce says Fox Harb’r was developed as a way of giving back something to Nova Scotia – it’s clear he hasn’t forgotten those tough early years.

That’s also evident with his charitable involvement. After the death of his hockey player friend and business partner, Joyce started the Tim Horton Children’s Foundation. It now provides free holidays at six camps for underprivileged children. While he is still the honorary chair, Joyce no longer takes an active role in the Children’s Foundation; instead, The Joyce Foundation administers his philanthropic work, and is largely focused on providing access to education for children and youth with significant financial need.

These charities are just the kind of thing Joyce himself might have benefited from, had it been available back in the 1940s. Although, as I take my leave of his gorgeous house and charming company, it’s easy to feel that he doesn’t seem to have done too badly without it.

This ia an abbreviated version of a feature that appears in the October 2013 issue of Boat International

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