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‘Recollections’ Category

  1. Thousand Islands Tour Boats of decades ago – where are they now?

    June 18, 2018 by Mike

    1000 Islands tour boats..

     

    American Boat Line Logo 1963 1972 postcard

    American Boat Line logos from 1963, 1972, and all three aluminum hulls on a vintage postcard

     

    Imagine if you could suddenly stumble upon some thing, some item, that holds fond memories for you, and then re-live some of those memories?

    Let me show you how that happened to me.

    Where are the old American Boat Line tour boats today? Click To Tweet

    Do you remember Clayton island tours aboard the American Adonis, Venus, Neptune, and Adonis II?  Do these old American Boat Line 1000 Islands tour boats still exist? 

    That’s a question I’ve asked myself many times, and started looking into.  I finally have an answer.

    My search led down a number of different paths, including phone calls, emails, Google, and personal transportation!  Along the way I pretty well confirmed a rumor that (more…)


  2. St Lawrence Seaway Locks and Thousand Islands Boating

    June 6, 2018 by Mike

    St Lawrence Seaway Locks (and how they work)

    Thousands Islands boating holds many adventures, be it fishing, diving, cruising, or touring.  One of the adventures is going through the St Lawrence Seaway locks. 

    Another locks adventure of sorts happened when the Seaway was closing for 2017, and the Federal Biscay got stuck in Snell Lock due to ice.  It took quite an effort to break her free, which delayed Seaway closing as several ships waited for the bottleneck to clear.

    My experience with the locks was decades earlier as a kid.  My father took his boat from Rainbow Harbor in central NY State to Clayton, NY.  We passed through several locks along the way, and I still remember them today. 

    There was a strange sensation of quiet with our engine stopped.  I recall being near the cement wall as our boat slowly rose or descended.  I watched as the embedded ladder rungs passed by as we slipped our line through each one to keep near the wall.  The sight of huge gates slowly swinging open or closed was indelible, an amazing sight.

    So, something to share with you:

    Here’s an interesting booklet I found on-line called “Tommy Trent’s ABC’s of the Seaway”.  You can find it here:

    ABC’s of the Seaway.

    St Lawrence Seaway locks

    It’s sort of written in comic book font, blue on white, which makes it quite interesting visually.  There are a ton of diagrams inside that explain the St Lawrence Seaway.  You’ll also read about the locks, the history of bulk cargo ships, satellite identification system, communication frequencies, ship watcher silhouettes, and more!  Do you know what terms like back haul, dead time, dump, turning back, and downbound mean?  Take a look, you’ll learn a bunch of cool stuff.

    Let me know if you have any locks stories of your own by leaving a comment below, because I’d love to read about them!

    Mike


  3. Thousand Islands Boating – Clayton, Calumet Island, Alexandria Bay

    June 6, 2018 by Mike

    Boating in the 1000 Islands is timeless.  I remember it from the boyhood vantage point of the 1960’s when I spent the summers at Calumet Island Marina, Clayton, NY, and Alexandria Bay, NY.  I can still hear the sounds and see the sights in my head.  I haven’t been back in maybe 14 years, but I imagine today it’s a lot like it was then.  So what’s different?  Who out there remembers the 1000 Islands from the 60’s and can compare it to today?

    Let me take a stab at it, without the benefit of first-hand knowledge.

    Obviously Calumet Island is different.  1000 Islands Calumet Island Marina 1967From its glorious heyday complete with castle and service harbor, to the 60’s marina, to today as a private residence, Calumet has a beauty and charm all its own. 

    Here’s a photo from a seaplane in 1967, and you can see how many trees it had back then.  The castle ruins were still plentiful and provided quite a sight-seeing adventure for my brother and I, though there was no way to get safely close.  I visited in the early 2000’s and it was very clean and for the first time in my life I was able to see the turret and stairs facing the Clayton side that was completely overgrown in the 60’s.  1000 Islands Calumet Harbor mid60sThe Calumet harbor was filled with boats, so many that “finger docks” sprung out from the stone walkways to accommodate all the customers.  Today none of those era remain, though a few new ones have sprouted according to photo’s I’ve seen.

    Here’s a mystery and a puzzler – why was the Calumet Island Skiff House roof and the taxi boat painted orange?  We called it “Calumet Orange” in our days there during the 1960’s for lack of a better term.  Here’s what I think:  advertising.  Calumet Island was a marina back then and a business needs to attract proper attention.  If you looked across the river from Clayton, there was no mistaking that orange roof!  The island itself is beautiful to look at, but that glint of orange would surely draw your eye and make you ask “Why?  What’s over there?”  The answer was “a marina, a nice place to keep your boat”.  A short while into the 60’s the marina’s small taxi boat got a hull of the same color.  I suspect for the same reason.  It became a matching extension to the marina at Calumet Island.  What do you think?  If there’s another reason you know about, it would be interesting if you’d share it.

    Clayton is different.  To me, one of the big differences between then and now are the coal docks.  As a kid, it was so neat to see the big ships close up while they took on coal for fuel. 1000 Islands Clayton Coal dock sep 67 I can still hear the very unique sound of the coal as it dropped down the long chutes into the ship’s storage areas.  Watching these behemoths maneuver to the mooring and deckhands securing the steel cables to the huge pilings and cleats left indelible images in my head.  I’ve seen pictures of that part of Clayton today and it has certainly been spruced up since the coal docks went away.  The adjacent town docks were configured a bit differently then, and the Golden Anchor restaurant sat above the side opposite the coal docks (and as I recall, the US Customs office).  Occasionally, small single-deck wooden tour boats docked next to the Golden Anchor, I believe part of the Uncle Sam Boat Tours line.  And far down the other river-side of town was McCormick’s restaurant, a period photo of which can be found in the Thousand Islands Life article in the References below, as well as Rice’s Marina where my father got his minnows for our weekly fishing trips to Grindstone Island.

    Alexandria Bay?  Well, that was a far-away destination to me!  Every few summers my family would make the voyage there from Calumet Island.  I remember how neat is was to pass under the 1000 Islands Bridge as cars passed overhead, seeing a hotel near where we docked (I believe it was the Edgewood Resort), and a western-themed family spot called “Adventure Town”.  They had wild west shows and a train ride that included a “real” gold robbery!  (You did not want to be the kid sitting on the bag of gold when the bad guys came a’ ridin’ in!)  The link I had below has gone dead, but if you’re interested in Adventure Town, you can probably find a clip on YouTube.

    1000 Islands McCormick's Restaurant and American Boat Line

    McCormick’s Restaurant and American Boat Line

    In this old postcard, you can see the street-side view of McCormick’s Restaurant next to the old American Boat Line tourboat office.  For more information on the American Boat Line and their 1000 Islands tours, see this post I wrote.

    Now it’s your turn.  How does it compare?  What’s still there and what isn’t?  Are boat operators any better or worse today than at that earlier period of time?  Has anything changed significantly in the past few decades?  What’s your favorite timeless spot? Leave a comment below and share your recollections of the area both past and present.  It’ll be fun!

    References:

    • Adventure Town
    • McCormick’s restaurant

     


  4. 1000 Islands Cruise – an interview with an American Adonis crewmember

    October 1, 2016 by Mike

    1000 Islands Tour Boats American Adonis - JWK Collection(Photo used with permission from the “J.W. King Photography Collection” and supplied for use by Tom King)

    A 1000 Islands cruise is a great getaway.  The vessels have changed over the years, but the fun hasn’t.  I’ve posted before about my fascination with the old American Boat Line 1000 Islands tour boats: Adonis, Venus, and Neptune.  The former was the first double decker in the line, made of wood, some confirmation that she was built on a PT boat hull, and downright nice looking!  Recently, I got in touch with Tom (Twitter handle @tbogie52), who answered a few 1000 Islands trivia questions I tweeted, and found out he was a crewman for one season on the original Adonis.  So we got to trading questions and answers, and I learned a few new things about the Adonis.  Let me share them with you: (more…)


  5. Thousand Islands Boating – A Fishing Vacation

    June 26, 2013 by Mike

    A 1000 Islands fishing vacation is one of the greatest ways to spend part of your summer.  When I was a kid, my brother and I each had a fishing pole and together we’d drop or cast a line from my father’s boat or the docks at Calumet Island Marina.  The shallow water was clear enough to let us see maybe 5 or 6 feet down and spotting the type of fish to go after was fairly easy.  Outside the harbor in deeper water, the St Lawrence was fairly low-visibility compared to today.  The easiest fishing in the harbor was for the small ones that would take any bait we put on the hook.  Ideally, we were looking for large or small mouth bass (something to eat) but always ended up with perch, sunfish, or the small rockbass.  They’d all end up back in the water (in fact, I don’t recall ever catching an actual “eating fish”, though my father did fry some perch once – I suppose to show it could be done).  Perch are bony little fish; lots of work to eat!  I did latch onto a pike from the bow of our Steel King in the harbor, but alas, it was too small to keep.  Another occasional find in the harbor was carp, but that wasn’t a favorite.

    The “real fish” were found outside the harbor; for us, off Grindstone Island.  The good ones were large mouth and small mouth bass, and we feasted on many of them over 10 years of summer visits.  Once my father did bring in an eel.  My young imagination wondered if it was electric and almost cautioned him not to grab it, but before I could say anything, he had removed the hook and sent it back to the cool river water.

    Occasionally, trolling was the order of the day.  For that, I learned about a different kind of fishing pole, very stiff, with steel line.  Muskies and Northern Pike were the targets and, though I found trolling to be a bit of a bore at that age, the thrills begin quickly when we hooked one.  Even when I was freezing aboard a wooden flying-bridge Pacemaker one cold November west of Calumet Island, snow coming down, the prospect of seeing that fighting fish kept me in the game.  In the end, it was just a cold day fishing, with no reward other than having been there.  Good enough.

    If you are planning a 1000 Islands vacation this year, don’t leave out fishing.  You won’t find a better place for it!  For a start, take a peek at the information the Clayton Chamber of Commerce has on fishing the area.

    Got any 1000 Islands fishing vacation stories to share?  Leave some feedback below!


  6. Clayton Island Tours – Scenic Cruises on the American Boat Line

    July 3, 2012 by Mike

    1960’s… hula hoops, muscle cars, the twist, the new St Lawrence Seaway, scenic cruise boat tours.  Well, certainly more than that, but boat tours sticks out in my mind today, and in particular the tour boats of the American Boat Line.  Early in my decade of childhood visits to Clayton, I was placed aboard a wooden double decker, the American Adonis, for a scenic cruise.

    1000 Islands American Adonis from my old postcard

    1000 Islands American Adonis from an old postcard we bought in the 60’s

    I remember well the captain slowing her to a near stop as the tour guide asked us to look carefully over the side to see the line painted under the water, marking the boundary between the US and Canada.  I was quite frustrated that I couldn’t see it, and a double check with my brother and Mom confirmed it must have been really tough to spot!

    A few more tour-years on the Adonis and we were greeted with the announcement that coming soon would be an all-new aluminum double decker – the American Venus!  Wow, I could not wait.  Remember – this was at the heart of the space age and anything shiny, new, and made of metal was one step above anything else.  The next season arrived and we logged another tour from Clayton to Gananoque and return – this time in double-deck aluminum splendor!  I still held a fondness for the wooden Adonis and, fishing off Grindstone island most weekends, we could spot them both from across the river as they headed out on schedule.  Eventually their wake would make it to us, though quite small compared to the huge tsunamis they seemed like when a 10 year old and his brother viewed them close up.  The gentle rocking of our Steel King brought a comforting reminder that all was well, timetables were being met, and people were out having a great day courtesy of the American Boat Line.

    Time passed slowly in those days, plenty of time to marvel about this new metal wonderboat, and then as if you got an extra present after all your birthday gifts were unwrapped, word of a second aluminum ABL vessel hit – coming soon, the American Neptune!  Oh gosh, I’d have to wait until NEXT boating season to see this.  Fall…. winter…. spring…. finally summer.  Clayton, Calumet Island, the river.  There she was!  Wow, pretty much like the Venus; only shinier and newer.  I gotta get a ride on that one!  Eventually I did.

    Nearer to the mainland, I also loved the single-deck wooden boats from Uncle Sam’s fleet, and when venturing across the border to Canadian waters, admired the Canadian Boat Line’s wooden beauties.  It was the big ABL boats that drew my attention though, and on several occasions while seated by the window at the old McCormick’s Restaurant, the familiar blast from the tour boat’s horn warned of departure and foreshadowed the start of another tour run as happy people on the upper deck passed by “my” restaurant window.

    Then one day the island visits stopped as life moved on and my father had to sell his boat.  Memories linger, though, and another decade later I managed a trip to Clayton.  Darn if the tours weren’t still running!  One more chance to ride my favorite, and this time get a picture up by the wheel!! (I wanted to be a tour boat captain for ABL when I grew up, so having that picture morphed childhood fantasy with grown-up reality).  I seem to recall the boats were part of Gray Line Tours at that time, and have read in articles at the Thousand Islands Life website that a company named International Boat Tours also played a part in their history.  Apparently there was a third practically identical aluminum boat – the American Adonis II, but I never got the chance to see her. 

    They’re gone now but not forgotten.  Or are they?

    For some details on these tour boats, see my Tour Boats page – and I’d like to thank the “Historical Collections of the Great Lakes, Bowling Green State University” for permission to use data from their extensive database for this post.  They have a wonderful searchable website!

    American Adonis: built 1943, 61 feet

    American Venus: built 1960, 64 feet

    American Neptune: built 1964, 64 feet

    American Adonis II: built 1972, 64 feet

    The 1000 Islands’ American Boat Line double-deckers… gone but not forgotten!  <– click to tweet this!