How I found the missing American Boat Line…
Written by Mike Fesko
posted on March 13, 2014 07:34
I’ve long been a fan of the American Boat Line double deck tour boats. In fact, I’ve written about them before on my blog (www.1000islandssteelking.com). I still recall as a young “kid” riding aboard Adonis (wooden hull), Venus, Neptune, and on a return visit when much older, the Adonis II (all three aluminum hull vessels).
My blog started out as a tribute to my father’s Steel King and the fun my family had aboard her at Calumet Island in the 1960’s, but has expanded to cover a lot of the other things I recall from that era. My family’s boat was sold in the early 70’s, when we moved out of the area, but on a return to Clayton in the 80’s I saw her again. She had changed; she was a workboat for someone now and it was sad to see the shape she was in.
Fast forward a few decades and I was wondering about other boats of my youth. On my blog I have an article about a beautiful wooden boat that used to be at Calumet Island (White Cap). Time and some dedicated owners have apparently kept her in fine shape.
One day I thought about the American Boat Line. Did those boats still exist?
I started searching around and hit many dead ends. The data base at the Bowling Green State University turned-up record cards for all four double-deckers, and that spurred me on.
There had to be a trail I could follow; I wrote an article on TI Life and on my blog about the memories I have of those tour boats, hoping to not only share those memories, but to suggest there must be more information out there. I did receive some emails, but the trail thinned.
Then, things started to roll. One day I was contacted by someone with a picture he took of a tour boat that was a dead ringer for Venus, Neptune, and Adonis II. Another email hinted at a boat for sale in Florida. Despite these leads I couldn’t find anything concrete to prove these were the boats I was interested in finding. I sent emails to tour companies where people thought the boats may have been used. I did not get any replies. I searched the internet but found nothing. I heard one of the boats had toured in the New England area, so I searched for tour companies on the northeast coast. One day, something caught my eye…
A web page advertising the Boston Boat Cruise. The hull lines were unmistakable. I knew that the Clayton boats were built by Paasch Marine, out of Erie Pennsylvania, and I assumed there were only three, (because my little world only knew of three) but I didn’t know for certain how many were built. Was this one of them? I went to Boston and found out.
Yes, she was. At first, signs pointed to her being the Venus, but with the help of the Captain we discovered she was actually the Neptune. A few weeks to post details was an optimistic guess… every time I thought I was ready to publish the article, more information came my way. Months later I found the operators of the boat from that dead-ringer photo that was sent to me. Confirmation number two: the American Venus!
More months passed and I searched again for the “one for sale in Florida”. You know how sometimes things just come together? This was one of those times; my search landed me at a website with a listing for a boat with not only the same lines, but a name that matched the record card at the Bowling Green State University database. Confirmation three: the American Adonis II
What about the original? The wooden American Adonis. No idea. Wish I could say more, but I can’t. She remains a mystery.
Something I did not mention in my research post, and I believe I recall correctly, was that the tour boats (or pictures I’ve seen of them) were also run under Gray Line Tours and (at least the Adonis II) was bannered with “1000 Islands Seaway Cruises” on the port and starboard upper deck. I am not sure if this was advertisement or a company name change.
So that’s a bit of the back-story. Did I have fun on this quest? You bet. Is there more to discover? I imagine so. If you want to see the whole story, the journey, the pictures and video, go to http://www.1000islandssteelking.com/?p=964
By Mike Fesko,
Mike Fesko is a freelance voice-over artist, credentialed Project Management Professional, and private pilot. He and his family live in New England and his interests include radio broadcasting, photography, and amateur radio. This is a follow-up to Mike’s two articles about his memories of life on the St. Lawrence in the 1960s. Since his first article in 2010, we have had many inquiries from readers. These are proof positive that TI Life is doing its job of connecting River friends.
Comment by: Jerry Marshall ( )
Left at: 12:03 PM Saturday, March 15, 2014
WOW.. As a boy I worked on the Adonis.. And worked on several of the tour boats also saw all the American Boat Line Boats From the 40's on..
Such great memories
Comment by: Lee Crandall ( )
Left at: 1:07 PM Saturday, March 15, 2014
I can't solve the mystery of the fate of the original Adonis. As to its origin, I always heard as a kid that it was a military surplus boat retrofitted in Clayton after the second world war and that my grandfather, Hubert Morse who worked for Mercer's shipyard had been part of the crew that brought it back to Clayton.
Comment by: Sally Boss ( )
Left at: 1:16 PM Saturday, March 15, 2014
My brother, Kenny George, was the captain of the Adonis in the 1950's. In his early days he deck handed tour boats. He received his Captain's license at the early age of 19 years. He came from a family of captains (Kendall). What memories I have of growing up in Clayton and being on the river.
Comment by: John Dorr ( )
Left at: 6:24 PM Saturday, March 15, 2014
A group of us saw the Aluminum Adonis @ Witchy Watchy Marina in Murrells Inlet, 2 years ago it was on its way to Stuart Fl.
Comment by: Phil ( )
Left at: 10:54 PM Saturday, March 15, 2014
I saw the Venus in Alexandria, VA in 2009. It is a dinner cruise boat there. It is navy blue with white stripes. I recognized it right away from Clayton. See we have had a place on the St. Lawrence River (near Pt. Comfort) since 1958. We would always see it go by.
Also the Adonis II was sold to the U McLean Sam Boat Line in Alex Bay and then allegedly sold to Gananaque Boat Line.
Comment by: kearney bennett ( )
Left at: 4:37 PM Monday, March 17, 2014
I grew up in part on Riverside Drive just a block or so from the American Boat Line and delighted in jumping my 13 Boston Whaler over the boat's wakes. I assumed I was giving the passengers a little extra show. I recall my father (AJ Bennett) saying the original Adonis was an AVR or similar, a Navy air/sea rescue boat used in his unit, the Navy Beach Jumpers for clandestine deception operations in WWII and Korea.
Comment by: Tom King ( )
Left at: 10:02 AM Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Terrific bit of detective work Mike! It was great to find out where these old girls ended up. It is also interesting that Kearney Bennett has also given us another clue as to the history of the original Adonis.
Comment by: Mike
Left at: 8:09 AM Friday, March 21, 2014
Jerry, Lee, Sally, John, Phil, Kearney, Tom: I really appreciate all the comments and interest this has generated! It's good to connect with the readers of TILife, a really fine website.
Phil, there is a photo sent to me of the Venus in Alexandria, VA on my site about two-thirds down the page at http://www.1000islandssteelking.com/?p=964
Comment by: Len Ewald ( )
Left at: 2:37 PM Tuesday, March 25, 2014
It was my understanding the original Adonis was a P.T.boat in WWII. Can anyone validate or dispute this? It was not white originally, from pictures I remember seeing from way back. I remember the 1st summer the Venus cruised past our island. I believe it was summer of '60 - a rather damp, rainy day I recollect when I saw her for the first time. Ah the memories! Does anyone remember the American Edith? (single decker)
Comment by: Mike
Left at: 3:18 PM Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Hi Len, I never saw the dark-hulled Adonis but have seen pictures of her. What was the color - blue? I do remember several single deck wooden tour boats in the 60's; some docked next to the Golden Anchor on occasion, but I think they were part of the Uncle Sam boats (??) I never knew of the American Edith, that would be interesting to hear about.
For fun, I have an old home video of the American Adonis on my YouTube channel if you want to see it:
Comment by: Gault Farrell ( )
Left at: 11:55 AM Friday, April 4, 2014
Mike, I enjoyed reading this article, as well the various comments which are posted above. Len referred to the American Edith in his comments. The Edith II is currently dry docked on Wintergreen Island (in front of Murray Island) and is being used as a summer cottage (?rental). My brother, Tom Farrell, worked for American Boat Line in the late 50's as a captain driving the Edith III. He was good friends with the captain of the Edith II at that time. I have e-mailed my brother with this information. Hopefully he will respond, if he has anything to add.
Comment by: Tom Farrell ( )
Left at: 4:05 PM Saturday, April 5, 2014
My brother is correct, I captained the Edith III in the summers from 1957-1959, and my friend, Dan Gregory (Pt. Vivian)drove the Edith II. We went around the head of Grindstone, stopped in Gananogue,Canada and then down the Canadian Channel across the foot of Wellesley and back up the main channel to Clayton. The original Adonis made a modified tour and the Clayton Boat Lines had the Miss Clayton and another small boat, and these all stopped at Boldt Castle, I believe. My deck ahnd was David Petrie of Clayton. The other double decker vessels you speak of are not ones I have any memory of as was essentially gone from the River for a decade plus.
Comment by: Len Ewald ( )
Left at: 2:02 PM Thursday, April 10, 2014
Tom and Gault - I don't remember whether it was the Edith II or Edith III, what I do remember back in the early 60's is it had a light green roof that over time apparently sagged a bit, wasn't flat when viewing the tour boat from the side. I also remember the Miss Clayton and Miss Clayton II, and American Gloria. All operated by the American Boat Line at the time, I believe. Once the Venus and Neptune came along, it seems these old single deckers were somewhat phased out.
Comment by: Lee Crandall ( )
Left at: 3:19 PM Thursday, April 10, 2014
In the early 1960s there were two boat lines that competed for customers in Clayton, American Boat Lines and Denny Boat Lines. Both hawked tickets out of the open pavillion at the west end of Riverside Drive near the corner with James Street (adjacent to McCormick's restaurant).
Comment by: Wm Hale ( )
Left at: 5:56 AM Friday, April 11, 2014
Hello . An interesting subject you have. The double deckers were brought into service by the Denny Boat Line. And thus The Gan Boat Line was not to be far behind in having tripledeckers in their fleet.
What happened to the 'ANYWHERE"? A varnished hull.
Some boats went down to Skaneateles Lake.
Comment by: jimmy
Left at: 4:09 PM Monday, March 30, 2015
hi, is anyone know how can i get plans for this boat, we just bought a similar boat like that and we need your help
we will paid!
Comment by: Mike
Left at: 8:12 AM Tuesday, March 31, 2015
I'm not certain, but you may want to contact the Mystic Seaport Museum, they may have some historical documentation for you.
Comment by: Mike
Left at: 8:18 AM Tuesday, March 31, 2015
You might want to try the Mystic Seaport Museum. I heard they may have some of the plans you need in their collection. Good luck.
Comment by: barbara monteith
Left at: 7:37 AM Thursday, June 8, 2017
i am making a nostalgic trip to clayton this summer after 60 years --knew the adonis well and all the denny and american boats --we used to row out to them after dark when they were moored in french creek and steal cokes
Comment by: Mike
Left at: 8:27 AM Friday, September 22, 2017
Hope you have (or had) a nice visit. You can catch a peek of the Adonis leaving port in the 60's here, from a home movie my Mom took:
Comment by: Jena Theisen
Left at: 4:41 AM Friday, September 21, 2018
My dad (Eugene Springman) owned the American Boatline in the early 60's until his death in 1970, i was only 11 then my mother sold it a couple years later. I remember the 3 boats and running around the docks. I have many fond memories of living in Clayton, we moved to Illinois permanently after my dad passed and i haven't been back since. I think it's time my husband and i plan a trip back to visit!
Comment by: Gail Dier Christensen
Left at: 5:59 PM Friday, November 2, 2018
This has been great reading, Tim Gervan sent to me and I was excited to see Lee Crandall and Kearney Bennett weighing in. I can add nothing to remembering how exciting it was to get the double
decker boats in Clayton, except my Father, Grant Dier, went with your Dad, Jena, to pick up one of the double deckers, don't remember which.
Our parents were great friends, have wonderful memories of them. Thank you Mike for sharing your research.