Written by Kim Lunman
posted on August 13, 2014 07:41
What's in a name? The dictionary defines 'Kismet' as "a power that is believed to control what happens in the future."
There's lots of speculation over how this island near Rockport got its name but it has nothing to do with fate. It has to do with steam yacht named Kismet. The island's owners, Jos and Melinda Bacon, who own an educational publishing house in Ottawa, bought the island retreat in 1998. Soon they started to make the connection between the island's name and a steam yacht. There's a painting of Kismet moored in New York City on the living room wall of the Victorian cottage. They also discovered china and glasses from the Kismet in the pantry.
Kismet Island is secluded even though it's one of the busiest stretches of the River by the Middle Channel tucked behind the Lost Channel near Benson's Rift and Hill Island.
The 140-foot Kismet was one of the larger Thousand Islands steam yachts. Built in 1899, she was last reportedly seen on the River in 1936. The vintage vessel belonged to William H. Downey, a wealthy businessman from Tenafly, New Jersey, and his wife between 1910 and 1920. The couple cruised the Thousand Islands aboard Kismet, spending summers in Brockville. The yacht also moored at Boldt Castle's Heart Island, said James Bak, of Brockville, William H. Downey's great-nephew. Bak's great grandfather was D.W. Downey, mayor of Brockville 1898 to 1899 at the height of the region's Golden Age.
The Downeys were good friends of Brockville millionaire Senator George Fulford, who also had a steam yacht, Magedoma, since restored as Cangarda. Bak has traced the history of his family's steam yacht, like others, remains mystified by its connection to its disappearance and its connection to Kismet Island. "It really is a mystery," he said, adding it frequently moored in Brockville.
Kismet was last reportedly seen in Key West Florida preparing to take wealthy passengers to Havana. However, she never made it to Cuba. She reportedly went down off the coast and nothing was retrieved of the vessel.
The cottage on Kismet Island was built at the turn of the last century after the crown sold it to Lloyd D. Windsor in 1898. It was later named Pouch Island by an owner named Edgar Pouch in 1911. The Victorian cottage was built at the turn of the last century with bathrooms and bedrooms with doors opening to a veranda. The boathouse has several bedrooms and a guest house 'bunky' has two bedrooms.
It's suspected the cottage's next owner, John Murray, brought the artifacts from Kismet and named the island after the steam yacht. The Bayonne, New Jersey pier proprietor may have had access to the yacht when it was refitted for charter work.
As it turns out, Kismet Island has its share of mysteries. Jos Bacon pointed out something scrawled on a boathouse wall in 1929. The two words have caused many guessing games for his children and visiting guests: "Never Again," Sally Birmingham wrote here when it was Pouch Island. It's not known who Sally was and why she was so seemingly displeased with her visit. And it's not known exactly why this island is named Kismet. But the name seems to fit. For the owners of this idyllic getaway, it all just seems meant to be.
By Kim Lunman, www.islandlifemag.ca
Kim Lunman is the owner/publisher of Island Life Magazinewww.islandlifemag.ca. A profile of the past five years of Kim’s work was published in our November 2013, issue of TI Life. Her company,Thousand Islands Ink, is based in Brockville. Lunman is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in the Boat U.S. Magazine, Lakeland Boating, Reader's Digest, Globe and Mail, and The National Post.
To see all of Kim Lunman’s TI Life articles, click here, and to read a more complete biography, see our About Page.