Editor’s Note: For almost 20 years, a local chapter of ACBS Wine Country Classic Boats, Inc. (WCCB, Inc.) Hammondsport, NY, has been doing a Fall Trip to a different cruising area for four or five days. This year the 30-member group travelled in seven antique and classic boats to the Thousand Islands. This was the group’s fourth trip to the region and you will see they covered all the best bays and channels and had a wonderful time.
Wednesday September 24th
My wife, Barbara and I met John and Bonnie Ford, at the Weedsport exit on the Thruway at 9:45 AM, and we headed North. A quick brunch at the Grist Mill Restaurant at Parish, and we pulled into Clayton about 1:15 PM.
Plans were to launch our boats at Clayton public launch, next to the Antique Boat Museum, then tie the boats-up at the Museum docks and travel to a motel to check-in and unload.
Six of our seven boats were left “at rest” after unloading. The trailers were stashed on Museum property behind the Old Firehouse.
Trip planner John Frey had selected a small family resort; West Winds Motel and Cottages, right on Rte 12, only about 2 miles West of Clayton, as our base of operations.
An older facility, but maintained neat as a pin, there were motel-type rooms and one and two bedroom cabins. The property sloped down to the river’s edge, where a nice set of steps led to their docks. Docks were fairly well protected, but would be limited to boats under 20 feet. The steps, although new and safe...would have been killers. Thus the reason for using the Museum docks.
The itinerary called for an afternoon boat ride Westerly down around Carlton Island area.
As we departed the Museum docks, and waited for our “leader”, we were informed John was staying behind to wait for some later arrivals, so John Ford and I were advised we were leading. When I asked where? We were told anywhere...so off we went. We decided to run the channel on the East end of Wolfe Island and go past the old Wolfe Island Lighthouse.
Passing the lighthouse, we headed North East into open water, and ran the North shoreline of Grindstone Island, staying pretty much in the Canadian Middle Channel. We cut in-between Flat Huckleberry and Gig Islands and stayed near the shoreline. Passing by the Canadian Thousand Islands National Park islands of Camelot, Endymion and Sundown Islands. We also passed New York’s Canoe Point State Park. We continued Easterly towards Grandview (On Wellesley Island), then cut back into Eel Bay. Heading too far East, I finally spotted Mosquito Island, which sits just off the entrance to “The Narrows” and our passageway to home.
Entering South Bay, we turned South West and skirted the small islands into open water and the American Channel, and onto our home port of Clayton, and the protected waters of the Antique Boat Museum.
When we returned to West Winds for our established cocktail hour, and found the rest of the “gang” had arrived and were settling in. Over 30 people, and seven beautiful boats... add to that just perfect weather, what more could you ask for.
Day two started out with another flat river and sunshine. Plans were to head to Alexandria Bay (11 miles) and tour Boldt Castle, and then have lunch in Alex Bay. The group pulled away from the docks a few minutes after 10Am, and went directly to the Castle. We (John & Bonnie Ford, myself, and Harley & Kathy Murphy) decided we'd follow shortly and probably just visit the Yacht House, as we've all been to the Castle recently.
We pass-by Boldt Castle Yacht House and dock on Heart Island, but had to weave in and out of the numerous islands nearby, to view the most beautiful homes on the river, before docking.
After all had visited the Yacht House, we returned to the main island, and re-boarded our boats. It's a short ride back to Alex Bay, where we docked at the public dock, and wandered into the village in search of food. Being mid-week and after Labor Day, many places were closed.
Between Skiff's Inn and the The Dockside Pub next door, the groups search for nourishment had ended.
After lunch many walked around town and shopped. Others boarded their boats again and returned to the museum docks. Dinner tonight would be at the Clipper Inn on Rte 12.
I forgot to take any pictures at Clipper Inn, but everyone had a great meal, most would say the best we had at anyplace we stopped.
Day three, started again with calm waters and sunshine. Temperatures predicted to be close to 80 degrees.
John had arranged to have two Thousand Island Chapter members meet us at the Museum docks, and navigate our group thru the “obstacles” of the local waters.
Randy Fletcher and Heidi Szonn would lead the group in White Knuckles, a beautiful Garwood Speedster.
On the way from the Museum to Rock Island Lighthouse (about 4.5 miles east of Clayton, just before the International Bridge), Heidi described (via radio) several points of interest to the group as we motored by.
Frontenac Post Office on the NE end of Round island as a post office. Mail is delivered there then to the island residents. The original post office was a little East of this spot, The Frontenac Hotel stood right of the present day post office. Then in 1882, it was moved to the center of island. This proved unsatisfactory, and in 1903 it was relocated as a stand- alone structure you see today.
Next stop was the Rock Island Lighthouse.
When we docked, we were told the Lighthouse and Light Keepers House were closed for the season. The young man was a National Parks employee who was doing routine maintenance, but he entertained us for a good period of time with history and stories of the place. He was more than able and willing to answer all our questions.
An interesting history of the light began in 1847, when the island’s owner sold the island to the US Government for $250.00, for the purpose of erecting a lighthouse. Originally the light was on top of the lighthouse keeper’s house. Then in 1882, it was moved to the center of the island. This proved unsatisfactory; in 1903 it was relocated as the stand-alone structure you see today.
Believed to be the only remaining original structure, the oil house from 1847; now marked as “Smoke House” (which it may have been used for when animals were kept by the lighthouse keeper), it stores paint today.
We passed this old boathouse, which had finally collapsed;Heidi explained there are three wooden boats inside. Their chapter has even tried to contact the owners, to try to save the boats, but the property remains in legal turmoil, with the heirs of property.
After lunch we all headed across the American Channel towards Heart Island. We did a nice “drive-by” the backside of the island. Judging by all the waves from the tour boat passengers, I know we were a big hit.
My favorite Boldt Castle building, the power house, contains a small mini museum of original powerhouse items.
We passed by the Skull and Crossbones Society cottage on Deer Island. Founded in 1832 at Yale University, the Skull & Crossbones was a secret society. Members were few in number and most were considered from the power elite parts of society. Many past Presidents were members, including George H & W Bush, as was George H's father.
We continued across into Canadian waters, and passed Rockport, turning westerly and headed “up-stream”.
Less than a mile (actually 1 km) from the International Bridge, we passed the statue of St Lawrence. Standing on two bags of coins, (he is the keeper of the church's wealth) he is over 14 feet high. In his right hand he holds a book (Patron Saint of Librarians), and his left hand rests on the giant gridiron, the instrument of his death.
Just before passing under the International Bridge, we turn hard to Port (left), and skirt between two small islands, avoiding the floating hazard buoys. We enter Lost Channel, and continue under the bridge, past some beautiful small islands, many available for public camping. We pass Rabbit Island and out into the Canadian Middle Channel. We pass by The Navy Islands, thru The Lake Fleet Islands, and onto the Admiralty Islands off shore from Gananoque, Ontario. Our local guides wind us thru numerous islands as we gawk at beautiful homes, camps, and boats.
Heidi radio's the group and explains the Napoleon Hat house, as we glide by Hay Island.
The house was built in 1913; its roof is made of wooden planks. These planks are bent and formed into curved roof rafters, the same way a boat is built. The roof was actually built first, raised up, and the rest built underneath.
Leaving the Canadian waters we headed south and ran east along the North side of Grindstone Island, rounding Canoe Point and entering Eel Bay, enroute to the Picton Channel, we made it back to the Museum right at closing time, 5PM.
Being Friday, it was time for the traditional Friday night cocktail party. About 6PM attendees began carrying trays of snacks, finger food, and dinner items to the nice pavilion area West Wind has available. Plenty of tables were available and great seating around a beautiful fire pit.
I'll just sum it-up by saying a good time was had by all; no one went away hungry. Some of the main dishes were New England clam chowder, wonderful meatballs, cabbage salad, and baked beams. Some of the deserts were Coconut cake, brownies and fudge.
The two things we missed this year were the music and the “Beer-bottle Babes”. Maybe they will return at a future date.
Day Four, Saturday, another beautiful day. Calm seas and warm temperatures, we are spoiled again. Plans are to leave about 10 AM for the 25-mile ride east to Dark Island, home of Singer Castle. John and I, as before, left a little later, and met the group at the castle. We have been there two times before.
Singer Castle is a very interesting place; It is one of the so-called castles on the St. Lawrence river in which people ever actually lived.
Construction of the four story, 28 room castle started in 1902. Completed in 1905, the Frederick Bourne family retained ownership continually until the 1960s. In 2001 the property was sold to a small group of investors. They are responsible for the great amount of restoration since then. Today you are able to rent a suite, and be a real king of a castle.
When all had finished their tour of the castle, and the gift shop, the boats were boarded again. John had planned on stopping by Cedar Island State Park for a shore-side picnic lunch, but as soon as we rounded Cedar Point it was observed that all the docks had already been pulled for the winter. Several decided to utilize a private dock near-by...John Ford and I decided to venture into Chippewa Bay and go to Schermerhorn Landing, for lunch at Fosters Harbor Inn.
A couple of the other boats decided to follow us (none of us had brought picnic stuff.)
The only “incident” of the trip occurred when Tom Love in the beautiful 22ft Shepard, got out of line in a tricky spot, and “bumped” a barely submerged rock. No leaks were noted and he made it to the marina for lunch. Further inspection by John Ford found an inner plank was pushed in and broken. Tom decided to catch a ride back to Clayton and return with his trailer and pull the boat at the marina. A good call considering it was 25 miles back up-river. Always error on the side of Safety.
We left after lunch, and had a beautiful trip back to Clayton. The picnic crowd had gotten there a little ahead of us, and most had their boats already pulled.
A slight wait at a busy launch site was encountered, but all went smoothly. Boats were returned to West Winds and parked.
Most of the group ventured down to Cavallario's in Alexandria Bay, for one of their long famous Italian dinners. Some stayed at West Winds and snacked or finished leftovers from lunch and last night’s gathering. It was an early lights-out for most, as the fresh air of four days of boating had taken its toll.
Sunday and another beautiful day. Most pulled out by 9:00am, heading to breakfast or other places on their way home.
In closing, we all extend our Thanks to John Frey for putting the trip together. He had some help from Bill Olmsted and great suggestions from Pam Gratzer, but John carried the burden of the load. Anyone who has done one of these trips knows the work involved. All hope someone or “someones” will step up and put together next year’s trip. Till then Safe Boating to all.
Thanks again John Frey for a job well done....
By Doug Vittum
Douglas Vittum was born and raised in Western NY State; today he and his wife, Barbara, reside next to Canandaigua Lake, in the Finger Lakes Region of NY. They spend winters in southwest Florida.
Douglas retired in 1999 after more than 30 years service with the NY State Police. A US Army veteran, he served in Viet Nam. Today, he continues to enjoy his many hobbies that include travel, wooden boats, dual sport motorcycle riding, sporting clay shooting and hunting.
This story is one he wrote for his ACBS Chapters Newsletter, as he has done for almost 20 years.