Written by Lynn E. McElfresh
posted on September 13, 2015 12:55
Pearl Harbor --- JFK’s Assassination --- 9/11 --- Like generations before us we have burned into our memories exactly where we were and what we were doing when national tragedy struck. It has been 14 years since 9/11 and the reverberations of that day are still shaking our island world.
Our first guests of the season arrived in June and we prepared for a day cruise through the beautiful Admiralty Islands. We used to anchor and have lunch in Canadian waters, but when border restrictions tightened after 9/11, we adopted the habit of cruising back to U.S. waters to anchor, have our lunch and swim. Our Canadian island experience was a float-by experience only.
A casual conversation with a neighbor informed us that we might want to reconsider. It seemed the rules about border crossing have changed again—or perhaps the rules had always been like this and how they enforced the rules has changed. Semantics aside, we learned that it is now imperative that every person in our boat have a passport or Nexiscard. We checked. They didn’t, so the trip was a no go.
In fact, if we enter into Canadian waters even for a ride, we must call in to the Canadian Border Services.
Instead, we packed a picnic lunch and cruised down the American Channel. We anchored off Wellesley Island with Boldt Castle in full view to have lunch and watched Canadian tour boats slowly circle, but not stop at Boldt Castle.
U.S. tour boats stopped, but the tour boats from Rockport and Gananoque circled. The Gananoque Boat Line has two boats that stop at Boldt Castle each day, but each person on the boat (whether they get off at Boldt Castle or not) must have a passport because the boat is touching U.S. territory. Attendance at Boldt Castle from Gananoque Tour Boats has dropped drastically since 9/11.
An impromptu cruise through the maze of islands beneath the Canadian span of the Thousand Island Bridge or sunset cruise across Eel Bay to Fort Wallace and back are gone.
We used to pop over to Gananoque for ice cream on a sunny afternoon, or gather up a bunch of neighbors and have dinner at the Glen House, but not any more. Too much hassle. Not worth the effort of going to Gan to check in to Canadian authorities and going all the way to Clayton on our way back to check back into the U.S by video phone. If any of those steps are missed, there are hefty fines and the possibility that our boat will be confiscated.
Oh, there are those who shrug their shoulders and risk the possibility of fines and boat confiscation and cruise anyway. But for me, the fear of getting caught would sap the joy out of any pleasure cruise. While this affects our summer season, it affects local residents’ entire way of life. Many have family and friends on both sides of the International Line. The plastic curtain of border restrictions has forever changed how we enjoy these Thousand Islands.
World events have touched our island world before. During WWII, many couldn’t come to the island because of gas rationing. A pair of oars was important back during the war, just in case one didn’t have enough gas to get back to the island. Boats had to display big numbers on the side of the boats. But after the war, the rationing ceased and the restrictions lessened.
I hope this is a passing phase and as the years wear on the restrictions will lessen and slip away. But there is a lingering worry. Is this a passing phase? Or is it the new norm? Will this plastic curtain remain? Perhaps become more substantial? Will we forever be islands divided?
By Lynn E. McElfresh, Grenell Island
Lynn McElfresh is a regular contributor to TI Life, writing stories dealing with her favorite Grenell Island and island life. You can see Lynn’s 80+ articles here (Yes we celetrated her number 80 in July, 2015.) Lynn helps us move pianos, fix the plumbing, and even get annoyed how life on the border has changed and is changing!
All Photographs by Lynn McElfresh