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Rideboat


We were headed back upriver, the last scheduled ride on a sunny, August Sunday afternoon. The boat was running well, slicing through a light chop. As we passed through Carrier Bay I glanced in the rear view mirror and could see by the expressions on the faces of the passengers, a young mother and her two daughters, that they were enjoying the ride.

I refocused my attention on the tasks ahead: negotiating the busy traffic in front of the Clayton Town Docks, making the wide turn into French Creek Bay, and slowing the boat down for a careful landing in the yachthouse.

Miss 1000 Islander II
Photo by © 2008 Brad Miller www.bradmiller.com 305-815-1662
The Miss Thousand Islands II, is a 30 foot triple cockpit Hacker Craft. A 1930s era gleaming mahogany beauty that the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, New York operates solely for guests of the Museum.

After docking and making bow and stern lines fast to their cleats I stepped over to help the passengers out of the boat and noticed tears streaming down the young mother's face.

"Are you all right?", I asked.

"Yes," she began, a little embarrassed." I am a Russian immigrant and my children and I live in Washington, DC. It is so hot and dirty there.

So much noise and so many people. This was our first time to the St. Lawrence River, and our first boat ride. It is so beautiful and peaceful

that we don't want to go home!"

I was in my first season as a rideboat captain and her reaction had caught me off guard. I wanted to say something consoling.

"The River will always be here for you , " I stammered. " You must come back!" was about the best I could offer her.

Now, a few years and a thousand passengers later I find that conversation has remained with me. I am fascinated by the profound, often poignant reactions that the River elicits from visitors, and the ever deepening relationship that being on the River fosters in me.

The rideboat, The Miss Thousand Islands II, is a 30 foot triple cockpit Hacker Craft. A 1930s era gleaming mahogany beauty that the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, New York operates solely for guests of the Museum. Miss TI can accommodate six passengers and is available on the hour all day from May until October.

Museum guests opt to take a boat ride for a variety of reasons. The majority have never been on the River before and/or have never ridden in a boat quite like Miss TI. Some are celebrating- a birthday, an anniversary, or a special occasion. One young couple took me aside after a ride to tell me how special the experience had been for them and their two young sons. Both mom and dad were members of the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum and were being deployed for fourteen months. This was the last day that the family would be together for some time.

A Finnish college student told me that she had made the trip to Clayton out of sheer curiosity. She had remembered seeing pictures of the 1000Islands in a geography textbook when she was a fifth grader.

Miss 1000 Islander II
Photo by © 2008 Brad Miller www.bradmiller.com 305-815-1662
More than once a passenger has likened the experience to "riding through an enormous oil painting ," and to the River as "the largest Museum gallery I've ever been in." Most often though, riders will ask, " Can we go again?".

Once underway passengers are immediately impressed by the solid comfort and power of the boat. At over three and a half tons, the displacement hull and 454 V-8 engine provide a smooth ride, even in a significant chop. Sitting a few feet above the waterline and traveling at speed is exhilarating. The whoops, cheers, and big grins attest to the riders' enjoyment. It is difficult for the captain not to become a "vicarious participator" in their spontaneous enthusiasm. After passengers get used to the feel of the boat in the water you can see their eyes open to the River and to the magnificent scenery. Many are surprised at the sizes of things; the expanse of sky, the width of the River, the varying depths, the color and clarity of the water.

We discuss the geologic and cultural history of the area, island life, commercial shipping traffic, fish and wildlife among other topics. Occasionally someone will ask about high and low tides or whether we will be seeing any whales on the trip.

But there comes a time during each trip, after the questions and discussion that conversation tends to come to an end. At first I was worried by this, fearing that passengers might have become bored, that I needed to keep up a more stimulating dialogue. I mentioned it to a more experienced captain.

"I've noticed that myself, David." Doc said. " I believe that the River speaks for itself, and that it has a different message for each person. But a person has to be quiet enough to hear it."

Since then I have learned to accept that quiet time for what it is.

The sounds of flowing water have long been associated with meditation and other relaxation methods. Water is a living, rhythmic substance that has been believed to have spiritual power. Considered a purifier in most religions, water baptism remains the central sacrament of Christianity. Poets and psychologists have noted the restorative effects, the less stressful states produced by bodies of water on human beings.

There are exceptions, not everyone experiences such heady reactions to a boat ride. Last season, a young man came aboard with a book, as if to say that there wasn't anything that he was going to see that would be of any greater interest to him. There are the text messengers and the portable video gamers, too. But, for the most part, the general reaction is ," Wow! That was some ride!"

More than once a passenger has likened the experience to "riding through an enormous oil painting ," and to the River as "the largest Museum gallery I've ever been in." Most often though, riders will ask, " Can we go again?".

David Dodge is a retired middle school Science teacher who is fulfilling a lifelong dream of being a River Captain. Like all Antique Boat Museum captains, he holds a USCG Master Mariner credential.

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Comments

Thornley Stoker
Comment by: Thornley Stoker ( )
Left at: 11:13 PM Sunday, March 14, 2010
David your observation that the river speaks to us is very true. While I have not been privileged to be on the river as long as you I too have experienced the silence as visitors feel the river.

Thank you for that image.

Any excuse for a boat ride,
Thornley Stoker
Cheryl Meagher
Comment by: Cheryl Meagher ( )
Left at: 11:45 PM Monday, March 15, 2010
Our family has spent almost every summer since 1935 on the river. (5 generations now) It truly speaks to us! I am always at peace there.
We winter in Florida but count the days till we return.
Ted Bradford
Comment by: Ted Bradford ( )
Left at: 9:46 AM Friday, March 26, 2010
An excellent article and David your comments to the woman from Russia speak volumes. I had the great fortune of growning up along the banks of the river in Gananoque, Ontario and it is true, once the river is in your veins, it never leaves. I feel strongly that one doesn't have to grow up on the river, but can discover it later in life and still be fulfilled.
I am now growing anxious for this "season of the river" to begin.
Bill Beaulieu
Comment by: Bill Beaulieu ( )
Left at: 3:36 PM Friday, March 26, 2010
I too have observed guest both young and older taking that quiet moment taking it all in one last time before they leave our cottage on Hill Island. I often joke when giving directions that the most difficult part of coming to the River is to leave. Now I can add what you expressed to the woman with tears in her eyes. The simple remember you can always come back.
One additional comment. I was always lectured never to stand on the bow of a moving boat but unless the first photo was taken from a bridge it appears it was taken standing on the bow and at lightening speed. I may just have to call and ask the photographer. It is a spectacular photo how ever it was done.
Ian Coristine
Comment by: Ian Coristine ( )
Left at: 5:57 PM Saturday, March 27, 2010
What a great image Brad! Love the action shot.
Mark & Brenda
Comment by: Mark & Brenda ( )
Left at: 4:22 PM Sunday, April 4, 2010
theres just NO PLACE like being on the River!
rae tomasky
Comment by: rae tomasky ( )
Left at: 12:09 PM Saturday, April 17, 2010
what a great article, dave. looking forward to getting back up to the river, doing some tours on the la duchesse, being a greeter, just hanging out at the museum. see you soon.

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