Susan Smith, the editor of TI Life, asked me to review the summer. She also asked if I had any thoughts about the upcoming holiday season. I do…
First the thoughts.
Are you familiar with the story of the Christmas Ship in Chicago? For the past decade a group of mariners and commercial sailors outfit Chicago's Christmas Ship to give Christmas trees to disadvantaged families. It is Chicago’s largest all volunteer charitable support program for inner city youth and their families at Christmas time. The concept began in memory of Chicago’s Captain Herman E. Schuenemann and the Schooner Rouse Simmons.1
Well, now it is our turn to be thinking about Christmas ships. In this area the Christmas ship is not delivering trees to the less fortunate. Here, a Christmas ship is one that passes at night, decorated stem to stern with colored Christmas lights. Each year we see a few, and it is very impressive.
|“Christmas Ship”, a painting by Louise T. Currin, a member of Plein Air Painters Thousand Island Region (PAPTIR).
Usually, ships pass with their running lights and very little else showing. The vessel all alight with Christmas lights calls to mind the paintings we have seen of the Titanic on her maiden voyage, creating a glow in the sky like a small city on a dark night. As a casual observer, it seems to me that we are seeing fewer of the Christmas ships. It may be due to a poor economy, or owners trying to be politically correct, or crews just not wanting to go to the trouble of rigging the lights. For one, I think it is a shame.
In the summer months, we have all thrilled to the sight of a long laker sliding by silently on a calm still night. Those with the pilot house forward are the most spectacular because of the long row of deck lights that connect the forward section of the ship to the stern, where lights are seen in the portholes of the crew's accommodations and the engine room. At this time of year, the nights are longer, and consequently, more ships pass in the dark. For those of us still here, their passage is all the more spectacular and all the more appreciated. As the holidays approach, they remind us of our global family. Many of the mariners on the foreign ships come from cultures that do not celebrate Christmas. And most of them passing now will not be home in time to celebrate in their traditional way.This affords us an opportunity to show how we do it here. Folks along the River on both sides, decorate on the channel side, so that the mariners may see and enjoy our celebration. It may be all the evidence of "Joy" that they will see this season. It is our little gift to them.
Now here's the deal. On the flip side, the crews that decorate their ships really do it partly for us. They understand what a splendid display they can afford us by just passing with the lights all over the ship. I think we should do something to encourage this tradition and to recognize them with our appreciation. At a time when environmental sentiments seem pitted against the ships, perhaps we could contact the companies that encourage decorations, and thank them for the special effects they add to the season. Maybe the chambers of commerce could sponsor a competition to award to the "best dressed" ship? The media could announce the times of passage and identities of the decorated ships, and people would come to the river communities to see one pass in the evening. Those who decorate, even if only to celebrate the passage of another season, do not waste fossil fuel. Rather they serve to preserve the traditions of the sea and the River.
There probably is not much that can be accomplished this season, but I made a night passage through the Brockville and American Narrows recently. I was warmed to see the occasional porch light greeting us with the traditional greeting; a long and two shorts. The ships don't usually respond to the greeting, because the ship's horn may disturb or alarm the off-watch crew. Never the less, you may be assured that the greeting was duly noted and appreciated on the bridge. Perhaps having more Christmas ships passing would encourage cottagers and shoreline residents to look toward the River as a continuing source of beauty and a symbol of peace and friendship. Sure seems like we could use a little about now, and that's what the season is all about.
And now to review the memorable portions of the summer of 2010
The weather was memorable, except for a couple of severe thunderstorms that hit our area in July. One had the characteristics of a microburst. In the US Sector, the damage seemed to be in the Fishers' Landing area. There were wires down, tree limbs, and traffic disruption on Rte. 180. Round Island lost 12 trees in the blow, and we were glad there was no real structural damage. A week or so later, another storm hit. It wasn't as widespread, but lightening hit three oak trees in our yard. The major hit blew the bark off a white oak all the way from the top to the ground. It looked like the tree had exploded. Some of the bark wound up on the cottage roof, and more of it was in the neighbor's yard. I nearly jumped out of my skin. Glad I wasn't in the yard near the tree. That's too close for comfort!
People see our fireboat sitting at the dock, and some, I suppose, wonder if it is ever used. Here are a few of the highlights:
The first major call was to assist Canada in managing a fire at the east end of Grenadier Island. I wasn't there, but I believe the fire got into the swampy area and was hard to access. The boat was gone for about 6 hours on this mutual aid call. A second mutual aid call was also for an island fire. It was on a small island below Alex Bay which apparently had been hit by lightening. The fire re-kindled over a period of four days. Alex Bay fireboat was on-scene, and we gave it a good soaking. Actually, getting on the island and cutting into some hollow logs seemed to solve the problem. There was also a boathouse fire on Wellesley Island. It was quickly managed by Wellesley Island and Alex Bay fireboats and trucks from Wellesley Island.
Annually, most of the calls are for medical problems, for accidents and illnesses. The Thousand Islands Emergency Rescue Service is our local rescue squad. They provide advanced level medical assistance and transportation to hospitals. They regularly join with the fire department in responding to island and boating incidents. It is a huge service to our community.
A very quick response assisted the operators of a self-propelled barge that capsized and unloaded a truck to the bottom of the River. Commercial mariners assisted in the recovery of the cargo and the truck. There was no damage to the environment, and no one was seriously injured. We also assisted three sinking boats during the summer. Pumps were used to keep one afloat until it could get to shore. Two other sunken outboards were salvaged commercially.
Commercial shipping experienced the grounding of the Algobay below Dark Island, the grounding of the barges being pushed by the tug, Commodore Straits in front of Keewaydin, and the tragic loss of a crewman from the Canadian Provider.
Obviously, it has been an active and memorable season. Hope you all enjoyed it as much as we did. Dick
By Richard L. Withington, Round Island
Dr. Richard L. Withington, M.D. is a retired Orthopaedic Surgeon, living out a childhood dream spending his sixth consecutive winter alone at the head of Round Island. His wife Roseanne, heads to Florida when "Rivercroft" is closed in October and Dick moves into the former servants' quarters, "Wintercroft". His old but faithful Siberian Husky STORMY and a rescued Siamese, Mylie, keep him company. Dr. Withington has an airboat, which he keeps at his own dock in winter ready to help. The Sheriff's office will call him directly if and when there is a problem. This is the third year Doc Withington shares his island life with our readers.
Louise T. Currin is a native of North Carolina and presently lives in Hadley, Massachusetts. During the summer she paints with the Plein Air Painters Thousand Island Region (PAPTIR) and her work can be seen at the Breakwater Gallery in Cape Vincent, N.Y. Her awards include a Merit Award from the Southwestern Watercolor Society, the Grumbacher Gold Medal award from the Garden State Watercolor Society, the David Gates Memorial Award from the Western Federation of Watercolor Societies and the award for Best Landscape in the Central New York Watercolor Societies exhibit in 2009.
Dick Withington points readers to the full heartwarming Christmas Tree Ship saga published by the U.S. National Archives in 2007.