Have you been to Clayton lately? If not, you are probably missing out on some interesting sights along the water.
For years Clayton has been a point of interest for river travelers and the growing popularity of the community continues to steer more and more unique visitors to the village.
“We have had the luxury of hosting a wide range of vessels and guests here in Clayton,” explained Mayor Norma Zimmer.
And she’s not kidding. The wide range has been just that… a very wide range.
From well-known local antique wooden boats to historic tall ships; large beautiful yachts to rugged tugboats and barges, Clayton has become the stomping ground for visitors from all over.
“Just this summer alone we have had Coast Guards Cutters, yachts and two tall ships.”
Years ago the train steamed through the village bringing cargo and passengers to and from the river’s edge. Now days the train station is long gone, but with the help of grants and a strong community support system, Clayton has found ways to reinvent itself into a summertime port of interest.
Just last year, the dock at Frink Park was approved by the United States Department of Homeland Security to be known as an official Port of Entry, helping to pave the way for visitors from across the globe to visit Clayton by water. The hope is to bring cruise ships to the Thousand Islands Regional Dock, its official name, in an effort to bring more people and business into the community. Once security ‘test-runs’ are completed and approved by local authorities, Homeland Security and the Coast Guard, cruise ships will be welcomed to the small Thousand Islands village.
The future of such visits looks bright as word of Clayton’s small town charm begins to bounce around the boating world.
Tall ships Lynx and Highlander Sea made stops in Clayton this past summer, as did Roseway in 2010. The word of mouth marketing of the village began to spread by those who were aboard those ships and enjoyed their stay.
“I loved Clayton,” Captain Jamie Trost of Lynx happily shared following his time in Clayton. It was Trost who shared his thoughts about Clayton with Captain Ben Hale of Highlander Sea and led to that ship’s visit while en route to Massachusetts.
Yacht Captains talk to one another about places to visit as well. Thanks to the good times had by yacht crews and their passengers aboard yachts Blue Moon, Unity, Lady Sandals and Lady M, more and more have made Clayton a destination.
“We love having yachts at the dock,” said Zimmer, “they always help to draw a crowd downtown.”
It’s not just glitz and glamorous vessels that have begun to utilize the dock more frequently. The Seaway Corporation’s tug Robinson Bay is a very familiar visitor to the Regional Dock, especially at the start and close of each shipping season. The dock is a primary docking area in the region for the Seaway vessels working on the river doing channel marker maintenance and other tasks. Clayton acts as the final stop for these vessels before crossing Lake Ontario or before returning to Massena. Each winter, the Seaway also stores a large number of channel markers on the dock.
Last October, the Thousand Islands Regional Dock played a key role in the grounding of two barges being pushed by Commodore Straits in the American Narrows. The large ocean-going tug and the barges were staged at the dock until it was determined if the barges would be safe for transfer to Prescott, Ontario. This proved that the Clayton dock is also a large asset in the region.
As the 2011 season comes to a close on the river, plans are already in the works to continue growing the awareness for the Thousand Islands Regional Dock and village of Clayton. The tall ship event, Sailing Seaway Clayton, will return in mid-June, a Coast Guard Cutter will likely return during the July 4 holiday and yachts are sure to find their way back when the sun begins to shine again. All in all, Clayton is opening itself up to the world and the community is ready to greet you when you arrive.
By Michael Folsom
Michael Folsom is a regular contributor to TI Life. His work has been featured in the Thousand Islands Sun, as well as on boatnerd.com and northcountrynow.com. Mike was also the organizer for Sailing Seaway Clayton [Coming to Clayton... in June]. He also covers the Seaway News on his popular web site, http://www.theshipwatcher.com/, as well as a twitter site: http://twitter.com/theshipwatcher. His twitters were useful this fall when the St. Lawrence Seaway was threatened by a strike, as he was able to bring up-to-date news to the River community.