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A 21st Century Lady…


She ain’t no lady!

She’s not a tramp either!

 

She introduces you to the 1000 Islands in her own inimitable way! 

Her moods change to match the ever changing face of the mighty river she graces!

Silkily serene as she glides by treasured mysteries of river history, her wild side gets unleashed when she spies open water.

She’s called Wildcat ll , and is the newest, sleekest, fastest way to tour the 1000 Islands of the Upper St.Lawrence River.

She’s also the newest addition to the 1000 Islands and Seaway Tours fleet.

Introduced to the St. Lawrence in 2011 , she is again being readied for cruising into 2012, her second season of introducing visitors to the 1000 Islands tourist region.

The Wildcat ll, with General Brock lll, and Seafox ll rounds out the fleet and is certainly strengthening Brockville’s tourism future according to Kim Barr, the city’s Tourism Manager. 

“Such unique attractions not only put Brockville on the international bus tour map of North America, but also help to make this a destination for domestic travelers, and is a great way for area residents to get to know ‘their’ river.” 

Peter Dunn, manager of the Brockville Arts Center, agrees, pointing out that combining boat tours with theater packages, and other attractions offered in the city strengthens the tourism market, not only for Brockville, but for the Thousand Islands Region.

Having experienced a trip aboard Wildcat ll, he commented that we now have an “exciting, new, and truly unique way to experience the Islands!” 

Captain Andrew Neeteson, or Captain Andy as he is better known, is owner and President of the Company. 

In his search to narrow the time needed to better connect Brockville and the Brock Group of islands with the middle islands, and up-river attractions, the Internet proved an invaluable resource.

When he spotted the Wildcat ll for sale in Victoria, B.C., where she had been used for high-speed whale-watching expeditions, he knew he had the answer.

Some 48 feet long, able to carry up to 54 passengers at speeds of up to 70 kilometers per hour, he knew the answer was confirmed.

After a winter of negotiations, trial runs to ensure that the wake would meet environmental and other challenges unique to the 1000 Islands region, Wildcat ll was ready to make Brockville her new home, and to become a familiar new face through the islands to Kingston.

Even more appealing was that the vessel was already inspected and certified by the Ministry of Transport, and met their stringent construction and safety guidelines.

Having been constructed to world class standards by Cougar Catamarans of Queensland, Australia, and seeing service on the salt waters of the Canada’s Pacific West Coast, Wildcat ll was loaded aboard a flatbed trailer for her 3,600 km trek to Iroquois where a protected environment was created to transform her into a fresh water vessel, and give her a fresh new look.

Once again travelers would be able to explore attractions of the eastern, and central islands, and other up-river attractions.

This writer (sometimes mistaken for a senior), and used to the more sedate tours available on the St. Lawrence was at first somewhat skeptical of how acceptable the boat would be for older travelers, but was quite impressed as he enjoyed the first trial run from Brockville to Boldt Castle, and return in two hours. Other, and some older companions also experienced the same satisfaction.

In more sheltered areas, throttled back, Wildcat ll glided serenely by islands and stately shoreline cottages on our tour that started from Tunnel Bay, gliding along the Brockville waterfront, through the Brock Group of islands, up-river bound, in a style early voyageurs would never have imagined. On clearing the Brockville Narrows, and after Captain Andy opened throttle, the Wildcat ll showed us her wild side.

Captain Andy’s announcement that she was “no pussy cat,!” was almost an understatement! Picking up speed to 70 kph, the adrenaline rush that came with creating our own private Poker Run added a new dimension to the term ‘Adrenisland Tour’ that had only been a talking point until now.

In only moments, we had closed the distance from the narrow confines of the Narrows, to the Amateur Group of Islands, and soon were throttled back to get a close-up of Singer Castle and the site of the Keystorm wreck dive site.

Future tours , we knew, would tell the history of the Islands, share the magic of the Islands, and bring to life their fascinating histories.

A few minutes more and we were hard by Rockport, with a glimpse to the west of the Raft Narrows, as the Canadian Channel is known. Not far west of us St. Lawrence kept vigil on his namesake river from his vantage point high on the Palisade.

Heading south to cross to the US side of the river, we were able to get a closeup of the shortest international bridge in the world as the short bridge linking the Zavikon Islands is known.

With Deer Island to port, next to circle was Boldt Castle, centerpiece of Millionaire’s Row, and magnificent testament to the Golden (or Gilded) Age and opulence of the era that propelled the region onto the world's stage.

Leaving Alexandria Bay on our starboard quarter, again the awesome surge of power vibrated through us as we picked speed, to be down and homeward bound. As luck would have it, one of the Canada Steamship lakers was upbound, and we had time for a close-up view, and feel the surfing surge as the Wildcat road confidently crested the wake. Back through the Narrows, and a chance to show off the trademark rooster tail to shoreline on-lookers on Blockhouse Island.

Fast, sleek, and proud, the Wildcat ll was definitely an attention-getter. It wasn’t taking long for the newcomer to the Islands to become a familiar river friend.  And then low throttle back to her home berth in Tunnel Bay. And so – the maiden run from Brockville to Boldt Castle and return was complete - 38 nautical miles in only 2 hours!

She’s a fast lady. 70 kph compared to 21 kph with the General Brock lll, and 16 kph with the Seafox. But then again, the St. Lawrence is a very accommodating river.

On that one 2-hour trip, we had shared something new on the river: the Brockville-Boldt Castle return trip along the International Border, with views of both countries in 2 hours; a ride along the international border between Canada and the United States; a view from Bridge to Bridge. At some points mid-river, we could see the Skydeck on Hill Island to the West, and the towers of the International Bridge at Johnstown to the east - a distance of some 90 kilometers; many of the 1000 Islands; longer cruises can encompass them all.

Two magnificent castles; Three historic St. Lawrence lighthouses; upclose steamships views;  Several river communities; both the Brockville Narrows, and the American Narrows with all the expanse of open ocean, and the Great lakes, and the wider sections of the river, it is through these narrow channels that all Seaway traffic has to navigate.

And Captain Andy was able to confirm that the trip could be completed in two hours, with passengers able to experience the 1000 Islands, have time to tour other shore attractions, and still be home before sunset if they choose.

Wildcat ll had definitely proved herself a 21st century lady! Moreover, I, and others of varying ages on the trial run, had been comfortable, hadn’t got sprayed when going high speed, although we are cautioned that that might happen.

While not wheelchair accessible, and traditional medical precautions advised, all reports have indicated that the Wildcat ll provides an experience that can be shared safely and enjoyably by children, parents, and grandparents. Standard cruises will feature one hour runs to Singer Castle, two hour trips to Boldt Castle.

As interest warrants, there will also be Poker Runs (or 1000 Islands Pub Crawl Cruises) from Brockville to Kingston - from The east end to the west end of the islands, and a mix of other personalized cruises. Rum Runner Runs covering the length of the Islands - with stops at popular "watering holes" along the way will also be featured.

Wildcat ll is licensed, has a bar and canteen facilities, and has washrooms on board. Private charters are also available for a variety of corporate, staff, family, and special events. Cruising into her second season, she is proving herself to be respectfully adapting to life in the 1000 Islands.

On second thought, I would say Wildcat ll is definitely a lady – my kind of lady!!

By James Morrison

James Morrison, a retired school principal, has captained boats on the St. Lawrence, Rideau, and Ottawa rivers. He received his 'sea legs' with the Royal Canadian Naval Air Arm in the early '60's. He can trace his writing roots to the Brockville Recorder and Times and the Toronto Telegram.   This is his third TI Life article She is watching you was published in July 2010. His history article Patron Saint of the St. Lawrence is on our History page under THE PLACE tab.

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Comments

Dave Stedman
Comment by: Dave Stedman ( )
Left at: 10:44 AM Thursday, March 15, 2012
what does she have for power?
dave
Comment by: dave
Left at: 6:38 PM Thursday, March 15, 2012
do not forget to call u.s. customs when you are here
Brian Johnson
Comment by: Brian Johnson
Left at: 8:50 AM Thursday, March 22, 2012
Great article, James!
Andy really has another winner here and I wish him and crew all the best! Great description of the river and voyage from your seat on this magnificent lady of the river!

Brian Johnson
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