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  1. Ships -7 Awesome Twitter Accounts for Ship Watching

    October 12, 2016 by Mike

    Ships are amazing to watch, and in the 1000 Islands between the U.S. and Canada, you can see them close-up and personal, even if you’re not there. In today’s post I’ll show you how!

    Due to the St Lawrence River’s length, these amazing vessels pass close to many towns and parks, and share the same navigable waterways that pleasure craft use. I recall watching 1000 Islands shipping around Clayton and Alexandria Bay in New York state as a kid. Back then, they were coal-powered and had to stop at coal refueling docks like this. Amazing stuff.

    Clayton 1000 islands coal dock summer 1967 - ships

    Clayton 1000 Islands coal dock, summer 1967, family photo
                      © 2016


    If you never had a chance to experience ship watching, it’s a lot of fun and not hard to do.  All you have to do is be at, or on, the St Lawrence River.

    Or do you?

    Here’s the secret – you can see these ships all season long … via Twitter


    Just follow any number of St Lawrence River ship watchers. You’ll really appreciate the time they spend taking and posting pictures, and you can tell they have a love for the hobby and a sense of connection to these vessels, their cargo, and their journey.  What kind of ships will you see?  All kinds!  St Lawrence River cruises, cargo ships, tour boats, military ships, tugboats, barges, and many more.

    Let me show you a few examples to get started:


    One of my latest Twitter discoveries serves up a regular feed of photos, definitely worth a follow.  I recently reached out to @SeawayNNY, since several recent tweets featured ships passing by my favorite spot (Clayton NY and Calumet Island), and asked if I could share some photos with you.  Thankfully the answer was “yes”.

    Here are a few of the great shots from @SeawayNNY:

    Having spent so many years of summers on the St Lawrence watching ships pass by Clayton and up close from our family boat, I really enjoy the detail in these shots.  These photo tweets really capture the beauty and working nature of these busy vessels.

    Want more? You got it!

    There are several other Twitter accounts I follow that serve up wonderful 1000 Islands ship pictures.  Each day I see some amazing shots and it keeps me close to the place I spent a lot of time at as a kid, and still love today.  Give them a follow, too!


    Whether you call it the Thousand Islands or the 1000 Islands, it’s a great place.  Beautiful islands, great boating and fishing, relaxation, and ships.  All shapes and sizes of ships.

    It’s fun to check out the ship names and very often spot interesting cargo.  One of the most fascinating cargo loads I’ve seen was a deck full of huge wind turbine blades.  Yeah, via Twitter!  Visiting one of the St Lawrence ship tracker websites or Twitter accounts keeps you tuned in to a lot of interesting shipping activity.

    Thanks again to @SeawayNNY, and if you have a favorite source of 1000 Islands ship pictures, I’d love it if you would leave a comment below.

    Also, if you enjoyed this article, please share it on social media!

  2. 1000 Islands Tours – an interview with an American Adonis crewmember

    October 1, 2016 by Mike

    1000 Islands Tour Boats American Adonis - JWK Collection(Photo used with permission from the “J.W. King Photography Collection” and supplied for use by Tom King)

    1000 Islands tours are a great getaway.  The vessels have changed over the years, but the fun hasn’t.  I’ve posted before about my fascination with the old American Boat Line 1000 Islands tour boats: Adonis, Venus, and Neptune.  The former was the first double decker in the line, made of wood, some confirmation that she was built on a PT boat hull, and downright nice looking!  Recently, I got in touch with Tom (Twitter handle @tbogie52), who answered a few 1000 Islands trivia questions I tweeted, and found out he was a crewman for one season on the original Adonis.  So we got to trading questions and answers, and I learned a few new things about the Adonis.  Let me share them with you: (more…)

  3. St Lawrence Seaway Locks

    September 12, 2015 by Mike

    St Lawrence Seaway Locks

    Just a quick post abut the St Lawrence Seaway locks.  When my father took his boat in the early 60’s from Rainbow Harbor in the central part of NY State to Clayton, NY in the St Lawrence River, he had to traverse the locks along the way.  I was on that trip as a kid and still remember the locks.  There was a strange sensation of quiet with our engine stopped and I recall being near the wall as the boat slowly rose or descended, watching the embedded ladder rungs go by as we repeatedly slipped our line through them to keep us near the wall, seeing the huge gates slowly swing open, and moving along again.  It’s an amazing sight.

    Something to share with you:

    So my post is to point to an interesting booklet I found on-line called “Tommy Trent’s ABC’s of the Seaway”.  You can find it here:

    ABC’s of the Seaway.

    St Lawrence Seaway locks

    It’s sort of written in comic book font, blue on white, which makes it quite interesting visually.  There are a ton of diagrams inside that explain the St Lawrence Seaway, terminology, locks, the history of bulk cargo ships, satellite identification system, communication frequencies, ship watcher silhouettes, and more!

    Let me know what you think of it by leaving a comment below, and please tell me if you’ve run across any other interesting books about the St Lawrence Seaway locks and your experiences going through them.


  4. TrailMix… portable music and walking along the St Lawrence

    April 17, 2015 by Mike

    TrailMix-Icon-128I’m going off the beaten path with this post; not so much about boats, but about beats.  I found a neat app I thought I’d share with you, one that I tried on my daily 20 minute walk, and loved!  Whether you’re walking along the St. Lawrence River or elsewhere, I think you’ll find it useful if you walk while listening to your portable music player collection.

    It’s a music player called TrailMix Music Player from Resonant Technologies, LLC.  (By the way, I’m not affiliated in any way with them, nor do I get any compensation from them.  I just though I’d share a cool app with you today!)

    What makes it different?  It matches the tempo of the song you’re playing to your stride!  It’s that simple but it works great. If you like a stroll, the music matches it.  If you like to jog, the music matches it.  It works with your music collection (after I installed it, it immediately allowed me to play my iTunes collection).  The songs play one after another so there’s no stopping in mid-run/walk to change anything.

    Their website describes their “With the Pace Playlist” feature, which combines the best of both worlds: playlist creation and live tempo adjustment. Using a Pace Playlist, you can make a playlist simply by selecting a speed. The app automatically finds songs at or near the pace you’ve selected.TrailMix app

    You can download it from the iTunes Store (iPhone only), it comes in a free version (the one I’m using) and a Pro version for $3.99, and their website is

    So there ya go!  I also wanted to mention how neat it is to follow so many neat 1000 Islanders on Twitter – you really know how to keep me feeling a bit closer to that great place.  I’m fascinated by the info on ship traffic and some of the pics included are super!  Keep on tweetin’ !










  5. 1000 Islands Tour Boats of decades ago – where are they now?

    February 28, 2014 by Mike

    1000 Islands tour boats

    American Boat Line Logo 1963 1972 postcard

    American Boat Line logos from 1963, 1972, and all three aluminum hulls on a vintage postcard

    The American Adonis, Venus, Neptune, and Adonis II.  Do these old American Boat Line 1000 Islands tour boats still exist?  That’s a question I’ve asked myself many times, and started looking into last year.  I finally have an answer. Before we get underway, I tweeted a few times since last summer that I was almost done with this post.  It took a lot longer to complete than planned since every time I thought I was done, some new information popped up.  Anyway, I’m glad you hung in there for this one, because it’s pretty epic and leads to some great finds if you’re fans of those fine boats.

    My search led down a number of different paths, including phone calls, emails, Google, and personal transportation!  Along the way I pretty well confirmed a rumor that (more…)

  6. To/From the 1000 Islands Calumet Island Marina

    January 26, 2014 by Mike

    In the 60’s, if you kept a boat at the Calumet Island Marina, the best way to get there from Clayton was to call Rollo Weeks, the island caretaker, and let him know you were ready for transport!  A few minutes later, around the end of the island he’d come in his Danish Coronet!  What’s that, you ask?  A sturdy, fiberglass hulled boat that took a lickin’ and kept on tickin’.  Many a weekend he’d come and go through the white caps, always making his appointed rounds.  You may recall this fine vessel from a previous post:

    "Calumet Orange" ferry boat used in the 60's

    “Calumet Orange” ferry boat used in the 60’s

    Let’s look a little deeper, though – what is a Danish Coronet?  It was one among many variants built in Denmark by Botved Boats from the 1950’s to the 1980’s.  The Calumet Island Coronet appears to be either a 16 foot convertible or, more likely, the 18 foot hard top seen at the bottom of the ad here.

    Can you add more to this?  If you know anything about the Coronet Boats, and can add some detail about the one used at Calumet Island Marina, leave a comment below!

  7. 1000 Islands Fishing Vacation

    June 26, 2013 by Mike

    A 1000 Islands fishing vacation is one of the greatest ways to spend part of your summer.  When I was a kid, my brother and I each had a fishing pole and together we’d drop or cast a line from my father’s boat or the docks at Calumet Island Marina.  The shallow water was clear enough to let us see maybe 5 or 6 feet down and spotting the type of fish to go after was fairly easy.  Outside the harbor in deeper water, the St Lawrence was fairly low-visibility compared to today.  The easiest fishing in the harbor was for the small ones that would take any bait we put on the hook.  Ideally, we were looking for large or small mouth bass (something to eat) but always ended up with perch, sunfish, or the small rockbass.  They’d all end up back in the water (in fact, I don’t recall ever catching an actual “eating fish”, though my father did fry some perch once – I suppose to show it could be done).  Perch are bony little fish; lots of work to eat!  I did latch onto a pike from the bow of our Steel King in the harbor, but alas, it was too small to keep.  Another occasional find in the harbor was carp, but that wasn’t a favorite.

    The “real fish” were found outside the harbor; for us, off Grindstone Island.  The good ones were large mouth and small mouth bass, and we feasted on many of them over 10 years of summer visits.  Once my father did bring in an eel.  My young imagination wondered if it was electric and almost cautioned him not to grab it, but before I could say anything, he had removed the hook and sent it back to the cool river water.

    Occasionally, trolling was the order of the day.  For that, I learned about a different kind of fishing pole, very stiff, with steel line.  Muskies and Northern Pike were the targets and, though I found trolling to be a bit of a bore at that age, the thrills begin quickly when we hooked one.  Even when I was freezing aboard a wooden flying-bridge Pacemaker one cold November west of Calumet Island, snow coming down, the prospect of seeing that fighting fish kept me in the game.  In the end, it was just a cold day fishing, with no reward other than having been there.  Good enough.

    If you are planning a 1000 Islands vacation this year, don’t leave out fishing.  You won’t find a better place for it!  For a start, take a peek at the information the Clayton Chamber of Commerce has on fishing the area.

    Got any 1000 Islands fishing vacation stories to share?  Leave some feedback below!

  8. What’s in a Wordle?

    May 24, 2013 by Mike

    Ever wonder what’s in a blog?  The focus can change based on what’s been posted over time.  For example, a year ago, this was the word cloud I built from based on the content associated with this site:

    Blog wordcloud 2012

    Blog wordcloud from 2012


    Just recently, I produced another word cloud and got this result:

    word cloud 2013

    Blog wordcloud from 2013


    It’s pretty interesting, but what does it mean?  When I started this blog, my intent was to highlight the Steel King boat I grew up on in the 1000 Islands during the 1960’s on Calumet Island.  It still is a main focus as I discover more about the heritage of this boat line from Grafton Boat Works.  However, I realized as I started blogging that what made those days special was not only the Steel King, but Calumet Island and the 1000 Islands region I was so familiar with.  The sights I saw, the sounds I heard, the fish, the waves, the wind, the weather, swimming, dreaming.  So in the second wordle word cloud you can see large text representing that content shift; words like “islands”, “American” and “Adonis” (the ABL tour boat), “Clayton”, “Calumet”.  In the future when I run another word cloud I suspect it will be populated by even more terms that represent the beautiful 1000 Islands.  That’s what I miss.  The boat was the way to be there and see it with my family as my brother and I grew up.  The region is timeless.

    I’m not doing this blog for huge audiences or from an SEO (search engine optimization) perspective, but for the love of boating in the 1000 Islands.  If you have any questions about the Clayton, Alex Bay area or Steel King boats I’d love to hear from you.  Also feel free to follow me on Twitter (see the button at the top of the page or the Twitter Timeline on the sidebar).

    I hope you’re having a great pre-summer and enjoying some of what the 1000 Islands area has to offer!



  9. 1000 Islands – Clayton, Calumet Island, Alexandria Bay

    March 7, 2013 by Mike

    Boating in the 1000 Islands is timeless.  I remember it from the boyhood vantage point of the 1960’s when I spent the summers at Calumet Island Marina, Clayton, NY, and Alexandria Bay, NY.  I can still hear the sounds and see the sights in my head.  I haven’t been back in maybe 14 years, but I imagine today it’s a lot like it was then.  So what’s different?  Who out there remembers the 1000 Islands from the 60’s and can compare it to today?

    Let me take a stab at it, without the benefit of first-hand knowledge.

    Obviously Calumet Island is different.  1000 Islands Calumet Island Marina 1967From it’s glorious heyday, complete with castle and service harbor, to the 60’s marina, to today as a private residence, Calumet has a beauty and charm all it’s own.  Here’s a photo from a seaplane in 1967, and you can see how many trees it had back then.  The castle ruins were still plentiful and provided quite a sight-seeing adventure for my brother and I, though there was no way to get safely close.  I visited in the early 2000’s and it was very clean and for the first time in my life I was able to see the turret and stairs facing the Clayton side that was completely overgrown in the 60’s.  1000 Islands Calumet Harbor mid60sThe Calumet harbor was filled with boats, so many that “finger docks” sprung out from the stone walkways to accommodate all the customers.  Today none of those era remain, though a few new ones have sprouted according to photo’s I’ve seen.

    Here’s a mystery and a puzzler – why was the Calumet Island Skiff House roof and the taxi boat painted orange?  We called it “Calumet Orange” in our days there during the 1960’s for lack of a better term.  Here’s what I think:  advertising.  Calumet Island was a marina back then and a business needs to attract proper attention.  If you looked across the river from Clayton, there was no mistaking that orange roof!  The island itself is beautiful to look at, but that glint of orange would surely draw your eye and make you ask “Why?  What’s over there?”  The answer was “a marina, a nice place to keep your boat”.  A short while into the 60’s the marina’s small taxi boat got a hull of the same color.  I suspect for the same reason.  It became a matching extension to the marina at Calumet Island.  What do you think?  If there’s another reason you know about, it would be interesting if you’d share it.

    Clayton is different.  To me, one of the big differences between then and now are the coal docks.  As a kid, it was so neat to see the big ships close up while they took on coal for fuel. 1000 Islands Clayton Coal dock sep 67 I can still hear the very unique sound of the coal as it dropped down the long chutes into the ship’s storage areas.  Watching these behemoths maneuver to the mooring and deckhands securing the steel cables to the huge pilings and cleats left indelible images in my head.  I’ve seen pictures of that part of Clayton today and it has certainly been spruced up since the coal docks went away.  The adjacent town docks were configured a bit differently then, and the Golden Anchor restaurant sat above the side opposite the coal docks (and as I recall, the US Customs office).  Occasionally, small single-deck wooden tour boats docked next to the Golden Anchor, I believe part of the Uncle Sam Boat Tours line.  And far down the other river-side of town was McCormick’s restaurant, a period photo of which can be found in the Thousand Islands Life article in the References below, as well as Rice’s Marina where my father got his minnows for our weekly fishing trips to Grindstone Island.

    Alexandria Bay?  Well, that was a far-away destination to me!  Every few summers my family would make the voyage there from Calumet Island.  I remember how neat is was to pass under the 1000 Islands Bridge as cars passed overhead, seeing a hotel near where we docked (I believe it was the Edgewood Resort), and a western-themed family spot called “Adventure Town”.  They had wild west shows and a train ride that included a “real” gold robbery!  (You did not want to be the kid sitting on the bag of gold when the bad guys came a’ ridin’ in!)  The link I had below has gone dead, but if you’re interested in Adventure Town, you can probably find a clip on YouTube.

    1000 Islands McCormick's Restaurant and American Boat Line

    McCormick’s Restaurant and American Boat Line

    In this old postcard, you can see the street-side view of McCormick’s Restaurant next to the old American Boat Line tourboat office.  For more information on the American Boat Line and their 1000 Islands tours, see this post I wrote.

    Now it’s your turn.  How does it compare?  What’s still there and what isn’t?  Are boat operators any better or worse today than at that earlier period of time?  Has anything changed significantly in the past few decades?  What’s your favorite timeless spot? Leave a comment below and share your recollections of the area both past and present.  It’ll be fun!



  10. Undersea Evidence

    October 23, 2012 by Mike

    In the mid ’60’s there was a brand new dock that sprung up on the Clayton side of Calumet Island.  Pre-1960’s there may have been another dock in the same place, but I’m not sure; Paul Malo’s excellent book “Fools’ Paradise” states on page 27 “At one time there was a big deep-water pier for yachts on this side.  It was over by that little island, which Emery more or less created…” (Paul Malo, “Fools’ Paradise” Copyright 2003 Laurentian Press).

    The 1960’s dock was constructed during a period of growth for the then-marina.  It never seemed to get much use, perhaps because it was on the non-protected side of Calumet’s harbor.

    One weekend, a visiting seaplane pilot brought his craft to the water between Clayton and Calumet and provided an afternoon of amazing rides over the river (to me, that was worth every penny of the dock’s construction costs!)

    Seaplane at Calumet Island dock, circa 1967

    Seaplane at Calumet Island dock, circa 1967

    Years later I went back to Calumet and the dock was gone.  A mystery as to why, and if it ever got used.

    Interestingly enough, the Google Maps aerial view still shows the location of that dock, probably something that would remain hidden from view in the much less clearer St Lawrence of the 60’s.

    Imagery c 2012 GeoEye, New York GIS, Map Data c 2012 Google

    Imagery c 2012 GeoEye, New York GIS, Map Data c 2012 Google