1960’s… hula hoops, muscle cars, the twist, the new St Lawrence Seaway, scenic cruise boat tours. Well, certainly more than that, but boat tours sticks out in my mind today, and in particular the tour boats of the American Boat Line. Early in my decade of childhood visits to Clayton, I was placed aboard a wooden double decker, the American Adonis, for a scenic cruise.
I remember well the captain slowing her to a near stop as the tour guide asked us to look carefully over the side to see the line painted under the water, marking the boundary between the US and Canada. I was quite frustrated that I couldn’t see it, and a double check with my brother and Mom confirmed it must have been really tough to spot!
A few more tour-years on the Adonis and we were greeted with the announcement that coming soon would be an all-new aluminum double decker – the American Venus! Wow, I could not wait. Remember – this was at the heart of the space age and anything shiny, new, and made of metal was one step above anything else. The next season arrived and we logged another tour from Clayton to Gananoque and return – this time in double-deck aluminum splendor! I still held a fondness for the wooden Adonis and, fishing off Grindstone island most weekends, we could spot them both from across the river as they headed out on schedule. Eventually their wake would make it to us, though quite small compared to the huge tsunamis they seemed like when a 10 year old and his brother viewed them close up. The gentle rocking of our Steel King brought a comforting reminder that all was well, timetables were being met, and people were out having a great day courtesy of the American Boat Line.
Time passed slowly in those days, plenty of time to marvel about this new metal wonderboat, and then as if you got an extra present after all your birthday gifts were unwrapped, word of a second aluminum ABL vessel hit – coming soon, the American Neptune! Oh gosh, I’d have to wait until NEXT boating season to see this. Fall…. winter…. spring…. finally summer. Clayton, Calumet Island, the river. There she was! Wow, pretty much like the Venus; only shinier and newer. I gotta get a ride on that one! Eventually I did.
Nearer to the mainland, I also loved the single-deck wooden boats from Uncle Sam’s fleet, and when venturing across the border to Canadian waters, admired the Canadian Boat Line’s wooden beauties. It was the big ABL boats that drew my attention though, and on several occasions while seated by the window at the old McCormick’s Restaurant, the familiar blast from the tour boat’s horn warned of departure and foreshadowed the start of another tour run as happy people on the upper deck passed by “my” restaurant window.
Then one day the island visits stopped as life moved on and my father had to sell his boat. Memories linger, though, and another decade later I managed a trip to Clayton. Darn if the tours weren’t still running! One more chance to ride my favorite, and this time get a picture up by the wheel!! (I wanted to be a tour boat captain for ABL when I grew up, so having that picture morphed childhood fantasy with grown-up reality). I seem to recall the boats were part of Gray Line Tours at that time, and have read in articles at the Thousand Islands Life website that a company named International Boat Tours also played a part in their history. Apparently there was a third practically identical aluminum boat – the American Adonis II, but I never got the chance to see her. They’re gone now but not forgotten. I read that one was in the Boston area about 20 years ago, and another in Florida, but the trail thins out. I’d love to figure it out one day and see if Adonis/Adonis II, Venus, or Neptune still exist. I could still be a double-decker tourboat captain for a day! It could happen.
For some details on these tour boats, see my Tour Boats page – and I’d like to thank the “Historical Collections of the Great Lakes, Bowling Green State University” for permission to use data from their extensive database for this post. They have a wonderful searchable website!
American Adonis: built 1943, 61 feet
American Venus: built 1960, 64 feet
American Neptune: built 1964, 64 feet
American Adonis II: built 1972, 64 feet
The 1000 Islands’ American Boat Line double-deckers… gone but not forgotten! <– click to tweet this!