A 1000 Islands cruise is 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…)
October 1, 2016 by Mike
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:
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.
February 28, 2014 by Mike
1000 Islands tour boats
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…)
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!
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 wordle.net based on the content associated with this site:
Just recently, I produced another word cloud and got this result:
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!
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. From 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. The 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. 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.
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!
- Adventure Town
- McCormick’s restaurant
July 3, 2012 by Mike
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!