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  1. The Calumet Island Ferry Boat

    July 15, 2012 by Mike

    The Calumet Island Ferry Boat

    How do you get to your family's boat if you are in Clayton and the boat is at Calumet Island Marina?  Oh, and it's the 1960's... Well, you call the marina and ask Rollo or Betty Weeks to come get you!  Reliably week after summer week for years that's what played out for families harbored at Calumet.  The island used a Danish built Coronet and you could see it pop out of the right side of the island and speed across the river, docking in Clayton where the canon and loop driveway would meet the river.  The Coronet was fiberglass over wood construction, very sturdy.
    "Calumet Island Orange" ferry boat used in the 60's

    1000 Islands "Calumet Orange" ferry boat used in the 60's

    I recall one night we got to Clayton late and the wind had whipped the waves into whitecaps.  When Rollo brought the boat to Clayton, occasionally the waves crested over the dock and we had no idea how he would get the boat near enough for us to load bags and get aboard.  But he was a master and brought her alongside, timing everything just right and before long the line was slipped off the cleat and we were away!  That was not the smoothest ride over to Calumet thanks to mother nature, but safely done! That Coronet ran with various size engines over the years, mostly of the Gale line.    

  2. Scenic Cruises; The fine craft of the American Boat Line

    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.
    1000 Islands American Adonis from my old postcard

    1000 Islands American Adonis from an old postcard we bought in the 60's

    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!

  3. Steel King boats – what is this ? A sneak peak into the past

    June 1, 2012 by Mike

    Steel King boats

    You can tell by this site I am a fan of Steel King boats made famous by the Grafton Boat Company, or Grafton Boat Works (I've seen it referred to both ways).  No doubt there's some history to this company, which I hope to present in the future.
    Steel King boats

    "Mystery" Steel King boat circa 1950's

    Here, though, is a sneak peak to what I believe is a predecessor to my father's 26 foot boat.  If you look carefully, you can see the Steel King logo in the white area above the starboard vent.  Do you know anyone who still has one of these?

  4. St. Lawrence Seaway shipping – watching from a distance

    May 22, 2012 by Mike

    www.FreeDigitalPhotos.netThe internet is amazing (I read that somewhere on the internet).  Couldn't have imagined it when I was at "the islands" as a kid, watching all manner of St. Lawrence Seaway shipping.  I remember a small guide to smoke stack patterns that my mom bought my brother and I.  As a ship passed by, or we passed one in our Steel King boat, too far away to read the name, we would take note of the pattern and colors on the stack, furiously thumb through the pages until we got a match, and then read all the details available.  It was fun watching ships pass by, and sometimes at night as we tried to drift off to sleep at Calumet Island Marina, we could hear the whump, whump, whump of a huge propeller thrashing about as it pushed a working ship along the seaway.  I miss those ships.  A summertime treat: tied to the Clayton town docks looking out at the river, to the left the Golden Anchor restaurant, to the right the coal docks.  Amazing ships came to refuel.  You could see the crew-members walking about.  Some of the hottest days and longest fuel stops actually gave inspiration for a few of them to jump ship into the river to cool off (more guts than I had at my young age (ok, even now; it was a long way down!))   Today, thanks to the internet and a wonderful site at http://www.theshipwatcher.com/ I can visit with the ships, see where they're going, feel the excitement as the map shows them passing Clayton, maybe even catch a glimpse through photos and webcams.  It's a great site, ya ought to go visit.  As ships do, time comes and time goes.  If you're not at the seaway, spend some time with the ships, online.  The internet is amazing.   (Image courtesy www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

  5. Wooden Boats

    May 18, 2012 by Mike

    Wooden boat - 1940's Richardson

    1940's Richardson "White Cap" (photo used with permission)

    You know, of course, from this blog that I spent years as a kid with my family on a steel boat at Calumet Island marina in the 60's.  That doesn't mean, however, I didn't appreciate the beauty of wooden boats.  I did, and still do.  Which is what leads me to an interesting crossing of paths recently.  Bored one day, I was searching online for pictures of wooden boats, especially cabin cruisers.  You know them - Chris Craft, Richardson, Penn Yan, Pacemaker, Owens and others of the era.  Beautiful boats, beautiful in design and painstakingly crafted.  The look endures today, even among scores of capable fiberglass and composite designs.  Some fine examples of these classic wooden boats can be seen each year at antique boat gatherings such as the New England Chapter of the Antique & Classic Boat Society's Annual Antique and Classic Boat Show, and Clayton's Antique Boat Museum Antique Boat Show & Auction.  So as I scrolled through pictures and sites, I came across a listing for a "1940 Richardson Used Classic Wooden Boat For Sale" and that's where I stopped.  I gazed at the listing with photo, thinking "I remember boats like this in the 1000 Islands".  I looked further down the page to discover her name - "White Cap".  Something seemed very familiar.  I visited a page in this site I had written years ago and looked down the list of boat names I remembered as a kid.  There she was - the White Cap.  Some 40 to 50 years later, this beautiful piece of history crossed my path again.  I stared and drifted back - I can still picture Calumet Island marina as it was then, with so many families on so many boats on such a fine place at such a fine time.  I don't have many pictures of the island from back then, but in my head I can see the boats, recall many of the names, and now thanks to the internet can again see a boat built in the 40's, remembered from the 60's, that's still around in 2012.  My father's boat, his steel boat, was surrounded by wooden boats at Calumet, like the White Cap, and it makes me happy to know that at least one of them is still around.

  6. Gray Marine engine and Steel King boats

    January 18, 2012 by Mike

    Gray Marine engine

    Steel King boats

    The Steel King boat my father had in the 60's was cool - I loved it!  One of the things that always fascinated me was the Gray Marine engine; all 109 hp of it!  For some reason, the name seemed cool and the color paint on it was a sort of, well, gray and green (I figure a reflection of the name).  Do an image search on Google for "gray marine engine 109" and you may run across a picture of one.   Another thing I remember was the shape of the oil filler cap and the shaft that ran between what I believe was the water pump and the generator.

    Grafton Boat Works

    The Grafton Boat Works folks did a great job on this line of boats, which evolved over time to larger craft and different designs.  I would love to learn more about the Steel King line and its lineage.  I believe from some who've emailed me that successor boats were sometimes called Grafton Yachts (and I've seen them listed that way in online boat-for-sale sites).  Take a look at the product brochures from the late 50's and early 60's - isn't that a neat looking design?  Looked good in the St Lawrence River and 1000 Islands, too!

  7. Gale outboard engines

    January 7, 2012 by Mike

    If you were ever at Calumet Island in the 60's when it was a full fledged marina, you might recall the Gale outboard engines on the fiberglass workboat and taxi runabout.  I ran across a neat site that features toy models of these neat engines.  Take a look for a glimpse of outboard history.  You can find them at http://www.toyoutboardmotors.com/gale-buccaneer.htm As I recall, the island's taxi boat used a 60hp Gale and the workboat  a 25 hp.  I believe for a short period, the taxi boat had twin Gale's!  If you recall these engines, feel free to comment!