1000 Islands tour boatsThe 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 the original wooden Adonis was built on a PT boat hull. However, some emails I received about Adonis expressed doubt about that due to various dimensional discrepancies between PT boat hulls and the Adonis. That rumor's plausible, though. I discovered that the three aluminum hull boats were built by Paasch Marine in Erie, Pennsylvania. It appears Paasch went out of business so I wasn't able to contact them. However, the most exciting discovery came last June when I got a lead from a string of internet searches. It was followed by this tweet: @1000islandsboat tweet about locating one of the old American Boat Line tourboats It was an exciting find, and I'll tell you more, but first I have to correct that tweet because a bit more research revealed she was actually the Neptune. Was she the only one? I think not....
Some Background on the 1000 Islands tour boatsThe wonderful Bowling Green State University online database has information for all four ABL double-deck vessels. I'll set the stage with that, and I've linked to their original record card so you can see the full history from their site: American Adonis: The record card shows she was built in 1943 at Huckins Yacht (so the PT boat-hull connection seems reasonable given the year, but did Huckins build PT boats this size?). It also shows that in 1980 she was owned by Whaling City Ferry, Inc. and had name changes to Whaling City and Sea Breeze. I heard rumor that she toured the Boston Harbor area as well, but one conversation I've had shed doubt on that because of the salt water aspect (hull, engines). I wrote to tour companies in Boston and New Bedford, MA but got no answer. Unfortunately, she's the one tour boat I have the least information on. If you have any info, I'd love to hear from you ! American Venus: The Venus was the first aluminum hull tour boat for the American Boat Line (ABL). The record card shows no name change, and International Boat Tours as the current owner. What I've found confirms that she still exists on the east coast (and I'll reveal where shortly). American Neptune: She was the second aluminum tour boat for ABL. The record card shows current owner as "Paradise of Port Richey, Inc." with several name changes along the way ("ISLAND HOPPER", "MISS CLAYTON III", "EXPRESS SHUTTLE"). What I was able to find out led me to the Port Richey area, but that's not the whole story...read on! American Adonis II: The third aluminum hull for ABL, the record card shows ownership by International Boat Tours, Inc. in 1972, and a name change to "ISLAND PRINCESS" at one time.
Where does this lead?
American Neptune (the Tweet):My search started by poking around the internet with different search terms based on the database information above, as well as emailing tour operators who could have been operating these ex-ABL boats. Eventually I ran across a website for a tour operator in the Boston area (Boston Harbor Cruises), and what I saw really caught my eye! Take a look - what do you see? She sure looked like an old ABL tour boat, but something seemed wrong: the top deck was half missing. So off to Boston I went one hot summer day with my son. It was busy on the waterfront at the height of the tourist season, and it took awhile to find parking but eventually we were on foot and quickly located the ticket office. A glance toward the harbor froze me in my tracks. Immediately I recognized an old friend. I urgently asked one of the staff if I could take a closer look, (bypassing a ticket for now), and they said yes. I walked quickly to the dock and was greeted by several deckhands preparing for the first trip of the day. Here was the big moment, and I began... "Would I be able to speak to the Captain? I think I used to know this boat years ago when I was a kid." They said "Sure!" and pointed me to a young gentleman standing on the aft deck by the loading ladder... the same deck I stood on in the 1960's as I boarded her in Clayton. Or, at least I hoped so. His name was Captain Chris. I stumbled to get my questions answered, nervous that my quest for an ABL boat would soon come to a disappointing end. I told him I thought this tourboat looked a lot like one I used to know in the 1960's in the 1000 Islands, either the Venus or Neptune. Before I could get the next sentence out, he confirmed it. I was stunned. We had a great conversation while he invited me aboard to look around. You have to imagine what this was like. In my head for decades is an image of shiny aluminum and double decks, rows of seats, flag pennants strung aft from the mast, snack bar astern (important things to a kid). I always wondered if I'd see these things again and what it would be like. Perhaps a disappointing, rotted old hull being used as a work boat or sitting in a scrap yard. Today, here, was part of the answer. I was standing aboard the Neptune, and it was a grand experience! I asked question after question and Captain Chris had answer after answer. He seemed quite fascinated in discovering some of her history, too, since he was only familiar with today's version of the Neptune. Today, she is: the "Island Adventure". Chris asked if my son and I would like to be aboard for the morning harbor tour. It wasn't the plan for the day, but certainly the answer was yes! The smells, sounds, and vibrations all came back as the engines started and we backed out of the mooring. Yes, we backed out - recall the ABL boats always arrived past the Clayton coal docks and pulled up near McCormick's Restaurant, then simply continued in that direction for the next tour. As a kid, I had no idea she could go backwards!! This day, though, she spun around on her props and slowly made her way out to the harbor. For the next hour or two I walked the decks over and over, missing Boston completely, as I relived every square inch and memory of this fine craft. Some things have definitely changed on her over the years. The hull has been painted, the cockpit is now enclosed, the upper deck is missing half the roof, the hull has some obvious modification via a cutout to allow for a midship boarding ramp. Make no mistake, though, she is a still a solid performer! Captain Chris said she summers in Boston and winters in Florida. Some other interesting facts he shared...
- Boston's Best Cruises bought her May 2010 and started running harbor tours and started going to Florida in the winter that same year to work with Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi.
- The delivery to and from Florida takes about 5 days on average and they run mostly off shore but do take the intercoastal waterway if the weather is too rough. They head south in mid October to be in Fort Lauderdale to do a shuttle service for the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, which is said to be the largest in-water boat show in the world.
- She was originally built with twin Detroit 8v71 engines and currently has Detroit diesel 671 Johnson and Towers turbocharged engines pushing out about 400-450 hp per engine
- Her previous owner was Sun Cruise Casino where she was called the Express Shuttle. There she had the forward loading doors added and would shuttle people from Port Richey Florida to the casino boat off shore.
- She was also registered as Miss Clayton III
- When built she could carry about 222 passengers.
Also, my son took some great shots for you to see: