All Photographs by Sue March
How excited I was to be invited for a week of sailing on The River! I summered there all of my life and was comfortable with boats, weather, wind and their ‘vagaries’ but a 34’ sailboat with living quarters would be something new.
Nelson had Wind Dancer ready. We retrieved Bill from the airport, drove to Henderson Harbor, loaded our gear, and headed-out onto the glassy waters of Lake Ontario. We were ready to sail and the lake was flat calm! It was nice to be on the water though, and the cruise to Cape Vincent was enjoyed.
Bill is from Texas and it was fun to introduce him to the freighters, sights and history as we travelled. We arrived at the DEC Station in Cape Vincent in time to watch the pilot boat zip to a freighter and the ferry return from Wolfe Island. As we tied-up, there was a rumble of thunder and the threatened storm rolled through. Snug in Wind Dancer, we enjoyed dinner with the music of the wind, rain and thunder. The next morning my walk through Cape Vincent was highlighted with beautiful old buildings, unique birdhouses, snorkeling merganser ducks, and awe-inspiring freighters. After visiting the DEC aquarium we attempted to leave for Clayton, but Wind Dancer, like many boats often do, developed a mechanical problem. I fished from the dock while my friends worked on the boat. Luckily, they were more successful than I was.
Heading towards Clayton was bittersweet. My family summered at Papoose Island for 55 years. Last summer we made the difficult but necessary decision to sell. While travelling through familiar waters, passing Wolfe Island, the lighthouse and shoals, I watched “our” island in the distance. We proceeded to French Creek Bay and the Municipal Dock, and with other boaters assisting, tied up for the night.
Did I mention how friendly boaters are? After treating ourselves to the Antique Boat Museum, we walked through Clayton. What a nice town, comfortable, hospitable, with eye-catching murals and buildings. Clayton also has my vote for the best dock shower!
After saying goodbye to Clayton and new boating friends, we headed to Boldt Castle. What a day - green shorelines, blue sky, osprey feeding their young, cormorants, ducks and the current pulling us along. We travelled past a flotilla of antique steamboats and the captains tooted their horns, sending up plumes of smoke. Steamboats and sailboats cruised under the 1000 Islands Bridge, with modern cars and trucks rumbling overhead.
Boldt Castle and the Yacht House lived up to our high expectations. The Ida Matilda was displayed in the yacht house-sleek and restored, with gleaming varnish. Upon reading the sign, I solved a family mystery! This boat was from Papoose; I have memories of my grandfather cutting turns so sharply with her, that I thought we would tip-over. Our family donated her to the ABM and we lost track of the “skipjack.” I was delighted to see she had been restored and is still on The River. Boldt Castle continues to amaze as the restoration goes on with creative workmanship, lovely grounds and an insight to a past era.
After leaving the beauty and hubbub of Boldt Castle and Alexandria Bay, we continued downriver to Cedar Island State Park. Anyone who knows the river realizes there are a “few” rocks to watch for! We spent considerable time referencing charts, GPS and buoys. Bill’s eagle eyes were a huge advantage, helping keep us safe in the channels. Our final leg for the day included passing Singer Castle and heading into Cedar Island. We successfully navigated to the island, jumping onto the low dock to tie-up for the night. As I landed, I found this floating dock bobbed in strange ways. Thankfully, I was able to keep my balance and did NOT end up in the river. Cedar Island State Park was a treat, with quiet, a beautiful sunset, nice places to fish and loons calling all night. This is what the beauty of the river is about. And the bugs? Well, they were there as expected. After all, this is The River.
Singer Castle was next on our agenda, but closed for the morning. We enjoyed the exterior view and architecture and cruised on. After checking-in with customs we headed for Camelot, a Canadian Thousand Islands National Park island. Camelot is known for its beauty and good mooring. Camelot1 is wooded, peaceful, clean and has the best outhouse I ever saw! After an evening of dinner, watching mink run along the shore and enjoying another sunset, we slept with more loons calling through the night. For pure river beauty, it would be hard to beat these two park islands.
Off to Gananoque! Tonight we had onshore entertainment, attending an enjoyable opening night of “She Loves Me” at the 1000 Islands Playhouse (which also offered overnight docking). While exploring Gananoque, I revisited familiar places and happily discovered the Sculpture Park at Confederation Park. The best sight was a father/son team catching a huge channel catfish. What great smiles!
Next, on to Kingston, and I have to share something. To date, this “sailing” trip was mostly motoring. Our experienced sailors were on the river that always has wind….and there was none. There were many stretches through the islands that could not be sailed, but what about the open areas? Finally we found a puff of wind on the Forty Acre Shoal and sailed from Gananoque to Kingston. Sailing in a boat larger than a Sunfish was completely new to me and the peace and pleasure of quiet sailing with the challenge of variable winds, are experiences I hope to enjoy again.
I didn’t realize Kingston is so large, or the architecture so interesting. We wandered from the yacht club walked past beautiful old homes and ended at Chez Piggy (love the name and location) for dinner. Bill & I took Nelson’s recommendation in the morning and visited the Marine Museum of The Great Lakes. We found the exhibits interesting and pertinent and included an exploration of the dry-docked Coast Guard icebreaker. I suggest visiting this unique museum soon! The museum receptionist indicated the possibility of closing at the end of the year. This may be unavoidable and would be a big loss for the Kingston waterfront. (See http://www.marmuseum.ca/[
Our last day, and a difficult decision: cruise to Cape Vincent and hope for more wind and sailing, or head to Henderson Harbor and home? The air was still and the windmills on Wolfe Island, just as still. Lake Ontario was eerily and beautifully glassy calm and there were threats of storms. Our decision made, we arrived at Henderson Harbor several hours later, unloaded gear, secured Wind Dancer and headed home.
What an outstanding week. Thank you!
By Sue March
Camelot Island was the site of an “organized fire” on July… See. for complete details.