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Winter’s update from Round Island

Throughout the winter season Dr. Richard Withington  provides a unique service to Round Islanders.  He writes a letter describing the life of a winter resident – while many of his neighbors are basking in the sunny south or in their respective cities toiling away.  He graciously shares this letter with TI Life readers…

Dear friends,

Here's a shot at the first update from the island in 2013.

Many of you will recognize the significance of the warning, "The nylons are in the shower". It means that it is cold and wet here. The cold
is from the Arctic Clipper that occasionally drifts across from its rightful home in Canada. Sub-zero readings are expected tonight, and the river is
gelling. The wet is from the spray that the waves cause against the boat.

At these temperatures the spray from the waves freezes to the metal hull on contact. It can slow the boat, and alter its center of gravity.  Obviously, the dock lines get wet and freeze; thus the need to take them off and let them thaw in the shower before they can be used again.

For those of you who were here late in the season and were following the activities at Frink dock, there is good news. ..... Against  almost insurmountable odds, the stranded ferry has safely reached Norfolk, Virginia, on its trek to Honduras. This is an accomplishment that borders on heroic.

For those who have no idea what I'm talking about, here's the background story.

The weather was seasonably cool, and Superstorm Sandy was working her way up the east coast. In the late afternoon we noted the slow approach of a vessel that looked much like the Cape Vincent ferry. It was an older Island ferry that had outlived her usefulness in Canada and had been sold to interests in Honduras. She was on her delivery cruise by way of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Nova Scotia. As she passed Clayton, she seemed suddenly askew. She veered to port and headed toward the red buoy just below Calumet. A little investigation revealed that she had been delayed in the Welland Canal due to a steering problem; it appeared to have recurred.

Local commercial mariners were alongside in minutes and assisted the crew in deploying the anchor. A tow line was prepared, but the anchor
caught just in time. A 25-knot southerly wind was blowing her right toward the shoal west of Pine Island. She was assisted to Frink dock, and Clayton opened her heart to the four  Hondurans aboard. Dock rate was provided; Customs and Immigration inspection facilitated; and they were welcomed in some of the local establishments.

After about a week or two, the antiquated steering system that was older than anyone aboard, was replaced with a Rube Goldberg system that utilized the hydraulic power unit that operated the loading ramp. The ingenuity of local craftsmen had conquered the steering "monster", and the tests were satisfactory.


By late November she was ready to resume her voyage. Clayton was apprehensive. This was a flat-bottomed, under powered vessel, heading out into the North Atlantic late in the season. The crew was small, and probably ill-prepared for the cold that could be encountered. No one aboard spoke French well enough to get the weather forecasts that they might encounter in Quebec.

To their great credit, and to our relief, we understand that they have arrived safely in Norfolk. The fall hurricane season has passed, and hopefully, the remainder of their trip will be without incident.

How fortunate that their "event" occurred right in front of Frink Park!

I guess that's enough rumbling and grumbling from Round Island for this outing. Here's  hoping for a great 2013 for all of us.


Dr. Richard (Dick) L.  Withington is a retired Orthopedic Surgeon, living out a childhood dream spending his fifth consecutive winter alone at the head of Round  Island. His wife Roseanne heads to Florida when "Rivercroft" is closed in October and Dick moves into the former servants' quarters, "Wintercroft".     Dr. Withington has an airboat which he keeps at  his own dock in winter ready to help. The Sheriff's office will call him directly if and when there is a problem.  His first article for TI Life, A Winter Islander, was published in January 2009.  To see all of Dick’s island experiences search TI Life under Richard L. Withington.

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Comment by: LyndaCrothers ( )
Left at: 8:47 AM Tuesday, January 15, 2013
love this follow up , I saw this boat coming off Lake Ontario onto the St. Lawrence River. What an adventure for boat and man !
Bob Watson
Comment by: Bob Watson ( )
Left at: 1:05 PM Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Of interest to boaters running the St Lawrence River is that Weather Radio Canada is on 162.55 MHz in the montreal area and is in both official languages.......
Comment by: mary ( )
Left at: 12:00 PM Friday, February 1, 2013
We did wonder what happen to the boat and crew. Thank You
Susie Smith
Comment by: Susie Smith
Left at: 2:35 PM Friday, February 1, 2013
A final update was sent by Dr. Withington:
"The Amherst Islander made it!"
He reminded us that another boat was stranded in much the same way - the fate of eight men from Honduras and El Salvador were stranded in Nova Scotia? The Canadian people and a maritime charity operated by the Anglican church apparently raised the equivalent of $12-15,000 dollars to get them flights back to Central America. Once again a nice ending like our "Amherst Islander Story".
Terry McGinn
Comment by: Terry McGinn ( )
Left at: 12:24 AM Tuesday, February 5, 2013
I was sad to see the old girl leave Canada, but I'm glad that she's made it safely to her destination.

I've traveled a lot of miles on that ferry, but I'm not sure that I would have been up for the voyage that this crew took on! The idea of taking the ferry out into the ocean was both exciting and terrifying; especially given the time of year.

The steering problems that they experienced brought back memories of days of school missed due to the ferry not running for one reason or another. One particular time when we were leaving the Island the rudder locked as they were preparing to straighten her out for the crossing (the ferry had to turn shortly after leaving the dock to aim for the mainland); the crew spent the better part of two hours using the current/wind and short bursts of engine power to get the ferry back to the dock.

Unfortunately (for us school kids) it was fixed later that day.
Bruce Cerow
Comment by: Bruce Cerow ( )
Left at: 3:39 PM Friday, February 15, 2013
My wife Michelle and I were heading from Grindstone Island to Clayton for work that morning. At first sight, it appeared the "ferry" was heading towards Picton Island channel, as we drew closer, we could see she was actually being held in place by 2 other craft. Seeing everything appeared under control, we continued on our daily trip back to the mainland. One of the truly beautiful things about growing up on the St. Lawrence River is the almost inbred notion of going out of our way to help anyone in distress, whether we know them or not.