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New River Museum Floats Its First Boat

The launch of a St. Lawrence skiff has fittingly marked the launch of the first phase of the new Thousand Islands Boat Museum in Gananoque.

About 250 people gathered at the waterfront to celebrate the event as museum officials and Gananoque high school students launched the iconic skiff. Other area residents in skiffs - some even donning formal dress, including ties and top hats to mark the occasion - paddled around under sunny skies alongside motor boats and a Gananoque Boat Line tour boat filled with tourists.

"I was so lucky to grow up on this waterfront," Conservative Leeds-Grenville MP Gord Brown told the crowd at the celebration attended by local dignitaries as well as local high school student boat builders who built the skiff. "It's the kind of thing that encourages the private industry to invest in Gananoque."

The new facility will focus on the area's rich River heritage and marine history. "This museum is about telling the story of the River through the lens of a boat," said Susanne Richter, the museum's director of strategic planning.

Fundraising is underway for a $5-million boathouse along the Gananoque waterfront that will spotlight the new museum. The facility already has a 49-year leasing agreement with the Town of Gananoque to use four buildings located near the Arthur Child Heritage Museum of the 1000 Islands.

The museum features a boat building shop, a children's activities centre and an exhibit to showcase a Thousand Islands boat builder. Its first exhibit will feature Cliffe Craft boats, the popular wooden vessels first built in Gananoque in the 1950s by veteran Gananoque boat builder Charlie Cliffe, founder and owner of Cliffe Craft.

Richter, a museum professional from Ottawa, who has worked at the Canadian Museums Association and the Canadian Museum of Nature, owns the Victoria Rose Inn in Gananoque. She came on board with the Museum Trust two years ago. Gananoque Intermediate and Secondary School students are using another building as the boat building shop. The students will next build Optimist sailboats, called the “Opti,” and the boats will be used in the museum's sailing program in 2015.

GISS high school students spent the winter, building a St. Lawrence skiff under the supervision of boat builder Mike Corrigan. Students used the molds and design from a St. Lawrence skiff designed by late Rockport boat builder Fred Huck. The skiff, loaned to the project by Ed Huck Marine, is proudly on display at the museum's boat building shop, along with the students' new skiff. Huck, a German immigrant, came to Rockport from Grindstone Island to establish the marina in 1889 and celebrates its 125th anniversary this summer.

One of the Gananoque museum's buildings is being used for children's activities – crafts and games - related to boating and the river. The museum got its start in 1993, with the formation of the Thousand Islands Antique Boat Museum Trust, a registered non-profit charity. The Trust was inspired by the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, the premier freshwater nautical museum in North America.

The board of directors on the Trust are major donors to the program dedicated to preserving the region's world famous boat building history in the Thousand Islands for generations to come. They include businessman Joe Pal, owner of the Ivy Club Marina and Restaurant and Riva Restaurant, Robert Easton and Paul Regan, both of Bostwick Island near Gananoque, lawyer John Simpson of Brockville, Kingston philanthropist Michael Davies and Howard Williams of Lansdowne and owner of Williams Marine.

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By Kim Lunman,


Kim Lunman is the owner/publisher of Island Life Magazine  A profile of the past five years of Kim’s work was published in our November 2013, issue of TI Life.  Her company, Thousand Islands Ink, is based in Brockville. Lunman is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in the Boat U.S. Magazine, Lakeland Boating, Reader's Digest, Globe and Mail, and The National Post.

To see all of Kim Lunman’s TI Life articles, click here, and to read a more complete biography, see our About Page.

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