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It's Kismet

What's in a name? The dictionary defines 'Kismet' as "a power that is believed to control what happens in the future."


There's lots of speculation over how this island near Rockport got its name but it has nothing to do with fate. It has to do with steam yacht named Kismet. The island's owners, Jos and Melinda Bacon, who own an educational publishing house in Ottawa, bought the island retreat in 1998. Soon they started to make the connection between the island's name and a steam yacht. There's a painting of Kismet moored in New York City on the living room wall of the Victorian cottage. They also discovered china and glasses from the Kismet in the pantry.

Kismet Island is secluded even though it's one of the busiest stretches of the River by the Middle Channel tucked behind the Lost Channel near Benson's Rift and Hill Island.

The 140-foot Kismet was one of the larger Thousand Islands steam yachts. Built in 1899, she was last reportedly seen on the River in 1936. The vintage vessel belonged to William H. Downey, a wealthy businessman from Tenafly, New Jersey, and his wife between 1910 and 1920. The couple cruised the Thousand Islands aboard Kismet, spending summers in Brockville. The yacht also moored at Boldt Castle's Heart Island, said James Bak, of Brockville, William H. Downey's great-nephew. Bak's great grandfather was D.W. Downey, mayor of Brockville 1898 to 1899 at the height of the region's Golden Age.


The Downeys were good friends of Brockville millionaire Senator George Fulford, who also had a steam yacht, Magedoma, since restored as Cangarda. Bak has traced the history of his family's steam yacht, like others, remains mystified by its connection to its disappearance and its connection to Kismet Island. "It really is a mystery," he said, adding it frequently moored in Brockville.


Kismet was last reportedly seen in Key West Florida preparing to take wealthy passengers to Havana. However, she never made it to Cuba. She reportedly went down off the coast and nothing was retrieved of the vessel.

The cottage on Kismet Island was built at the turn of the last century after the crown sold it to Lloyd D. Windsor in 1898. It was later named Pouch Island by an owner named Edgar Pouch in 1911. The Victorian cottage was built at the turn of the last century with bathrooms and bedrooms with doors opening to a veranda. The boathouse has several bedrooms and a guest house 'bunky' has two bedrooms.


It's suspected the cottage's next owner, John Murray, brought the artifacts from Kismet and named the island after the steam yacht. The Bayonne, New Jersey pier proprietor may have had access to the yacht when it was refitted for charter work.


As it turns out, Kismet Island has its share of mysteries. Jos Bacon pointed out something scrawled on a boathouse wall in 1929. The two words have caused many guessing games for his children and visiting guests: "Never Again," Sally Birmingham wrote here when it was Pouch Island. It's not known who Sally was and why she was so seemingly displeased with her visit. And it's not known exactly why this island is named Kismet. But the name seems to fit. For the owners of this idyllic getaway, it all just seems meant to be.

By Kim Lunman,

Kim Lunman is the owner/publisher of Island Life  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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Ray Unseitig
Comment by: Ray Unseitig ( )
Left at: 9:56 PM Thursday, August 14, 2014
The yacht may be a little to much to handle, the island looks so cozy.
S. Edwards
Comment by: S. Edwards
Left at: 7:04 PM Saturday, August 16, 2014
Kismet was bought in January 1913 by Barbara "Bob" Myers Babcock in New York. She was the youngest daughter of the late George Smith Myers of St. Louis, who was a partner in the Liggett & Myers Tobacco Co.
A widow since1908, on 9 April 1913, she married William Harold Downey of Brockville at her estate in Tenafly, NJ. They had been introduced at a rowing regatta (in which he participated) in Brockville the previous summer by then- mayor, Charles W. MacLean, himself a veteran paddler.
Kismet arrived at Alexandria Bay, via Montreal, in May 1913 for commission- ing. The Downeys typically rented a Boldt cottage on Wellesley Is., usually the Swiss Chalet or the Tennis House.
A cruise to Toronto ending 4 Sept. 1922 is the last I can document. Kismet was subsequently stored in the area until it was taken to New York, via the barge canal, in October 1936 for transit to Florida.
The Downeys both died in the 1940s and are buried at St. Francis Xavier cemetery, near Brockville.

S. Edwards
Comment by: S. Edwards
Left at: 2:51 PM Sunday, May 29, 2016
Bob Myers Downey was elected associate member of the NYYC in August 1913. The private signal displayed on the tableware is hers, although the yacht Kismet had four previous owners.
The dishes and painting may have been bought at an auction of the contents of Mrs Downey's home held a few weeks prior to William Downey's death in Dec 1945.
Steam yacht Kismet's second owner was Montrealer Frank Smithers, founder of New York brokerage Smithers & Co.
In Feb 1927, Frank Smithers' son, Austin, married Mary Aikman Pouch, daughter of the island's owner, Edgar Duryea Pouch, of Pouch & Co., NYSE.
The boathouse wall inscription, apparently dated 1926, may have been written by a teenage friend of Mary Pouch, the year prior to her marriage.
J.M. Moody
Comment by: J.M. Moody
Left at: 1:44 PM Friday, August 26, 2016
My grandfather, James J. Murray is the "John Murray" in this article. He named the island after his yacht, Kismet. It was he, who took the yacht to Bayonne (where he lived). My dad (and our family) lived in south Florida.
I have a bunch of photographs taken from the early 1950's of Kismet. The boathouse back then was white with dark roof.
I have several pieces of china as seen in the photo in this article. My grandfather told me the china came from the yacht, not the island. I also have a guest book with wooden cover from the island Kismet.
There were other photos from the same time period, perhaps the same area marked "Velie Cottage"
Porter Hoagland
Comment by: Porter Hoagland
Left at: 1:20 PM Wednesday, August 29, 2018
My great-grandfather, Raymond Hoagland, who lived in Rumson, NJ and Brooklyn, NY, is listed as the owner of "Kismet" in Lloyd's Register of American Yachts in 1911. My uncle owns a photograph of "Kismet" from that period.
"Kismet" was designed by H.C. Wintringham, a yacht designer from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, and later, New York City. "Kismet" was 146 gross tons, 140 feet long, 18.5 feet in beam, and with a 7 foot draft. The builder was Pusey & Jones Company, located on the Christina River in Wilmington, DE, who were innovators in producing steel-hulled yachts, including the America's Cup winner "Volunteer" in 1887 (which was designed by Edward Burgess and owned by Malcolm Forbes).
"Kismet" was launched in 1899. The original owner was J. Rogers Maxwell. Described as a 14-knot boat, "Kismet" was replaced by Maxwell after three years with a larger boat of the same type (same designer and builder) named "Celt," a 170-foot yacht that could do 16 knots [W.P. Stephens. 1904. "The Steam Yacht 'Celt'." The Rudder 15:23]. "Kismet " was probably sold by Maxwell to Francis Smithers, as he is listed in the Lloyd's Register as the owner in 1903.
An early silent movie was made in 1900 of "Kismet" sailing off of Sandy Hook, NJ: Would like to find that!
I can send you a scan of the (circa 1911?) photo of "Kismet," if you want.
S Edwards
Comment by: S Edwards
Left at: 7:54 AM Thursday, January 24, 2019
Raymond P. Hoagland owned S Y "Kismet" from Aug 1910 to Jan 1913. He bought it from Joseph E Fletcher, of Providence, RI, who took "Kismet" as a payment for his 1903 170-ft steam yacht "Carmina", which he sold to Frank Smithers at Newport in July 1910.
N Y Herald, 25 Jan 1913: "Mrs Graham E Babcock, sister of Mrs Herbert Coppell, has bought from Raymond Hoagland NYYC, the steam yacht Kismet, which is now being overhauled and on board which Mrs Babcock will cruise on the St Lawrence this summer, leaving here on May 1."
Pusey & Jones also built the steam yacht "Cangarda" (1901) to plans by Henry Wintringham, for Charles Canfield, son of a Michigan lumber baron. In March 1904, "Cangarda" was bought in New York by Willis T Hanson for his Canadian business partner, George T Fulford.
New York Sun, 18 Mar 1904: "Charles J Canfield, of Manistee, Mich, has sold his steam yacht Cangarda to Willis T Hanson of Schenectady, through the agency of Gardner & Cox....The Cangarda is now at Tebo's, South Brooklyn, and will fit out shortly for use on the St Lawrence River."