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Tool Time on the River…

We don’t have one workshop on the island, but two. Sometimes it feels like we need to have two because with six boats, two cottages and four outbuildings, something always needs to be fixed. In reality, there are two, because Gary’s father had a workshop in the Lodge and Gary’s grandfather had his workshop in the Skiff House. Apparently, this father-in-law and son-in-law duo did not share tools.

It was our daughter who pointed out that tools most necessary at the River, aren’t ones you might find on your workbench at home. She challenged the family to come up with our Top Twelve List of River Tools. Surprisingly, it didn’t take too long, with everyone contributing a suggestion or two.

Many aren’t traditional workbench tools, but fall more under the category of “island necessities.” It was hard to put them in order, from #12 to #1. They are all very important when needed and sometimes they are the only tool that will do.


Our fish scaler doesn’t get as much use as it did in our younger years, because we don’t fish as much as we used to. But there is another generation of Rum Rock kids eager to try their hand at fishing, so we’re not quite ready to get rid of our fish scaler.



“I wouldn’t touch that with a ten-foot pole.” I’ve heard that expression for decades, never saw a ten-foot pole until I arrived on the island, in 1975. A 10-ft bamboo pole hangs in the boathouse and every year we find a need to use it. What do we use it for? Retrieving something out of the water.  Retrieving something out of a tree. Never quite know when we might need it next. This year I used it to snag a plastic shopping bag that was floating by our island.


My first decade on the island, the minnow net was something we used every day. Like the fish scaler, it doesn’t get as much use as it once did. But we used it this year when our 4-year-old granddaughter decided she wanted to try her hand at fishing and we didn’t have any bait. With the minnow net, a slice of bread and a lot of patience, we were able to get a few minnows to use as bait.


KERPLOP! Your favorite screwdriver just went into the River. What’s the best way to get it back? In this situation we always use this handy dandy magnet on a string. Maybe not something we use every week, but definitely happy we have it, for the next time we hear PLOP!


When I was growing up in the 50s & 60s, my mother always hung our laundry in the backyard to dry. Can’t remember the last time I hung laundry outside, when I was off the island. But on the island, we rarely use the dryer. Clothes, and especially bed linens, smell so good when they are dried by River breeze and sunshine. Not a workbench tool, but definitely an island necessity.



Guests often ask…what is that thing? Webster is the brand name. Poly Fiber dusting wand is the generic name. Our Webster gets lots of use cleaning spider webs off the eaves, porch roofs, porch railings and even the sides of all six of our buildings.


We have flashlights at home in Florida, but they don’t get the workout the flashlights here on the island get. We have flashlights stashed everywhere—around the cottage, in the boathouse and on each boat. We need them when we run down to check on the boats at night, or lend them to friends for their walk home after a night of playing games.


I can safely say that I’ve never used binoculars at home in Dunedin. Here on the island, we have two pair of binoculars in the living room of the big cottage and two pair in the guest cottage. We probably use our binoculars every day, for a variety of reasons, like to check who is coming into our little cove, to determine if it is a merganser or a goldeneye off the north rock, or to try and figure out what the Coast Guard is doing in the Narrows.


At home in Florida, we just don’t seem to have a need to lift heavy objects. Here at the island we have boats to lift. Before we installed the electric hoists, boats were raised via chainfalls, which on a calm closing day can be heard reverberating across the cove as islanders put their boats away for the season. Gary’s father, Bob, was fond of utilizing block and tackles. Bob always spoke of the importance of using a “mechanical advantage.” He might spend a couple of hours setting up his project. Gary has little patience for all that calculating and had no problem using his brawn to lift what needed to be lifted. The block-and-tackles have not been used much in the past twenty years and serve now more as reminders of days gone by.


I’d never heard of a ratcheting or “come-along” winch until I came to Grenell. Since my arrival, I’ve seen come-alongs used for moving rocks, helping with tree removal and ratcheting a floating dock into place.


Early in the season, the Shop-Vac gets a work-out blowing up floaties and other inflatables. At the end of the season, the Shop-Vac is used to blow out waterlines as water systems are closed down. Worth its weight in gold.


There was talk about making our MacDac shaker the most important tool on Rum Rock. A MacDaiquiris, or a MacDac is a cocktail that Gary’s father invented in the 1960s and is our signature drink on our little point. The MacDac shaker is certainly a necessity on Rum Rock, but truth is we all have MacDac shakers we use at home, albeit not as often. We decided the battery charger should win top honors, especially this year. Early in the season we had battery issues with five out of six boats, with only our smallest boat the Whaler starting at the first turn of the key. We would have literally been dead in the water without our battery charger.

These are the tools we use on Rum Rock, but we would love to hear from the readers about their favorite River Tools?

By Lynn E. McElfresh, Grenell Island

Lynn McElfresh is a regular contributor to “TI Life,” writing stories dealing with her favorite Grenell Island and island life. This marks number 93. You can see all of Lynn’s articles here. (We celebrated her #80 in July, 2015!) Lynn helps us move pianos, fix the plumbing and often finds books, places and people to review… Once again she has chosen a subject that is near and dear to Summer People… tools and ways to fix a problem without having to call a professional.

Editor’s note:  Ours is a Fire Pump, used at midnight one day this summer, when my daughter’s boat sank. Son-in-law realized the fire pump would do the job and with the help of two house guests holding the lines, we had her up and dry within an hour.  The excitement made our guest say she was not an island girl, and her Toronto condo at the corner of Bay and Bloor was looking good.  

Please feel free to leave comments about this article using the form below. Comments are moderated and we do not accept comments that contain links. As per our privacy policy, your email address will not be shared and is inaccessible even to us. For general comments, please email the editor.


W. McGowan
Comment by: W. McGowan
Left at: 8:51 PM Friday, October 14, 2016
One of my tools is an L shaped wire (coat hanger in its earlier life) with a small loop on the end, used for threading a line between the boards on the dock to hold a bumper where there is no cleat.
Wouldn't be without long handled loppers and a small bow saw.
I like your Webster on a long pole idea-bet it works better than the not-so-long handled broom for indoor spider patrols!
Joan Mina Jakubowski
Comment by: Joan Mina Jakubowski
Left at: 6:18 AM Saturday, October 15, 2016
My snorkle, goggles and frog's feet let me explore the waters along the river and shoreline of Lake Ontario; was under the water where I saw remnants of the past. That bamboo pole took my husband back to his youth, and the many ways he used it. Every item listed shows the creativity of the people, something to think about!
Life along the thousand islands touches the heart & soul, thank you for reviving my memories.
Susan Saiter
Comment by: Susan Saiter
Left at: 6:17 PM Monday, October 17, 2016
My grandfather had a neat building behind our cottage that was the kitchen while they tented in the early 1900s while building the two cottages on Manitouana. His shop was very well supplied andche made furniture for the cottage that is still in great shape today. His two walls have shelves that have every nail, bolt screw, etc. in size and metal. They are all labeled in baby food jars. It is a ytrasure!
Cathy Winter Brown
Comment by: Cathy Winter Brown
Left at: 7:20 AM Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Another interesting article, Lynn. Before I saw it listed, I was going to name the MacDac shaker! And didn't you use the "ten foot pole" to shoo away the aggressive mother duck this August? Grenell truly is a magical place!