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The Boarding of the SS Honey Bee

I have to admit that I hesitated writing this piece, not wanting to ruffle feathers, but the experience was just too rich.

We own an island in a most particular location. Located in the international rift between Hill and Wellesley islands, we are routinely patrolled by no less than 14 different law enforcement agencies. Everyone from customs to fish and game, state police, Coast Guard and everything in between, times two when you include both US and their Canadian counterparts. Some are uniformed in marked vessels, but out of respect to protect their methods and practices, suffice it to say that some are a little more on the down low. In short, we are well aware of their frequent presence and have in fact befriended many of them as they cruise by. They are hardly oppressive, but we do keep our company manners.

Honey Bee Boat JLIt all began when I was alone in my 14-foot open aluminum runabout, meandering through the Rift, when I came out into the bay on the west side. There was …eh… let’s call it a large law enforcement vessel with an unfamiliar crew to me that was heading east into the Rift; we passed each other in close proximity. You know that feeling when there is a police car going by you on the highway? Sure you do. You just make sure you are in your lane and are staying within the speed limit. You mind your P’s and Q’s. I know the feeling not only as a civilian in that situation but as a retired law enforcement officer myself.

As we passed each other, I smiled and waived but could feel the hairs rise on the back of my neck, when I noticed that he was slowly turning around. Uh-oh......" that is never a good sign.

Could he be coming back to tell me that I won the lottery? Naw, I would have had to buy a ticket for that.

Maybe he was going to compliment me on my boating skills? Hmmm, not likely. No matter that I was as clean as a whistle in every way, you immediately know that your day on the River is about to change.The INternational Rift

Within seconds he was slowing, pulling along side of me, so I stopped. A young officer introduced himself and told me what department he worked for. He then introduced the boat’s captain (presumably his supervisor) and told me the names of several other officers representing various agencies on board. He explained that they represented both US and Canadian law enforcement agencies and had the authority to detain vessels on both sides of the border, for inspections.

Having the good fortune of being well within the speed limit and carefully avoiding creating any wake, I felt comfortable enough to have a little fun under the circumstances, so I responded with a big smile and shouted, “Hi everybody, I’m Michael!” in my best Gomer Pyle fashion.

The officer pointed to me and announced that they were going to board “this here vessel” in a southern drawl, for an inspection. “WOW! I shouted. In 17 years on the River I have never been boarded. Wait till my friends hear about this!” excitedly picking up my phone to call.

As their huge Zodiac approached me, it kept creating enough wake to nudge my boat away from them, so in an effort to assist, I started my motor to help close the gap. The young officer apparently took exception to my action, perhaps thinking that I might try to outrun them with my 15 HP outboard, vs their twin 400’s, and all of them armed to the teeth.

Bridge over RiftFinally, they came alongside and boarded my boat, which was overflowing with junk I was taking to shore. It even had a duffle bag large enough to hold a body, although it only contained large bedspreads, which I was using to protect items I was transporting in the back of my truck. Honestly, there was no room for anyone to stand without risking life and limb and falling out, so I said “I know that this is Pirate Weekend and all, but are we taking this ‘prepare to be boarded’ thing a little far, ARRRGH?” Ok, being cute is one thing, but I was beginning to wear-out the comedy routine.

After producing all required documents and displaying all safety equipment, to their satisfaction, he conducted a pretty thorough search of ‘this here vessel’. I was left with the impression that this was a training exercise, for the young officer, and I must have looked like a convenient non-problematic target-rich environment. As the officer released me, and was leaving, I mentioned that he had missed a spot in his search. He looked at me quizzically and said “where?”. I said, “under the seat, behind the anchor”. He stumbled over, all but falling out, to have a peek and looked puzzled when he found nothing. I said, “I supervised officers for 20 years, who did prison searches, and I simply noticed that you had missed a spot”. I did find it ironic that after being dragged over the coals, so to speak, I was asked to help with information about any nefarious activity I might see in the area.

Full disclosure: While serious, all of the officers were completely professional.

PS: should the Officer who boarded my boat end up reading this, please remember that “I love you, man.”

By Michael Laprade

Michael Laprade and his wife Janice are retired Californians, who spend the summer at their “Honey Bee Island” property. It is located in the International Rift, between Blacksnake Passage at the mouth of Lake of the Isles and the stone span of the US / Canadian Customs Bridge. Michael, is a former prison administrator, and also is a Professional Magician. In October 2013, Michael and Janice wrote Honey Bee Island’s Little Free Library article, for TI Life, as well as I Was the Pilot, in September 2016.

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.


Dan Harmon
Comment by: Dan Harmon
Left at: 7:11 AM Monday, January 15, 2018
Thanks for the story. We were also stopped by this group of international coast guard officials. We (3 seventy year old men) had just left the mainland for a weeks stay at my island with a boat load of our groceries, clothes, fishing equipment, and various other items when they stopped us near the sea way channel. It was late September during the week and few other boats on the river. They also did a search of the boat which meant having to move every item on the boat from one place to another even though I explained we weren't but a few hundred yards from the island. After just having driven 8 hours to get to the st Lawrence and packing the boat and launching, this was not a pleasant experience. I have no problem with them doing their job and appreciate what they have to deal with as we have friends on the border patrol. A little common sense though would be appreciated. They too asked us to report any suspicious activity after everything checked out ok. The next day, while fishing, we were stopped again by another international group. In my sixty years on the St Lawrence river, I have only been stopped and checked maybe 5 times. In this case twice in two days.
Gus MacQueen
Comment by: Gus MacQueen
Left at: 8:02 AM Monday, January 15, 2018
Well done, had to chuckle while reading this as I have been boarded/stopped by Coast Guard, OPP, DEC, NYS Troopers over the years as well as having the Border Patrol camp out next to our place near Chippewa Point. Lone result was a speeding ticket outrunning a rain storm in late September.
Pat Stonehouse
Comment by: Pat Stonehouse
Left at: 12:16 PM Monday, January 15, 2018
Michael is the greatest story teller. Maybe next time he will tell his Basil plant at Canadian customs story.
Wayne Strauss
Comment by: Wayne Strauss
Left at: 6:12 AM Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Terrific story, Michael - thanks for sharing! I often shudder to think about what would happen today if I tried a fraction of the things that we kids did on the River fifty years ago - we'd all be serving life sentences now. Mark me down for "PLEASE tell us the Basil plant at Canadian Customs story"; bet that one's a beauty... - Wayne
Jim Webster
Comment by: Jim Webster
Left at: 9:14 AM Tuesday, February 6, 2018
Thanks for the enjoyable story, and additional comments.Yet it strikes me as starange, and perhaps fortunate, that after 40 years on The River I have never been stopped by any law enforcement agencies.
I must just have an innocent look!