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Tom King’s Internet Research

I love the internet! It seems that not a day goes by without me marveling at the vast array of information that is available in cyberspace. Love it or hate it, the internet has had a profound effect on the way that knowledge is gathered and disseminated in today’s culture and it has put huge amounts of data within easy reach of everyday people.

While I was doing internet research for the two previous articles that I wrote for Thousand Islands Life, “Gananoque Boat Line – Photo Memories” and “More Nostalgic Vessels”, I came across many interesting tidbits of information related to the boats I was investigating, ranging from copies of the building plans and construction photos of the American Boat Line’s Venus to the history of the Canadian Fairmile ships that were commissioned during the World War II. I even found home movies on YouTube of the christening and launch of the RCMP Cutknife II and a sister vessel.

The best treasure trove that I discovered, however, came from a rather unlikely source. While surfing the “net” one evening, I stumbled upon the “Historical Collections of the Great Lakes” on the Bowling Green State University website. Bowling Green, located in Ohio, is not exactly a place that springs to mind when you talk of the Great Lakes! However, I quickly discovered that the BGSU Historical Collection website is fantastic – it has searchable databases for Vessels, Ports, and Maritime Personnel and has thousands of documents on file.

My first attempt at finding some useful information in the “Vessels” database involved typing the name “Lynda” in the “Browse By Vessel Name Begins With” field. Lo and behold, up popped an entry for Lynda VII, a Canadian registered, propeller driven vessel, built in 1948. I then clicked on the highlighted “Item 004426” button, and a page of data about the Lynda VII was displayed. It told me that the boat had been built in Rockport Ontario.  It listed her Dimensions and Tonnage, and gave a brief history of her life. Apparently Lynda VII was rebuilt in Gananoque in 1968 and was subsequently renamed Rideau Wanderer in 1977. In the upper right hand corner of the data page was a small thumbnail image of the boat. “Could this possibly lead to the holy grail – a picture of the boat?” I thought to myself. I clicked on the “View Image” button and a full colour photograph of Lynda VII, in all her glory, appeared. (Figure 1)

Figure 1
Figure 1: Gananoque Boat Line's Lynda VII Tour Boat – Photograph used with permission of BGSU

Well, to say that I was excited by this new “find” would be an understatement. I was like a kid in a candy store. I started typing in names of boats that I had been unable to locate information about from any other sources. Surely there would be some information on the elusive Lady Kingston, a tour boat that doesn’t seem to exist anywhere in cyberspace. No luck! I then remembered that one of the readers who left a comment on the second article asked whether there were any photos of a tour boat named Pilgrim V. I typed in the name Pilgrim and a list of four vessels came back. The first two were from the late 1800’s, the third was from 1923, and the last one was from 1958. The 1923 boat was the original Pilgrim tour boat built by the Hutchinson Brothers in Alexandria Bay, and the 1958 boat was the Pilgrim V. Again, the registry, dimensional, and historical information on the craft was clearly displayed on the data sheet. (For the record, the Pilgrim V was renamed Uncle Sam VIII in 1969 and then Miss Clayton IV sometime later.) Once again, there was a photograph included in the database for this boat. (Figure 2)

Figure 2
Figure 2: The original Pilgrim V, renamed Uncle Sam VIII– Photograph used with permission of BGSU

Buoyed by my success thus far I decided to try and find something a little more challenging. I recalled reading that the Gananoque Boat Line triple-decker tour boats were named after a steamship that was built in Toledo in 1912 and was designed for cruising in the Thousand Islands. Into the database went the name “Thousand Islander” and back came a list of six vessels. The first boat was listed as being built in 1912, so I opened up that file and found that it had indeed been built in Toledo. This had to be the steamship that I was looking for. The rest of the data confirmed that this was the correct boat. The Thousand Islander was originally owned and operated, from 1912 to 1920, by the Thousand Island Steamboat Company out of Cape Vincent, New York. In 1920 she was sold to Canada Steamship Lines of Montreal. In 1928 ownership was transferred to the Georgian Bay Transportation Company of Midland. Disaster struck while she was being towed to her new home port on Georgian Bay. According to the database record the Thousand Islander “foundered November 21, 1928, about twenty-six miles southeast of Thunder Bay Island, Lake Huron, while in tow of propeller “COLLINGWOOD”; no lives lost.” A black and white photograph of the steamship Thousand Islander was included in the database file. (Figure 3)

Figure 3
Figure 3: The Thousand Islander steamship that the GBL triple-decker tour boats were named after – Photograph used with permission of BGSU.

As a kid, one of my favourite family summer outings was a trip “down river”. We would head out from Gananoque mid-morning and follow the Canadian Channel as far east as Rockport. We would then either stop at the Boathouse restaurant for lunch, or for a special treat, cross the river to The Edgewood Resort in Alexandria Bay. The trip would always involve a cruise past Boldt Castle and a run up the American side under the Thousand Islands Bridge. It was always exciting if we saw a big freighter either going up or down the river in the main channel. The day would usually end with a stop at Leek Island (Lake Fleet) for a swim. One of the memories that I have from these trips was of all the “skinny” little tour boats from Alexandria Bay that darted back and forth across the channel, heading over to see the castle. I remember names like Spray and many iterations of Uncle Sam and I can still picture how they sliced through the water with their sharp bows and narrow beams.

I decided that I would see if any of these little tour boats were in the Bowling Green State University database. The first name that I entered was Spray. Only one entry came back; the Spray V and it had no picture on file. The next name that I entered was Uncle Sam and four vessels were listed for that name. Two of the boats were from the 1800’s and another was from 1926. This one turned out to be the original “skinny” Uncle Sam tour boat that was owned by several different companies in Alexandria Bay during its life. The database also contained a black and white photograph of the Uncle Sam. (Figure 4)

figure 4
Figure 4: The original Uncle Sam tour boat was built in 1926 – Photograph used with permission of BGSU.

In an attempt to find as many pictures of old tour boats as possible I also did a “Google” image search for “1000 Island Tour Boats” as part of the background research for this article. I found that there were several vintage postcards with tour boats on them listed in different on-line auctions. I broke down, and for the princely sum of $1.75, I bought one that had a picture of the original Uncle Sam tour boat on it. (Figure 5)

Figure 5
Figure 5: A vintage postcard with a picture of the original Uncle Sam tour boat - Image courtesy of the T.R. King Collection

When I did the database search for the name “Thousand Islander” there was also a listing for a boat built in 1926. Further investigation revealed that this boat had been built by John D. Hunt in Alexandria Bay and was originally owned by Combined Thousand Island Boat Tours company. This tour boat was purchased by Uncle Sam Boat Tours Inc. in 1952 and she was renamed Uncle Sam III. According to the records, this boat was listed as “abandoned” in March 1979. There was, once again, a beautiful black and white photograph of this boat in the database file. (Figure 6)

Figure 6
Figure 6: The Thousand Islander, built in 1926, was later renamed Uncle Sam III - Photograph used with permission of BGSU.

The final vessel that is included in this article is a mystery to me and I would love to learn more about her. I found the pictures of this boat when I was going through my father’s 35 mm. slide collection. I recall seeing it docked in the Gananoque River at the old Ontario Steel Products complex, just below the Confederation Pond and King Street Bridge. I believe part of the facility was being used by a boat building company (Algan Shipyards?) at the time and the vessel was in for an overhaul and refit. If my memory serves me correctly, the boat was “torpedoed” by a log coming through the nearby dam during the spring run-off in 1975 and she sunk at the dock (Figure 7).

Figure 7
Figure 7: Sunken vessel in the Gananoque River - circa April 1975 – Photo Credit: Jim King

After having many of the portholes boarded over, and the hole in the hull patched, the boat was eventually pumped out and raised back to the surface (Figure 8). The date stamp on the original 35 mm. slide for the refloated vessel was July 1975. I was unable to see any identification markings or names on the boat from the pictures that I had to examine, so I don’t have any information to use to search for more details about this grand old lady.

Figure 8
Figure 8: Refloated vessel in the Gananoque River - circa July 1975 – Photo Credit: Jim King

If any of the readers can shed some light on the history of this craft, it would be greatly appreciated.

About the Historical Collections of the Great Lakes

The Historical Collections of the Great Lakes at Bowling Green State University, founded in 1969, is a subject area collection within the Center for Archival Collections in the University Libraries.

The HCGL's holdings total more than 2,200 linear feet of manuscript and archival materials contained in approximately 450 collections. Major collections include the Lake Carriers' Association, American Ship Building Co., Wilson Marine Transit Co., Loudon G. Wilson, John E. Poole, Richard J. Wright Marine Collection, the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority and the archives of the International Ship Masters' Association.

The HCGL’s collection also includes: more than 9,000 vols., 4,500 pamphlets, and 250 linear feet of periodicals (more than 350 titles); a photograph collection of 140,000 images; several hundred thousand ship building drawings dating from the late nineteenth century; navigational chart collection; a large (550 vols.) collection of maritime news clippings dating from the 1860's; and vessel data sheets for approximately 10,000 vessels.

We have cataloged most of these items and they are accessible through OhioLINK, a statewide online public access catalog of the holdings of ninety college and university library collections from Ohio. We have also created several online databases documenting Great Lakes vessels, people, and ports and have contributed digital images to the Ohio Memory Project.

Robert W. Graham, Archivist, Historical Collections of the Great Lakes, Bowling Green State University

Websites referenced in this article:

[1] American Venus plans and construction photos

[2] Historical data on the Canadian Fairmile warships

[3] YouTube video of the christening and launch of the RCMP Cutknife II

[4] Bowling Green State University Historical Collections of the Great Lakes

[5] Playle’s On-line Auctions


By Tom King, Milton, ON.

This is Tom King’s third article for TI Life, all relating to the many tourboats that helped bring millions of tourists to the region over the last century and a half.  Until now, the history of these proud ships has almost been forgotten.  However, Tom and the many TI Life subscribers who have provided answers to Tom's questions as well as valuable comments/ have made this history come alive.

Tom King  and his wife Marion, have lived in Milton, Ontario for the past twenty-five years, where they both worked and raised their family of three children; Kris, Mike and Becca. Tom still has a strong attachment to the Thousand Islands, having grown up in Gananoque and being a “river rat” from a very early age. The family tries to return to the islands every summer and for the past few years have been renting a cottage on Sampson (a.k.a. Heritage) Island, just out from Gananoque.

Please keep providing this important information!

Posted in: History, Sports
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jack patterson
Comment by: jack patterson ( )
Left at: 10:32 PM Thursday, April 14, 2011
As a child arriving for the summer on an island I remember the excitement. We came from Connecticut by car- memories go back as far as even before WW II. About Watertown tables started appearing along the side of the road. Men with field glasses under large beach umbrellas would call out to us, waving pamphlets, etc."Connecticut! Connecticut!", they'd say; "Over here for a Boat Tour of the Thousand Islands!" They used the binoculars to spot our license plate as we rounded a corner far away down the road. Also perhaps to get ahead of their competitors across the road who maybe didn't have such glasses. Didn't work with us. We were on to them and besides, "We had our OWN Island...!" Too, our grandfather called them, "sucker boats" and we looked down our noses at them. THey were only for the tourusts! WE had our OWN boats to tour the islands! So THERE! An ex employee of my grandfather's drove a tour boat for one of the Gan boat lines after having been employed on the island but dismissed for, I think, an infraction. It was a small boat much like the ones herein shown but some narrower and shorter so that it could navigate in and out amongst the narrow channels. We heard him bragging one day over the loudspeaker, "On your left is the summer home of The Breyer's of Breyer's Ice Cream and the Baker's of Baker's Chocolate..." We thought that was rich! My great grandparents WERE named Baker and my grandparents WERE named Breyer but we were not at all related to either of the families to which he alluded. I remember many of the boats you have shown. Thank you.
Kearney Bennet
Comment by: Kearney Bennet ( )
Left at: 6:23 PM Friday, April 15, 2011
A native of Clayton, we lived on Riverside Drive past the "hawkers" for the American Boat Line in Clayton (see above comment by Jack Patterson). However, we also lived in Vrigina and got the same treatment Jack did when they spied our VA license plates coming around the corner. My Aunt Helen, spinster and very proper Clayton school teacher, used to delight in driving the VA car and getting amongst the tourist cars lined up behind a guide car taking the tourists to the American Boat Line parking lot. She would then turn left into the dead end lane leading to our garage, closely followed by a line of cars from out of state. We kids had the job of helping the confused tourists and getting them to the ABL parking.
Lynda Heberling Wright
Comment by: Lynda Heberling Wright ( )
Left at: 7:01 PM Friday, April 15, 2011
I am the 3rd generation owner of a cottage on the east end of Hill Island. I was born in 1947. I remember the tour boat out of Rockport named Lynda. There was also a tour boat named Paul. My father (Paul Heberling ) and I used to tell people, jokingly, that the tour boats were named after us. Thanks for your story. It brought back fond memories.
Ted Bradford
Comment by: Ted Bradford ( )
Left at: 10:21 AM Saturday, April 16, 2011
Hi again Tom.
Again, some wonderful photos evoking soem great memories. I remember vividly that scuttled boat near the raceway in Gananoque, What I am wondering, is what is the vessel behind her in the first photo? The Bowling Green University archives are a great resource...good find. I was nosing through them this morning and just out of curiosity, searched LADY LINGSTON. That name didn't come up, however, Iroquois II did. Plus, eureka, it had a photo! Lo and's the Lady Kingston...right down to the name on her bow. Very cool to see her again.

Thanks Tom...keep the photos coming.

jack patterson
Comment by: jack patterson ( )
Left at: 1:11 PM Saturday, April 16, 2011
Remember the Lynda and all successive Lynda's! And I can picture the dead end with your aunt leading the tourist parade. Yes, Virginia surely got you their attenion! We would have LOVED that! We knew ALL the tour boats, but nothing brought us running like the RCMP, "Cutknife"(would she lower the runabout?) and the grand lady of our whole section of river, the Bon Papa. I think a Hacker and I think 40 feet. So dark was the mahogany finish that she appeared black, topsides. See her now in my mind's eye as she cruises down the channel against Grindstone on a trip to Clayton, likely. We even knew her SOUND! Lovingly kept and owned by Phil Sharpless-maybe Phil's dad, on Netley. Anyway, what was a boy to do on an island all Summer with next to no pals? We did know and hang out with Howard Wakefield (and Isabelle) on Sugar and I did pal around some with Johnny Court who's Dad, I think only - with some Court brothers originally from Round Island, had a tent camp on the bay of Grindstone (Delaney Bay- as you go in on the right. Has one of the very, very few sand beaches which we used to play on- 1940's) The islands were mostly unoccupied-empty. Few were as intrepid as my grandparents in living way out from shore on an island.
Tom King
Comment by: Tom King ( )
Left at: 9:21 AM Sunday, April 17, 2011
The mystery vessel has been identified! After communicating with Fraser McKee and Marc-André Morin, two noted experts on the RCN Fairmile boats from WWII, it was determined that the sunken (and refloated) craft pictured in the Gananoque River was Fairmile Q088, a sister ship to the Miss Kingston. Q088 was built in Toronto in 1942 by J.J. Taylor, the same shipyard that later built the RCMP Cutknife II. After the war Q088 was disposed of and began a life as a tourist cruise boat. She was first renamed the "Eighty-Eight" and later "Penetang Eighty-Eight" and was in service in Georgian Bay. The "Penetang Eighty-Eight" was purchased by Kingston & The Islands Boat Lines Ltd in 1974 and was renamed "Olympia III". In March of 1975 she sank at the dock in the Gananoque River after having her hull breeched by a log coming downriver during the spring run-off. The Olympia III changed hands a couple of times after this but she never regained her former grandeur. It is reported that she was eventually destroyed by fire.

I believe that the vessel moored behind the sunken "Olympia III" in the photograph is the Sea Prince II from the Rockport Boat Line.

Tom King
Comment by: Tom King ( )
Left at: 8:52 PM Sunday, April 17, 2011
A tip of the hat and special thanks to Ted Bradford for tracking down some documentation the elusive Lady Kingston. I did not know that she was "Iroquois II" in her previous life. That's the beauty of this forum - someone always seem to have a piece of the puzzle!

Ted Bradford
Comment by: Ted Bradford ( )
Left at: 1:55 PM Monday, April 18, 2011
Agreed, it IS a great forum and a wonderful "e-zine" that I look forward to every month.

Thanks Tom!

jack patterson
Comment by: jack patterson ( )
Left at: 2:45 PM Monday, April 18, 2011
Emphatically second Ted's statement about this being a great forum and wonderful e-zine. As good as I know of and as I could wish for. Bravo Susie Smith and Ian, et al. Huge Bravo!
P.S. I hope to write some about earliest inhabitants. Maybe especially during and subsequent to, first European contact. Movement of people north, south, east and west and why...Maybe get some help from you all.
Tom King
Comment by: Tom King ( )
Left at: 3:09 PM Monday, April 18, 2011
I do believe that I made a boo-boo! After a bit more research and looking at some other pictures I think that the boat moored behind the sunken Olympia III is the Miss Midland, not the Sea Prince II. I read that Marlin Yachts took the Olympia III in as a trade-in on the new Miss Midland, which was built in Gananoque around that time. I do have a picture of the Sea Prince II wintering in the Gananoque River. Sorry to have misled anyone.

Bryan Honeywell
Comment by: Bryan Honeywell ( )
Left at: 4:00 PM Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Growing up in Clayton and working as a deckhand on many boats (my first was the Narra Matta a 1902 Elco out of the ABM) it was cool to come across the photo of the Sam VIII which I worked on when it was called the Miss Clayton IV. I mostly remembered facing sternward from my announcing spot and watching the whole boat flex precariously as we would go over and through larger boat wakes.

This boat (what's left of her) can be currently seen on Walton St. in Alex Bay across form the golf course in a sad state.

Thanks for the article.
Pete Glazier
Comment by: Pete Glazier ( )
Left at: 9:19 PM Monday, April 25, 2011
I helped Ian Campbell bring the 88 down from Penetang in the spring of 74, but had to leave the boat in Amherstburg due to a prior committment.It was my understanding the boat was taken on trade.
james dumont
Comment by: james dumont ( )
Left at: 1:32 PM Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Hi Tom, I'm the owner of Slideout, an RCMP boat built by JJ Taylor in 1967. I saw the videos on Youtube of the RCMP launch and I'm trying to find more info or photos of her. Thanks, James Dumont
Ted Bradford
Comment by: Ted Bradford ( )
Left at: 7:49 PM Saturday, December 3, 2011
Hi Tom,

Just thought I'd drop you a quick note to let you know that the search for the old Lady Kingston is over. She is alive and well and plying the waters in Quebec. Her appearance is modified, but it is definitely her. A pic at the following link...

I normally don't have this much time on my hands, but was curious as to what became of her.

All the best for the holidays.
Tom King
Comment by: Tom King ( )
Left at: 5:33 PM Sunday, December 4, 2011
Hi Ted;

Thanks for your continued investigation into the fate of the venerable "Lady Kingston". Looking at the picture in the link that you just posted and the one of Iroquois II that is on the BGSU website, they are definitely the same boat. Another clue that you have the correct vessel is that in the name change section of the BGSU entry for Iroquois II it has St-Maurice I listed as her latest name. Seeing that the new picture is taken on the St. Maurice river, I would say that is a pretty good confirmation!

You win the Sherlock Holmes award for this one! ;-)

Happy Holidays to everyone.

Tom King
Comment by: Tom King ( )
Left at: 10:37 PM Tuesday, December 6, 2011
I have been able to find some information on the RCMP patrol boat named "Slideout". It turns out that there were two RCMP craft with that name - the first was a 48 foot Harbour Defence Patrol Craft (HDPC), Class 30, that was in service from 1946 to 1960. The second boat with that name was built by J.J. Taylor in Toronto in 1966 for use at Expo 67. It's designation was MP41. A sister ship, the Battleford (MP42) was also built for Expo 67 at the same time. The newest "Slideout" was a "Detachment" class, wooden cabin cruiser design and had an overall length of 29 feet, a beam of 9'6", a draft of 3 feet and a displacement of 8 tons. She was powered by a single 120 HP Perkins diesel engine and cruised at around 6 knots. This boat was part of the RCMP's "E" Division and was stationed on Canada's west coast. The "Slideout" moniker comes from the name of one of the early North West Territory fortified trading post that was used during the fur trading years.

A picture of the vessel can be found at the website:

Hope that helps!