Photo © Ian Coristine/
 You are here:  Back Issues      Archive

Thousand Islands One-Design Sailboats

The 1000 Islands is a playground for a multitude of summer water-based activities. Swimming, rowing, kayaking, wake-boarding, water-skiing, and riding Jet-Skis are but a few of many possible recreational possibilities on the “River.” In the mid-1920s another activity thrived for members and guests of the Thousand Islands Yacht Club in the form of sailing races.



This slice of 1000 Islands history has been all but forgotten. Those who participated have all passed away and no one took the time to document this example of wholesome fun for future generations. My father, Mancel Clark Jr., was a member of this fraternity and his boat the “MT” is headed to the Antique Boat Museum to take its place along side many other unique and historic boats that played a role in days gone by.



So what is it about this boat that makes it special and a part of 1000 Islands’ boating lore? The Thousand Island Class, Knockabout, also known as a Thousand Islands one-design was designed by John Alden and built by Chaisson Boat Builders of Swampscott, MA. Outfitted with a mainsail and a jib this 15-foot vessel is equipped with a centerboard in order to help the sailor maintain control despite the River’s swift currents and tricky wind shifts. The 6-foot beam provides extra stability for dealing with unpredictable wind gusts that swirl around the myriad of islands.



In the July 17, 1924 edition of the Thousand Islands Sun, it is reported, “Every Wednesday and Saturday afternoon sailing races are held below Westminster Park on the Canadian side. Dances are also hosted by the same Thousand Islands Yacht Club on those nights.” The course is 3 1/3 miles long and it is once around for regular weekly races and twice around for Commodore Cup races. An impressive sterling silver trophy awarded for second place graced our mantle for many decades after my father and his celebrated artist uncle, Alson Skinner Clark, distinguished themselves in a 1926 race. The races began early in July and ran to the end of August.


The boats began production in 1924 and races began that summer. I found an entry in the Comfort Island guest book for July 4, 1924 which reads, “First sailing race #1 … Won.” (Mancel Jr’s boat number was #1)



A sense of community developed among the principles and sometimes a fledgling romance might take root. My father recalled, “There was plenty of excitement associated with the arrival of these six newly minted Thousand Islands one-design sailboats. After I named my boat the “MT,” Clover Boldt, named hers’ the “QT.” Names like Dewart, Haydon, Shumway, Eggleston, McNally, Boldt, Kincaid, Berdan, Hammond, Oliphant, Rafferty, Clark and others shared the camaraderie of those carefree days.


Life can change quickly and often without warning. In early 1928 Mancel Sr. died suddenly of pneumonia. He had been a catalyst for these races providing the committee boat and presiding over many of the regattas. In 1929 the stock market collapsed and the Great Depression followed. The TIYC languished during the 1930s. Robert Mathews reports in his concise history of the “Thousand Islands Yacht Club” book that the property was sold for taxes in 1944 and torn down two years after. Few records of the Yacht Club survive today. Mr. Mathews, like me, had difficulty gathering detailed materials. When I talked to him in the course of my research efforts on the sailing race topic earlier this summer, he said, “I never ran across any mention of sailing races and to be truthful I was unaware that these sailboat races even existed.”


My father’s association with the TI Yacht Club ended with the death of his father and he relocated to California after college in 1936. It was 1961 when Dad, my mother, my two sisters and I returned for a summer-long stay. This was my first visit to Comfort Island as the trip from Southern California was 3000 miles and a doubly difficult journey before the advent of four-lane highways. The “MT” had found a temporary home with the Andrew McNally III’s family but was no longer in use by the kids who had graduated to power boats, water-skiing and other more dynamic activities. Comfort Island no longer possessed a fleet of boats and my sisters and I jumped at the opportunity to resurrect the “MT” along with the St Lawrence Skiff, “Bobby.”


The bottom needed caulking and the sails were somewhat fragile but the hull was sound and the rigging complete. I quickly learned to enjoy sailing the “MT” and to appreciate the fine qualities of this exceptional sailboat. I found I could make headway sailing against the swift current of the “narrows” between Alexandria Bay and the “International Bridge” even when the wind dropped to little more than a whisper. And when the wind was strong and persistent, I never felt in danger of capsizing. Despite the fact that when races were conducted during the 1920s one person steered and handled the mainsail while a second person handled the jib, I never felt burdened handling both.


This boat truly deserves its place among the classics of “River” master-craftsmanship. Much like the St Lawrence Skiff which was adapted to deal with the local boating conditions so has the Thousand Islands One-Design achieved the same function. It would be a thrill to see a new fleet of these sailboats begin another era with individuals navigating and enjoying the River in silence without any worry about gasoline prices or where and when to fill up next.

By Tad Clark, Comfort Island

Tad Clark, a fourth-generation, summer resident of both Grenadier and Comfort Islands, has been a tennis coach for over 35 years. His growing interest in freelance writing includes commentaries for the TI Sun, the history of Comfort Island: and a profile of the St. Lawrence Skiff, in our September 2010 issue of TI Life, About the Skiff….  When not in the Thousand Islands he and his wife life in Asheville, NC. 

Posted in: Places, People, Sports
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.


John Thumper Peach
Comment by: John Thumper Peach ( )
Left at: 9:04 PM Friday, October 14, 2011
A wonderful piece of 1000 Islands history brought to life. You are to be commended for the research, and the effort involved in granting "MT" to the Antique Boat Museum. She should be an important part of their collection.
John Thumper Peach
Deborah Clark
Comment by: Deborah Clark ( )
Left at: 12:02 AM Saturday, October 15, 2011
Thanks Tad for your diligence and dedication, finding not only all that you could about the "MT", but giving it a lifetime home at the Antique Boat Museum. I am proud of you and I know that Dad would have been too. I remember his saying that the original TIYC sailboats were a Herreshoff design considered way too fast and unsteady for youngsters which made this Alden design extremely popular with their nervous parents.
Your little sis, Deb.
Judy McCullough
Comment by: Judy McCullough ( )
Left at: 11:54 AM Saturday, October 15, 2011
Wonderful article,Tad. So glad it will be at the museum
Comment by: Jack ( )
Left at: 3:00 PM Saturday, October 15, 2011
Thanks Tad! Great article
Comment by: Sandpile ( )
Left at: 2:51 PM Sunday, October 16, 2011
Oh, Tad, beautifully done. Congratulations!
Bowie Arnot
Comment by: Bowie Arnot ( )
Left at: 4:12 PM Sunday, October 16, 2011
Great job at telling a terrific story!
Comment by: Linda/Missouri ( )
Left at: 8:35 AM Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Tad, absolutely a wonderfully written article. Wow, it is great to have a history so precious to be able to write about it and entertain all those who have the opportunity to read the articles.
Nice.....nice job.
Ellen Clark
Comment by: Ellen Clark
Left at: 7:51 PM Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Really nice writing job. I learned a lot as well. Congrats!
Louise Ford
Comment by: Louise Ford ( )
Left at: 12:52 PM Thursday, October 20, 2011
Tad what a great story. I had never heard of the TI One Design. My father brought the International 14 from England in the 1930's to the USA/Canada and this boat looks about the same size. How lucky you are to have "found" her and were able to send her to such a wonderful home in the museum.. I would love to find one of my father's old boats or even a 14 from that era but all I ever see are new plastic ones ! Lovely article. Thank you for writing it. Miss our tennis lessons on Jolly ! (that was ions ago but they were so much fun !) Weezie
Tom Folino
Comment by: Tom Folino ( )
Left at: 12:16 PM Friday, October 21, 2011
Tad, I've loved your previous, accomplished pieces,......but this takes the lead as "favorite." Congratulations on a job VERY WELL DONE!!!!
Thank you,
Comment by: Jack ( )
Left at: 5:25 PM Monday, October 24, 2011
Actually there were two TI one designs. The first was a keel boat design by William Gardner and gets a mention in Wooden Boat magazine's book "Designs to Inspire" copyright 2000. I would love to see an example or some plans of this first example.

Jack Mc Kie
Tad Clark
Comment by: Tad Clark ( )
Left at: 8:07 PM Monday, October 24, 2011
Mr. McKie,

My sister is also of the opinion that their was an earlier Herreshoff design as part of the the TI Yacht Club program. I have no idea as to the validity of this contention. What I do know is that the Alden design did exist. I look forward to your article tracking the second class of TI sailboats. The plans are still available for the Alden "MT" and actually the Antique Boat Museum has a set of these plans.
Comment by: Jack ( )
Left at: 10:57 AM Tuesday, October 25, 2011

As far as I know, there were the Gardner TI One Design ca. 1912 and then the later Alden TI one design. I am unaware of any Herrshoff design associated with the TI.

The ABM has what little is known about the Gardner TI OD in the form of an article in The Rudder Sept 1912 pp. 132-134. Sadly Gardners drawings are missing except for a few published examples.

The TI One Design "cartoons" in The Rudder, though not usable as is, may be enough to digitally reconstruct the lines. As a professional model maker, I plan to attempt this as I would like to make a model for the ABM.

Jack Mc Kie

Freshwater Models

Rochester, New York

Tad Clark
Comment by: Tad Clark ( )
Left at: 2:33 PM Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Thanks for the followup, Jack. I spent months and checked every venue I could think of in the course of my research. We had the actual boat in our possession and in moderately good condition. Nonetheless it was a tough assignment putting together the amount of information I gradually accumulated.

I don't know where my sister came up with the Herrshoff theory and I never heard my dad mention this when speaking of sailing races related to the TI Yacht Club.

I commend you for your efforts to reconstruct a model of the Gardner TI OD. Perhaps you will be lucky enough to track down enough material to document the history of the Gardner TI OD as I have attempted to do with the Alden.

These are interesting chapters in TI history. TI Life is providing an invaluable service preserving these stories for future generations.

I wish you the best on your project.

Tad Clark
Comment by: Jack ( )
Left at: 4:19 PM Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Herrshoff was very famous and that may have something to do with attributing a TI OD to him. In fact the MT by Alden looks more like Hershoff's work than Gardner's TI OD. Gardners TI OD looks sort of like an Alden "O boat".

Dan Miller pointed it out MT in storage a while back when I was doing some research. It is quite the gem. I have had a love for wooden boats for longer than I care to admit. I watched the transition from wood to plastic and with few exceptions I always cringe at GRP boats. They are practical though.

Generating the lines for the Gardner TI OD will be a challenge since only one cross section, profile, and top view are shown. Thanks to computer aided design I expect to be able to get fairly close but it won't be absolute precision. The main reason for wanting to do it is to depict another piece of history that has nearly been lost.

Deborah Clark
Comment by: Deborah Clark ( )
Left at: 4:31 PM Tuesday, October 25, 2011
My apologies about the Herreshoff confusion. I went to bed last night thinking about the first sailing vessel for the TIYC and the name Leyare came to mind. Upon researching this morning I am sure it was his and Gardner's design as shown at the bottom of this article that Dad used to talk about not Herreshoff .

Joseph Leyare, The Great St. Lawrence Boat Builder
Written by Bonnie Wilkinson Mark posted on April 12, 2010

Tad Clark
Comment by: Tad Clark ( )
Left at: 4:46 PM Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Our discussion of the Gardner topic seems to be spurring some interesting results. I received a new email from my sister suggesting that the earlier TI OD was produced by Leyare rather than Herrshoff. In a back issue article of TI Life there is a PHOTO and a reference to the 1912 William Gardner designed sailboat. I include the link for your convenience:

Comment by: Jack ( )
Left at: 5:37 PM Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Leyare was the builder, Gardner was the designer!

Nice picture! Thanks!

Jack Patterson
Comment by: Jack Patterson ( )
Left at: 10:32 PM Monday, October 31, 2011
Marvelous article and discussion. Wow! Bravo again to TI Life. Bringing out information and history of the river and islands. In just this way! Obviously gems exist out there. We have one here. Thank you. Weezie, was the International 14 related to the boats Uffa Fox was designing? Wonderful article about him in the current Wooden Boat, as you may know. By the way, perhaps you know also that Uffa came to Sugar and was a friend of Sandy Douglas. While here he campaigned his own International Deck Canoe. Also, likely stayed on Squaw which was owned by Douglas at one time. Article in WB says, alas, Sugar Island in Michigan. There apparently is one (there), but is, of course, in error this time. Thanks again all for more exact, detailed and engrossing TI history. If I may- Top Notch. I would aspire to present myself so well. I personally hope someone- maybe myself- will tackle habitation, appearance, travel, etc., of earliest inhabitants of TI area; especially those indigenous people doing their business amongst the islands during earliest European contact period. I have been reading, reading, reading- especially such as Francis Parkman and those whom he cross references.
Louise Ford
Comment by: Louise Ford ( )
Left at: 5:09 AM Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Hi Jack !! Long time no see.. My father raced against Uffa Fox in the 1930's and bought from Stewart Morris another very famous British sailor of the day, the first International 14 called the R.I.P. to the USA to start the class here. Based out of the RYC. Over my mantle on the island I have a huge black and white photo of my father racing against Uffa Fox in two Int 14's (US 1 & Uffa's boat) when Dad took the US Team over to race at Cowes, Scotland, Denmark + others for two summers. I have photos and newspaper clippings of it all including the US Team on the USS New York about to leave the NYC harbor, photos of the crews loading their own boats into the hold of the ship to come across the pond. Dad/ US 14's / RYC hosted a couple races and it is very possible that Uffa Fox may have come over here for those. I have Christmas cards from him to my father !! A couple of years ago I went out to the Isle of Wight to visit Cowes and go to the Uffa Fox museum but having not done my homework it was closed !! I need to go out again when it's open.

There was a whole cast of rather famous sailors that Dad sailed against or with i the 1930's, Uffa Fox and Stewart Morris from GB, Shorty Trimingham from Bermuda, Corny Shields etc. If you remember our 5.5 meter named Saga she was purchased from Shorty Trimingham in Bermuda in (I think 1963) we had her for a couple of years raced her at Axeman .. Then Corny Sheilds called Dad and told him about his new fiberglass boat, similar to the 5.5 and would he please buy one ? Dad did and I am sure you remember her.. blue like our other boats 30 ft day sailor named Venture IV . I have many photos of her racing at Axeman and one quite good one of Dad with Mark Ellis as his young crew at a CYC race !!

Good luck on your book... I have just done one myself but maybe I should do a history of the US 14 since I seem to have all the specs, Dad's original drawings for her etc. (his improvements on the GB design) the first one built was named Gloriette. I can only imagine this may have been a girlfriend before my mother came on the scene. His second was Venture. Which is the name is stuck with until his last boat Venture IX a few years before he died. Jack if you want to get in touch Susie Smith has my email.

I have lots more info on the subject !!
Andrew Textor
Comment by: Andrew Textor ( )
Left at: 2:14 AM Sunday, November 6, 2011
Wonderful article Tad! Happy to hear the MT is headed to the museum. Can't wait to see it, I hope they allow it out for classes. Frankly, they should consider a summer boat building course for teens to rebuild a new "fleet"...
Joedy Packard
Comment by: Joedy Packard ( )
Left at: 9:57 PM Monday, November 21, 2011
This article is so filled with wonderful information. The kind that the reader takes away a feel of satisfaction in the information they just learned. You are a gift to the Islands with your articles. I miss you and the Alexandria Bay.
Emmett Smith
Comment by: Emmett Smith ( )
Left at: 2:13 PM Wednesday, January 11, 2012
A bit late but perhaps not too late...

The William Gardner boat was the only other One-Design sailboat built for the TIYC. It was a much larger boat, and would have been difficult to handle. A partial-keel centerboarder with running backstays, over-canvased in the fashion of the time with a nearly vertical gaff rig. The only pictures I have seen show a crew of four. The last two of these ended up in Chippewa Bay, one was scuttled off Dark Island and the other is unaccounted for...but I do not expect it to surface. Jack, if you are interested in developing a set of lines I suggest you look at other Gardner designs for racing boats, such as his 1914 America's cup boat VANITIE. Unfortunately few of his plans have survived.

In an interesting connecting anecdote, Louise, there was a fleet of four International 14s built by Jack Malette of Ganonoque in 1937. One of these was also donated to ABM this fall! I do not yet know for sure who designed it, but it clearly is descended from Uffa Fox's AVENGER of 1927. I have one reference that lists the designer as Charlie Burke, but I do not know the name. This is my first inquiry into I-14 racing in the Thousand Islands, actually, so any info you have please let me know.

Cheers all, thanks to Tad for a wonderful article and a wonderful boat!

Comment by: Jack ( )
Left at: 5:44 PM Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Thanks for posting your comment. Sounds like we need a diver to find the scuttled one and a salvage crew to raise her LOL. By todays standards Gardner's TIOD might have been overcanvased but in those days taking a reef was a lot more common and w/o a kicker having a lot of canvas might get you home in a drifter.

Great to hear that another racing sailboat has found it's way into the ABM.

Louise Ford
Comment by: Louise Ford ( )
Left at: 10:29 AM Thursday, January 12, 2012
Oh boy I wish we were having this conversation 7 years ago before my father died ! But I have allot of clippings glued into a large album. Dad too the American International 14' class to England, Scotland, Denmark + others in April (brrr) 1935 ... It talks about Dad buying RIP from Stuart Morris at Cowes and bringing it back to reproduce 6 of them. I also have a letter from my father as President of the International 14 Digny Association based in Rochester but with people from England and Allbourg Denmark on the advisory Committee ! THis is not dated and it seems to be a letter trying to get other yacht clubs to join the fold.
There is also an article about the dated July 17th 1934 talking about the striking differences between competing English Dinghies and Canadian.
"Photo taken yesterday of the Canadian and English Dinghies competing in the centenial events show the marked differences between the craft. At the left is an English sloop rigged dinghy without the deck common to the Canadian and American types. it is shows with a spinaker sail peculiar to it's type. The Canadian dinghy owned by Charlie Bourke is at the right" !!! THis is before Dad brought back the RIP and later I have an article titled " Ford's Missionary work shows return" Sunday Dec 29 1935. from the Roch D & C. This article says:
" Ford who has been the guiding genius back of the RYC 's transition from the former lap -streak type to the "smooth skins" as the English boats as they were formally called announced yesterday the construction of 6 more at the Rochester Boat Works right after the turn of the year.
It goes on to talk about how they plan two more groups of 6 each to be built. How Ford won all the 56 races he entered in 1935 in RIP and how he planned to take of of the new boats back to England and race against the "originals" next summer.. The new boat was called Venture. The original boat he took to England before buying RIP was Gloriette. (there was a Gloriette and a Gloriette II I think the later one went to Cowes etc for the first bunch of races.. I also have an awesome newpaper photo of the actual digny being loading into the hold of the ship on it's 7000 mile journey to race all over Europe etc etc. Parties in NYC to send them off at Embassy's of the counties they were going to compete in !! Looks like so much fun !! I have masses of info. Articles that I haven't bother to read for YEARS !! I would love to find one of the American 14's done to my Dad's design... being an engineer he tweeked the American boat and I have one article with drawings and changes !! Guess I had better bring this to the river next summer.. And maybe get the articles copied if they are going to have a history of the International 14 !!
Emmett Smith
Comment by: Emmett Smith ( )
Left at: 11:33 AM Thursday, January 12, 2012

Good point about the reefing. I wonder how much use the boats got, I have not found any real info on their racing history. Most of what I found is from Chippewa, which was more or less after the TIYC was involved. Send me an email, emmettsmith at and I can share pictures. I would love to help you develop lines for the boat, that was actually the object of my research, too.

Louise, Jackpot! I would love to see your photo album, I am sure there would be some connection to our boat that would come out. Will you send me an email as well? This story could become part of an exhibit at ABM sometime...

Thanks to TI Life!
Karen Wand
Comment by: Karen Wand ( )
Left at: 7:47 PM Sunday, September 15, 2013
Researching Jack Malette genealogy has opened a world of wooden boat building. (Jack was my late husband's great uncle). Malette built 4 14' international dinghies over the winter of 1937/38 based on Charles Bourke design of 1935. I'm aware of the existence of three of the four boats and am hot on the trail of the fourth. Simon Watts is reproducing one of themm and has asked about Uffa Fox's plans, to be able to compare the lines. How fascinating to read about his sailing days in the area. From Bob Bird's recollections (his father Godfrey owned one of the Malette
14's) Sandy Douglass acted as skipper and his wife acted as crew for the first competition in Picton, July 1, 1938 in a brand spanking new Malette "G"boat G stood for Gananoque. Sadly, Jack Malette had passed away just prior on June 30th of that year.