Sunday, June 12, 2016
GANANOQUE, THE THOUSAND ISLANDS & PRESCOTT - June 10, 11 & 12, 2016
For well over a century, the Thousand Islands has been a top North American tourist destination, not only for the wealthy who built and are still building their mansions, but also for those of more modest means who come to enjoy the beauty of the area by staying at cottages, resorts, camp grounds, taking boat cruises or cruising in their own boats. On a summer’s day, hot breezes will carry the fragrance of sun-baked pine and juniper, and a moment later, a cool, clean gust will blow. In a hemlock-lined bay, the cold dampness and the scent of rich earth will float out from shore.
There are actually 1,864 islands in the Thousand Islands, but the French were the first europeans to see the area in 1615, gave them the name Lac des Milles-Illes or Lake of a Thousand Islands and the name stuck. By the 1800’s they were so well travelled that naming the islands became a chore that fell on Captain Wm. Fitzwilliam Owen in 1815. Since the War of 1812 had just ended, he chose to look on these British-territory islands as a chance to commemorate the men and ships that made history in that war. The western most islands became the Admiralty Islands with individual names such as Forsyth, Lindsay and Bostwick, acknowledging British admirals of those war years.
Southeast of the Admiralty Islands are the Lake Fleet Islands, celebrating the names of ships and gunboats that served on the upper St. Lawrence River & the Great Lakes. They have the most colourful names including: Dumfounder, Deathdealer, Bloodletter, Psych and Scorpion as well as more sedate names such as St. Regent, Niagara and our favourite, Camelot.
Finally, west of the Ivy Lea bridge are the Navy Islands named after captains of the Lake Fleet Ships. There are Mulcaster, Popham, Collier, Downie and Owen (after the name giver himself).
A walk on an island will expose you to the diversity of the island ecosystems; the smooth, sun-warmed granite, evidence of ice-split rock from the winters past, deep carpets of moss on shady slopes and mixed forests. There are many sounds to entertain your ears; the slap of the waves on granite shores, the call of the loons at dusk, song sparrows and more. One of my favourite sites are the great blue herons gracefully making their way amongst the islands.
Today, we left Kingston under a lovely blue sky with a 10 knot breeze from the west. This is the beginning of the mighty St. Lawrence River. It is so wide at this point, you don’t notice the current, but it will be felt before too long. We chose the scenic Bateau Channel to make our way to the first group of islands in the Thousand Islands National Park. This route takes you past all manner of cottages, houses and mansions providing endless entertainment for your eyes.
Today we chose to tie up to one of the first islands in the Admiralty Islands you see after exiting the Bateau Channel called Aubrey Island. We had it to ourselves and enjoyed some wonderful sunshine and protection from the chilly winds off Lake Ontario (water temperature was only 53 degrees F). After lunch, we launched the dinghies and headed off to Gananoque. The town’s name is aboriginal and means “town on two rivers”. The site was settled in 1789 by Colonel Joel Stone who established a mill. The best way to remember the pronunciation of the town’s name is: “The right way, the wrong way and the Gananoque.” Locals just shorten it to “Gan”. It is considered the gateway to the Thousand Islands and it’s Thousand Islands Playhouse offers live theatre to sold out crows all season. We took the opportunity for a walking tour through town and an ice cream before continuing our outing with a dinghy tour of the Admiralty Islands.
We make a special stop at Half Moon Bay. The tradition of worship in Half Moon Bay began in 1887. People came from neighbouring islands and from Gan to meet for a Vesper Service early on Sunday evenings during July & August. Situated on Bostwick Island in the Admiralty group, the place is a natural bay of carved rock thanks to the work of retreating glaciers. The location is named Half Moon Bay because of its crescent moon shape. Popularity of the services soon attracted campers for miles around. Folks arrive in small boats and cram into the bay. Check out the pictures below.
Tour boats are extremely popular in this area and Aubrey Island docks are on their route, so we were treated to sizeable waves every hour or so as the tour boats don’t slow down for anyone or anything. While we enjoyed a lovely afternoon and evening there, we had no debate about leaving the next morning.
Saturday June 11, 2016
On a grey and drizzly morning, we headed further east through the Admiralty and Lake Fleet Islands. With chilly winds blowing and occasional passing showers, we enjoyed the comforts of our heated pilot house to watch the scenery of the beautiful islands and magnificent cottage/homes, some more than 100 years old, pass us by. After considering various tie up locations, we eventually decided upon Grenadier Island. Grenadier Island is a large island, part of which is private and part of it is included in the Thousand Islands National Park. It has a golf course, plenty of camping locations and docks for many visiting boaters. We found docking where we joined about 10 other boats and enjoyed a lively time there with a wide range of music, lots of children, fishing, barbecuing etc etc. One can only image how busy this place would be in the prime time of July and August. Eventually, the wind died, the sun shone and we had a lovely late afternoon and evening.
Sunday June 12, 2016
The sun shone briefly when we first woke up, but it was short lived. The temperature dropped to about 9 degrees C, and moving on down the St. Lawrence River seemed like the best idea at our 0830 Crew Meeting. We were underway by 0900 and continued on the small craft channel for the next hour or so before the river narrowed and we merged with the wider commercial channel where the big ocean going freighters play.
The St. Lawrence Seaway is a system of locks, canals and channels in Canada and the United States that permits ocean going vessels to travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. After decades of back and forth negotiations between Canada and the US, Canada announced in 1951 it would “go it alone” and build a seaway on its own. The United States came on board with the plan in 1954 and work was finally completed in 1959, the system was finally completed and large, deep-draft ocean vessels began steaming into the heart of North America. The Seaway was completed at a cost of Canadian $470 million of which Canada covered $336.2 million. To complete the project, six villages and three hamlets in Canada were sacrificed and flooded.
Today we travelled some 20 nautical miles of the St. Lawrence Seaway to Prescott, Ontario. We passed our first ocean going ship. We experienced a two knot current that pushed us along at about 9.3 knots vs our normal ~ 7.5 knots. We had 20 knot winds with gusts to 37 knots and passing showers. We saw many more large homes and mansions along the water all from our cozy heated quarters in our pilot house. Upon arrival, we were off to a local pub name O’heaphys for soup and other delights. Later, we enjoyed long, hot showers and got back aboard Tug’n for a G and T, cheese and crackers and a Netflix movie, leaving the dull cold weather outside…