Today, as part of his coverage from the 49th Annual Antique Boat Show & Auction in Clayton, NY – Roving Reporter “Cobourg Kid” takes us on a classic boating cruise down the St. Lawrence River to check out the historic Rock Island Light House – thanks to Michael Folsom and the nice folks from the Antique Boat Museum. A great way to start the big weekend in Clayton. - Texx
Clayton New York Antique Boat Show 2013:
Chapter Two, Champlainers Discover the St. Lawrence!
Story & Photos by Cobourg Kid
From my last installment you will recall, your intrepid correspondent had, just rolled up to the docks of the Antique Boat Museum (ABM) reeling from a marathon 2.5 hour exploratory mission to the museum’s highly classified (ok so I exaggerate!) Doebler Collections Storage Facility.
Why the docks? Well, during my whirlwind tour of the Campus I had been invited by ABM’s Mike Folsom to tag along with the ACBS Champlain Chapter on their visit to Rock Island Light House where ABM staff would be hosting a shore dinner. Turns out that every year ABS hosts a dinner for one of the ACBS chapters. Last year’s guest chapter had been the Toronto Chapter and next year ABM is planning to fête the local Thousand Islands Chapter.
Hitting the shore at 5:00 I found the Champlain Chapter members gathered round a chart showing the American Channel of the Saint Lawrence off of Clayton, NY. Apparently one of the members had experienced a minor grounding on a “rocky growler” during a run in the river the previous evening. Luckily other than a bent prop there had been no serious damage, but no one wanted to have that happen again.
Champlain Chapter Members scour the charts.
Luckily ABM was equipped for the occasion. It had tasked four of its in-water wooden boat fleet to transport the 45 “Champlainers” 4.5 miles downrange to Rock Island Light House.
“Zipper” sweeps in to pick up most of the group.
Almost ready for embarkation. At 41 feet “Zipper” is currently the largest of the ABM’s in water fleet. A commuter yacht she was built in 1974 by Staudacher Yachts of Kawkawlin, Michigan in accordance with plans originally drafted for Purdy Boat Company the 1930s. With a length of 41’, a beam of 10.5 feet and two crusader V8 engines she can carry a large number of folks in style.
Her original owners, the Stroh family, graciously donated her to the ABM in 1985
And off we go with “Chris-Craft” a 1953 26’ semi-enclosed cruiser owned by the ABM bringing up the rear.
“Miss Thousand Islands” scampers on ahead with a happy crew of Champlainers. Built in 1999 by Hacker Boat Company (Morgan Marine) this 30’ triple cockpit was donated to ABM by Art Yarah in 2006 and was subsequently restored by Morgan Marine in 2012 which generously donated the full cost of labor.
“Wild Rose”, an immaculate 1956, 26’ Chris Craft Sea Skiff owned by Champlain Chapter member Ed Bombard, slides by.
Crew of a Vintage Hutchinson greets the Champlainers.
We swing past Thousand Island Village, check for freighters in the shipping Channel…. get an all clear… then slip across to Rock Island Light.
The west wind is really picking up pushing us off the Rock Island dock but our Captain reins in “Zipper” and we float up nicely with little bother.
Disembarking from “Zipper”, OK so where’s the food!
After one “go around” “Chris Craft” slides into her berth at Rock Island.
A close up inspection of “Wild Rose”, the Bombard clan’s Sea-Skiff, confirms that it’s dazzling! Always loved these things, Dang, now I want to buy one!
“Teal” is another one of the ABMs in-water fleet. She is a 28’ replica of a 1938 Gar Wood triple-cockpit runabout built in 1989 by by the Turcotte brothers of Brant Lake, NY. “Teal” was donated to the museum in 1995 by Richard Munro.
The Porter family apparently outran all of us to the island. Their 23 foot 1959 lapstreak Lyman Sleeper was equally impressive. Perfect boats for the St. Lawrence.
The folks from the Champlain ACBS Chapter pause for a group photo.
According to the Rock Island Lighthouse Association Website, the light was commissioned in 1847, being one of six lights put up along the US side of the St. Lawrence to safely guide vessels to and from Lake Ontario. The Rock Island complex is the best preserved with all of its structures still in place. The light was refitted in 1855, rebuilt in 1882, moved into the river in 1903 and then closed in 1955.
In June 2013, the island and all its long mouldering buildings were re-opened to the public as a park maintained by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation.
At the invitation of State Park staff the group takes the opportunity to climb the lighthouse and hear its story.
And this is what they see from the top. Oddly some of the passing freighters are now so massive that folks looking out from the top of the lighthouse would find themselves level with the control cabins of the giant lake boats.
The Island contains a number of interpretive plaques. In addition the light keeper’s house has been restored and converted into a small museum that features lighthouse lore and lifesaving of yore. Not to be missed the cleanest washroom you will find in any state or provincial park.
The ABM folks cook up a storm providing, hamburgers, hotdogs, salad and bevvies for the crowd.
With the shore lunch over, folks pack up slowly and slowly begin to trickle back to the docks.
The fleet awaits…
Well fed, a band of contented woody boaters departs on “Zipper”.
With the sun glinting on its bow “Chris Craft” dances in the “Zipper’s” wake…
Passing ancient gingerbread cottages and boathouses stuffed with lapstreaks, skiff-putts and memories….
Past giant yachts from faraway lands, our little ship churns steadily….
… to deliver its passengers and crew….
Safely home…. Goodnight Clayton.
Stay tuned later this week for Chapter Three our report from the 49th Annual Antique Boat Show & Auction at the Antique Boat Museum.