The Great Niagara Frontier By Kent O. Smith – Part 1

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A chapter project many years ago, “One Half” is has restored and half pre-restoric.

A huge thanks to Kent O.Smith for a extra large bucket of wings report from Buffalo. So we need to break it into two parts. mmmmm maybe with some Blue Cheese, and… Take it away Mr Kent O “what and eye you have” Smith.

When in Buffalo, wings are mandatory!

If you’ve never been to the Niagara Frontier Chapter show, then I highly recommend that you shuffle off to Buffalo next year. You’ll be treated to a great venue of wonderful boats as well as a delicious culinary experience.

Buffalo wings were conceived in, well, Buffalo of course, at the famous Anchor Bar. Late one night in 1964, the bar tender’s friends showed up hungry. He asked his mother, the cook, to prepare something for them to eat. She had some wings that were slated for the soup pot, but instead deep fried them and tossed them in a hot sauce. An instant classic was born. When in Buffalo, you have to have wings. Chapter locals told me the Anchor Bar wings have declined in quality and the place has become too touristy, so they steered me to Duff’s, another local joint that started serving wings in 1969. So the food here is as classic as our boats.
Speaking of food, don’t forget to try the beef on a weck, which is thin sliced roast beef in au jus on a roll that is topped with kosher salt and caraway seeds. And bulk up on breakfast with a peanut donut, crushed peanuts on donut dough but in the shape of a Twinkie. But enough food…

American Falls from Prospect Point at dawn.

On to the sights! I was born and raised in New York, spent most of my life here, but had never been to Niagara Falls. So early Friday morning I made a quick trip to see the landmark firsthand. From what I understand, the view from the Canadian side is better, but at least I experienced the US version for once.

It doesn’t get much more classic glassy than a hard top Aristo Craft.

By the time I arrived at the show, a few boats had arrived. The event is actually on Grand Island at the famous Buffalo Launch Club, founded in 1903, it’s the oldest powerboat club in North America, and known for the speedboat races that took place there on the Niagara River. Most member boats would leave for the day of the show to leave dock space for the exhibitors.

The industrial shoreline of the Niagara River is evident from the many bridges and commercial structures.

Friday afternoon featured a cruise to Buffalo proper and up the Buffalo River. Buffalo was a very industrial city back in the day, with large grain silos and other commercial structures along its shoreline. Heading south from the Launch Club, the Niagara River narrows, flowing at a rate of over five mile per hour under the Peace Bridge, making navigation tricky.

Whether the background is stunning mountains or industrial waste, it’s still a great thing to be classic boating.

The river gets interesting as you near Lake Erie, real big water.

Hmm, maybe we should have brought the bigger boat!

As we neared Lake Erie, the waves increased in size substantially. While it’s a Great Lake, it’s more like an ocean to our small runabouts. Turning east, we pass the breakwater and enter the Buffalo River. There we pass by a Navy Cruiser and various industrial buildings. Some locals call it the “concrete canyon.” There are few waterfront restaurants but it seems the area is under some redevelopment.

There are lots of things you don’t see everyday around here, like this water intake for the city right near the middle of the channel.

Perspective – a 28’ Gar Wood is dwarfed by a Navy cruiser.

he USS Little Rock was completed in late 1944, but too late to see any action in World War II. Later converted to a guided missile cruiser for the Cold War, the 610’ vessel is now a museum.

That smell coming from the General Mills plant on the right is…Cheerios! Where else can you go boating and smell breakfast all day long?

The “Edward M. Cotter” is the oldest active fireboat in the world. She was built in 1900 and is 118’ long.

Scale – a 19’ Century is minute compared to this lift bridge.

The scale of the massive structures compared to our small boats is breathtaking. Most of my boating has been on scenic bodies of water like Lake George (NY) so this is new to me. We even pass by a dilapidated tour boat named “Columbia,” a 207’ a steamboat that used to carry 3200 passengers back in the day.

The dilapidated “Columbia” is a sad sight.

Exiting the river, the wind has picked up off Lake Erie and we encounter 3 to 4 foot rollers with chop on top. The larger boats are able to throttle up and push through it, but the smaller boats wisely choose to take the canal route back. The canal entails multiple no wake zones and one lock where we drop about seven feet. Thankfully, this part of the journey is very calm, though takes much longer, and no one thought to bring a cooler with refreshments!
Back at the club, we are treated to a nice sunset and a great meal of Buffalo favorites. A few more boats have arrived and it’s great to see some old boat friends in addition to meeting new ones.

A massive abandoned grain silo and rusted out elevator looms over a 28’ Gar Wood.

STAY TUNED FOR PART 2 – A HUNGOVER KENT O.SMITH GOES OUT FOR SOME AMAZING WATER SHOTS. About 45 Photos. OH POOR KENT, And who ever the poor boaters were behind him. Those wings needed to fly!

Back out of the harbor, the rollers off Lake Erie have picked up.


21 replies
  1. Johnny V./John Vyverberg
    Johnny V./John Vyverberg says:

    Great pics Kent! We were in Jim and Julie Moore’s 19′ Barrelback for the tour and yes, it’s too small for a kicked up Lake Erie! The canal route back was a welcome relief despite that we had no fender to hold ourselves out from the lock walls (legs work fine). Biggest crowds I’ve seen all summer at the shows I’ve been to-helped by the beautiful weather. The Launch Club is a wonderful spot for a boat show.

  2. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    Great report and photos that make you feel like you were there. The scenery on that adventurous cruise was unique but very cool from a historical standpoint. Love the photos of USS Little Rock. The Columbia was one of two sister ferries that took passengers from downtown Detroit to Boblo Island, an amusement park at the south end of the Detroit River near Lake Erie. They stopped running and closed down Boblo Island in the 80’s. The St. Clair, sister ship to the Columbia, is in the same decrepit condition after an on board fire floating at the dock of a old steel plant on the Detroit River. Thanks for the great report.

    • Dennis Mykols
      Dennis Mykols says:

      My boys and I cruised past the Bob-LO boat a week after the fire Greg referred to. So sad, so many memories.
      From 1985 to 1990 we had a slip at the Pier 500 on the Detroit River and enjoyed seeing those two lovely ladies making their way up and down the river. Especially the “Moonlight Cruise” with all the decks lit up and the live bands playing.

  3. Kent O
    Kent O says:

    Correction: that Century in the photos is a 17′, not a 19′. Thanks to Andy Chudy for pointing out my error.

  4. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    Excellent write up to go along with fantastic photos. Great job and thanks to your photo boat for giving you the all important access and correct positioning for the right lighting. Another bucket list show.

  5. Julie Moore
    Julie Moore says:

    Kent, what fantastic pictures!! You captured the boats, show and rolling Niagara River perfectly! It was a fantastic end to the season and we loved being with all our boating friends and seeing all the gorgeous boats.

  6. Dennis Mykols
    Dennis Mykols says:

    We attended this show on 9-11-11 !!! What a great venue, and cruisin water. The locals took us right up to the Horseshoe Falls. What a current. The tour guide said “Do not turn your engine off while taking pictures. Should you have any trouble restarting your engine (can happen, right?) you just might make the history of being the first woody over the falls.
    In this picture, what looks like steam, is the “MIST” from the Falls!

  7. Dennis Mykols
    Dennis Mykols says:

    I found another picture I took of “One Half”. Cool idea to show newbie spectators what a transformation owners/restorers go through.

    • Tom Roamer
      Tom Roamer says:

      Was part of the One Half restoration crew winter of 1986.
      Had to force myself taking the ball peen to half of the prop.
      It was a pleasure meeting Kent O. Certainly was the best show that we’ve had in years.
      Just another lumpy ride for Schwatzmeier leading the bouncy ride to Lake Erie and back.

  8. Gilbert Grant
    Gilbert Grant says:

    It’s great to be back at the Launch Club again , I had my 19′ SeaSkiff here from Florida
    We did the Cruise up river to
    Buffalo , what a Wild Ride !!

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