Classic Boats of the Thousand Islands

Classic Boats of the Thousand Islands


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781550464412
Publisher: Boston Mills Press
Publication date: 05/07/2005
Pages: 160
Product dimensions: 11.25(w) x 8.75(h) x 0.75(d)

About the Author

Anthony Mollica Jr. is a respected authority on America's antique and classic wooden boats and a trustee of the Antique Boat Museum. He is also the author of The American Runabout, Chris-Craft Boats and Gar Wood Boats, the National Boating Museum's 2001 Book of the Year.

George Fischer's photographs have been featured in more than a dozen books, including Chariots of Chrome, Castles and Cottages and Sentinels in the Stream. His international travel has led to books, calendars and posters on Guatemala, Malta, Tunisia, Costa Rica, Tuscany and many other destinations. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Islands, Mountain Living and Explore.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: A North American Treasure

Chapter 2: Boat Building in the Thousand Islands

Chapter 3: The St. Lawrence Skiff and Other Light Craft

Chapter 4: Sport Boats and Runabouts

Chapter 5: Commuters and Cruisers

Chapter 6: The Museum's In-Water Fleet

Chapter 7: Regional Restoration Shops

Index of Featured Boats


On any given summer day, visitors to the Thousand Islands may see several attractive wooden boats involved in water sports, fishing, commuting and cruising. Nearly all of the region's classic boats are as attractive and vital now as during the era when they were new.

In this special region of the St Lawrence River, boating flourished like nowhere else on the continent. The river's deep, crystal clear water along with nearly two thousand islands created cozy passages, quiet channels and protected harbors that many boaters consider to be the world's most delightful cruising area. The Thousand Islands region is also the home of the world famous Antique Boat Museum with six of their prized boats featured in this book.

Here are the fascinating stories of forty-seven classic boats I have specifically selected for the book, as well as a review of the area's boating history. More than two hundred spectacular color photos, by award winning photographer, George Fischer, accompany the stories.



It is not unusual for experienced travelers to insist that the Thousand Islands region of the St. Lawrence River is one of the most spectacular and picturesque vistas that they've ever encountered. For boating enthusiasts the Thousand Islands is a marvelous recreational waterway, providing virtually everything desired for a wonderful adventure on the water. The beauty of the islands and crystal-clear water of the river constantly amaze visitors. And the wide variety of watercraft, from small rowing skiffs to huge ocean-going freighters and luxury cruise ships, adds more to delight tourists and boaters. All this within a few hours' drive for a significant portion of the continent's population.

The Thousand Islands region actually begins at the northeastern end of Lake Ontario. Here, the fresh water of all five Great Lakes makes its final journey to the North Atlantic via the St. Lawrence River. The mouth of the river is located between the city of Kingston, Ontario, in Canada, and the village of Cape Vincent, in northern New York State. Here, along the first 50 miles of the St. Lawrence River, lie the more than 1,800 islands responsible for the region's descriptive name. The islands vary in size from tiny granite formations with two trees to islands large enough to support commercial farms and thriving summer communities.

From Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River flows steadily northeast for more than 700 miles before entering the Atlantic Ocean north of Nova Scotia. Its broad opening offered early explorers an enticing entry that penetrated deep into the North American continent. Jacques Cartier was the first of several French explorers who journeyed boldly along the great river. It was on August 10, 1534, a date celebrated by the French to commemorate Saint Lawrence, that Cartier actually entered the river for the first time. As a man of strong faith, Cartier believed it fortuitous to name the river for the highly regarded saint and thereby provide his expedition with a much-needed blessing. Indeed, his journey was successful, covering nearly 500 miles and ending at the future site of the great city of Montreal. It was here that swift rapids finally prevented his large ship from proceeding any farther upriver. ft would be several years before any other European explorers would travel beyond the rapids, using much smaller craft to discover the area of the Thousand Islands, Lake Ontario and the other Great Lakes beyond.

Years later, another French explorer, Samuel de Champlain, would successfully establish permanent settlements along the shores of the St. Lawrence River. Champlain would be remembered as the first European to travel into the area that would become known as the Thousand Islands. Here, the myriad islands and channels present a remarkable contrast to the rest of the river and to Lake Ontario, where island formations are relatively scarce. The geologic makeup of the islands is mostly solid granite and sandstone. After the last ice sheets melted some 10,000 years ago, the torrential runoff cleared a path through the St. Lawrence Valley and resulted in the present island formations.

The five Great Lakes flow from the center of the North American continent eastward towards the mouth of the St. Lawrence River. It is here, at the mouth of the river, that the world's largest reservoir of fresh water begins its final 750-mile journey to the Atlantic Ocean.

In the mid-1800s the Thousand Islands region was rediscovered as a marvelous haven for sportsmen. Perhaps the event most responsible for its rediscovery was a well-publicized visit by Ulysses S. Grant, President of United States, in 1872. Word of his fishing success spread, inciting huge numbers of travelers and sportsmen to see this wonderful region for themselves. Virtually overnight the Thousand Islands became one of North America's most active tourist destinations. The railroads seized upon the growing interest and provided passenger service from major eastern cities to the prospering villages along the river. Large hotels were quickly under construction to meet the demand from the ever-growing number of visitors who wanted to experience the area for themselves.

Among the earliest boats developed specifically for the prevailing water conditions was a double-ended rowing craft that would become known as the St. Lawrence skiff. Its efficiently designed hull featured overlapping cedar planks, making it ideal for rowing easily around and through the channels and bays created by the islands. The skiff design also proved to be very suitable for local fishing guides. The guides became skilled at building skiffs themselves or with the help of a friend during the winter season. The basic design was so successful that it became universally accepted, with only slight variations among the individual builders.

The small craft was perfectly suited for livery operators to rent by the hour or day to visitors. For fishing guides, the skiff provided their customers with a comfortable day-long fishing experience that might include several miles of rowing. As the demand for skiffs increased, commercial boatbuilding firms began to produce large numbers of St. Lawrence skiffs in various lengths with thoughtful custom features. There was a time when nearly every home along the river had at least one skiff at their disposal.

As glowing reports of the region spread, construction of summer homes along the mainland shore and on the islands grew steadily. At first the river homes were modest cottages or fishing lodges. Soon, however, the summer homes grew larger, more elaborate and some even spectacular. Wealthy summer residents acquired large steam yachts to provide their houseguests with personalized cruises among the islands. Rapidly the Thousand Islands became the most talked about and prestigious boating mecca in North America.

In addition to owning luxurious yachts and skiffs, boaters became involved in the new sport of motorboat racing. The remarkable success of Thousand Islands yacht clubs in racing competition encouraged the development of several state-of-the-art boatbuilding shops in the river communities. Many of the great racing champions of the 1920s and 1930s traveled to the Thousand Islands to compete. Even now, the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, New York. continues to host the popular Antique Race Boat Regatta, featuring famous raceboats from the past. This special event is held every two years and always attracts thousands of boaters, who marvel at the beautiful classic raceboats from a bygone era that are still capable of exciting high-speed performances.

However, when speedboat performances advanced well beyond the capabilities of the weekend gentleman driver, serious racing gradually faded on the river. Successful speedboat racing became the domain of professional drivers, and local boatbuilders focused their attention on building boats better suited to the needs of the summer boaters. Sport utility boats and motorized guideboats were among the more popular designs as interest in fishing continued. The sport-utility boats were swift yet soft-riding. They were comfortable and well suited to the needs of sportsmen, with bait wells, fish-holding tanks, folding windshields and comfortable seating arrangements.

This book highlights many of the wonderful classic boats that have survived the test of time and still operate faithfully along one of North America's most attractive and historic waterways. On any given day, classic mahogany boats comfortably transport their owners to a favorite restaurant, to an island house party, or to a reliable fishing spot where a big bass might be waiting. Appropriately enough, it was right in the Thousand Islands that the very first antique boat show was organized and conducted some 40 years ago. It was the success of this boat show that resulted in the hundreds of antique boat shows that now take place every summer in North America. Perhaps the most significant result of that first boat show was the development of the Antique Boat Museum in Clay

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