Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Cruising the Thousand Islands

We are anchored just off the Thousand Island Yacht Club on Wellesley Island, in a small bay off the American Narrows (map). It's gusting 20-30kt today so we're just relaxing aboard, with the hope that winds will taper off enough for us to tender ashore for dinner.

Our cruise to Clayton was beautiful and without drama. We only found about a knot of current in just a couple of spots, and we scoped out our landing options in Cape Vincent as we passed by, for a possible stop on our return trip.

Vector at anchor in South Bay, Wellesley Island, near Thousand Island Park.

As we predicted, the two boats that were with us in Sackets Harbor were already anchored in French Creek Bay off Clayton when we arrived, but out draft had us a bit further out in the bay anyway (map). We set the hook in 10', which meant the sounding on the chart read just under 5'. I'm still getting used to driving around over soundings that would normally have us aground. Today the lake is a bit more than 5' over datum.

Shortly after we set the hook, we tendered ashore to the municipal dock, where city dockhands greeted us and gave us the lay of the land. We hoofed it over to the post office, backpacks in hand, and came back with our accumulated mail. We briefly toured the main part of town on our journey.

This antique sign proclaims Clayton gateway to the Thousand Islands.

That was a lot of walking, and the river was too choppy Friday to want to go around the corner to the riverside docks closer to the restaurants, so at dinner time we came right back to the main municipal dock and walked just a couple of blocks to the Wood Boat Brewery for dinner, which was quite good. We had lovely weather to sit on the covered porch. Lots of things here are named "Wood Boat," and the antique boat museum is a major attraction here.

One of the items in the mail was an adapter to cure the last bit of fallout from the lightning strike, which has forced me to leave the flybridge depth display disconnected because it was interfering with the depth and heading input to the plotter PC. That meant plugging the display back in every time I went upstairs to lock or dock, and unplugging it before coming back down. I'm very glad to have it all working normally now, although it would have been much nicer to have fixed it before going through 30 (really) locks.

Sunset over French Creek Bay from our anchorage in Clayton.

Saturday was calm and we tendered ashore for groceries and fuel for the dinghy. The grocery store is an easy walk from the dock but they will also pick you up and bring you back; we availed ourselves of that service to come home with two cases of beer. In the evening we tendered around the corner and tied up along the riverfront for a nice dinner at Bella. Also docked on the riverfront was the 250' megayacht Bella Vita, which can be yours for a week for just $750,000, plus food and beverage. We're pretty sure we've crossed paths with them elsewhere, perhaps the Bahamas.

Bella Vita at the large vessel quay.

We could very easily have stayed another night in Clayton; there are several restaurants in town and it's really a very lovely town. But the Thousand Islands themselves were calling (Clayton, while the gateway to the Thousand Islands, is on the mainland), and Sunday morning we weighed anchor for the very short four-mile trip across the river to Wellesley Island, where we dropped the hook in South Bay (map).

Wellesley is the largest of the islands in the US (Wolfe Island, in Ontario, Canada, is the largest) and from our anchorage we could see just a small piece of it. Much of the island is a New York state park, and we will likely make a stop at the park docks on the north side of the island on our return trip. At this end of the island, however, is the historic community of Thousand Island Park.

Three of the smaller islands we passed en route to Wellesley. There's a house or cabin on anything big enough to fit one.

TIP is a village, not a park, a fact that initially caused me some confusion. In addition to some 300-odd residences (but a year-round population of just 31), there is a small historic hotel, the Wellesley Hotel, which features a dining room, and a quick-service restaurant-cum-convenience store called The Guzzle that serves as a community gathering place. We made reservations at the hotel for dinner.

The community has a small marina with a historic pavilion, but the fixed docks are awash. They've built risers above some of them for the marina tenants, but not for the guest dock. We found a spot that was just an inch or two above the water to tie up, and we had a nice stroll through the public areas of this century-old resort community. We enjoyed a nice dinner on the porch at the hotel before returning to Vector.

These docks at Thousand Island Park are fully submerged. The walkway above leads to the pavilion.

Yesterday was another beautiful and calm day, and we took the tender across the channel to Rock Island, which is a state park preserving a historic (but retired) lighthouse and keepers' residence. We climbed the nicely restored cast-iron tower to the lantern room for the princely sum of $3 each (the island park itself is free) and were rewarded with sweeping views of many of the nearby islands.

We had a lovely dinner at anchor on the aft deck, after first lighting a can of Sterno to keep the bugs at bay. In the calm of the evening we could look down from the deck and see the bottom some dozen feet below; the water has not been this clear for us since we left the Bahamas. We noticed as we approached the dock at Rock Island that we could see the bottom there, too, nearly twenty feet down.

The keepers residence as seen from the lantern of the lighthouse. Some islands and the mainland in the background,

It was raining again this morning and we had a quiet morning aboard, but by lunch time things had cleared up, and after lunch we weighed anchor to continue our cruise downriver. Rock Island marks the start of the American Narrows, and passing under the Thousand Islands International Bridge, the entire flow of this part of the river squeezes down into a single channel. It's scoured to 150' deep, and at times we found ourselves doing 9 knots while making turns for 6.5.

That 2.5 knots is close to the maximum against which we want to push on the return voyage; fortunately we mostly saw less than two knots behind us, with the worst current concentrated in just a couple of small sections. As luck would have it, we met an upbound bulk freighter right at the narrowest section, and between the swirling currents and the passing ship I steered by hand for a mile or two.

Looking down the American Narrows from atop the lighthouse. You can see the "wakes" that the islands and navigation beacons make in the current. Wellesley Island at left.

Even though we can hit their docks with a softball from here, the Thousand Island Yacht Club is not open for dinner tonight, and thus we will tender all the way across the Narrows and land at Alexandria Bay on the mainland. There are a half dozen or so restaurants in town and a few shops; I'm looking forward to strolling around. We'll be here at least a couple of nights, so maybe we'll hit the yacht club tomorrow.

The famous Boldt Castle tourist attraction, run by the bridge authority that maintains the International Bridge here, is just a half mile from where we're anchored; we caught a glimpse of it before turning in to the anchorage. We'll circle it tomorrow in the tender, but we can't land since the pleasure craft docks are closed due to flooding. We don't have enough interest in the interior to take the commercial tour from the mainland.

Approaching the southern span of the Thousand Islands Bridge, with a Canadian tour boat ahead of us.

Update: the winds did, in fact, abate somewhat by dinner time, and we tendered ashore to the municipal dock in Alexandria Bay. It took only a few minutes to explore the entire town, four blocks long with docks at either end. We had burgers at local dive the Dockside Pub, which is in the middle of town and not dockside at all. On our return trip we weaved through a couple of the smaller islands here, sporting expensive homes with flooded docks.

Tomorrow we'll explore the area a bit more by tender, and perhaps have dinner at the yacht club. We'll weigh anchor Thursday and continue downriver to explore some more islands and Singer Castle, where the docks are still open and the building is more authentic to its period.

1 comment:

  1. What a lovely post, Louise. I read it with great interest as usual. You sum up your experiences so beautifully...what an account of your journeys you will have. I've crossed the International Bridge many times and always look down at the boats and glimpses of houses all up and down at the start and finish. Happy sailing!


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