Sunday, July 8, 2018

Thousand Islands - God Save the Trump!

Happy Independence Day! God save the Trump!

Boldt Castle is surely the most impressive piece of architecture in the Thousand Islands. It is a bona fide castle built by wealthy hotelier George Boldt at the turn of the century as a little gift for his wife. Sadly, as it was nearing completion his wife died and he ordered all construction work to stop and everybody to leave the island. The castle was left to rot and, even though it changed hands several times over the next 75 years, it succumbed to the elements and by the end was a near ruin. The Thousand Islands Bridge Authority bought the castle and island in the mid 70’s and since then has been undertaking the needed renovations to bring it back to its original state and turn it into a tourist cash cow.

The island on which the castle sits was also modified with land and buildings to render it heart shaped, and it is indeed named Heart Island. Besides the six storey, 120 room castle, there is also a separate power plant building, outbuildings for guests, manicured gardens, and across the bay, an enormous yacht house that was built to house three large steamers and dozens of smaller boats.

We boat across on Cabin Fever to Heart Island and are the first ones in the building at 10am. We begin with a walk around the island and then enter the basement to see the pool and remnants of a two lane bowling alley, and then ride the elevator up to the top floor. The renovation work began on the lower floors but has not yet reached the upper ones, so the rooms are empty and barren with exposed plaster strapping and 70 year old graffiti everywhere. The scale is huge and the views out to the river, Wellesley Island, and Alexandria Bay are spectacular. The kids and I take advantage of the space and play a rousing game of Marco Polo and I succeed in scaring the bejesus out Stella when I jump out of a closet.

As we descend onto the lower floors, each is more renovated than the floor above it, and by the time we reach the bottom two levels, we are mesmerized by the grandeur and opulence of our surroundings. There are many information boards placed throughout the rooms displaying old photos, stories, artifacts and historical information about the castle and surrounding areas. At the turn of the century, the Thousand Islands were a playground for the rich and famous. Boldt himself owned upwards of 60 boats and spent a considerable amount of time racing them on the river with his rich, competitive friends. Boldt spent much of the remainder of his life in the Thousand Islands, but mainly on Wellesley Island, where he had constructed a large number of houses, barns and other buildings to support the farmland he used to grow meat and vegetables for his New York hotels. They say he never stepped foot on Heart Island again after his wife died.

We return to our slips for a quick lunch and then the ladies take off for food and booze shopping while the kids hang out in the air-conditioned sailboat while Tony and I rip the panels off Cabin Fever to try and figure out why his red and green navigational lights are not working. It is wildly hot outside, and the ladies arrive with a trolley of food and booze which they somehow manage to pack into the already packed boats, and then they take the kids over to the Riveredge hotel to sneak into the pool for a dip. We finally get the lights working, clean up our mess, and then join the gang at the dockside tiki bar for a round of drinks before hitting the pool for a dip. I’m so used to the 22 degree lake water that the pool simply feels hot, but I’m not complaining as we are there ILLEGALLY, which Stella is really not comfortable with so only begrudgingly swims. She is such a rule-follower, just like me.

The group decides that it’s time to find an anchorage instead of spending another night in the marina. There is a strong wind blowing us off the dock so I put Magnus at the head of the dock with a line to hold the boat in and Ana at the base with another line. I start powering the boat out but the wind is pushing me so I have to throttle up to keep straight, which pushes me out too far and Ana is not able to jump aboard. As I turn the corner I see Magnus is having trouble with the lines and it looks like he’s cleated the line down, so I start yelling at him and then the line tightens and the boat is stopped abruptly and jerked sideways towards another boat in a slip, so I race to the front of the boat to block the collision while Ana is screaming at Magnus and trying to get the line freed. She manages to free it and we are able to sail away without any damage, although we are short two of our crew members. Since we are stopping for gas it’s not a problem so Ana and Magnus jump onboard with Tony and Angela. I find out later that Magnus did not cleat the line, but instead it had become tangled and he was trying to straighten it but pulled his fingers out when he saw it was about to get tight which was a very wise move. He apologized later, but I told him he did exactly what he should do and I was proud of him – boats can be repaired; broken fingers not so easily. It is good when minor problems like this happen because we always learn something from it and are able to do better next time.

After getting gassed up and pumped out (the gas dock guys could simply not believe we were there in a sailboat, so we looked around and ours was the only mast to be seen in town!) we leave A-Bay in our wake and sail three miles east to the Summerland Islands. Our dock neighbour Gerry, who had invited us over for a beer on his boat yesterday, had told us this spot was a popular anchorage for local boaters. We pull in to find at least 10 other boats anchored, including one massive flotilla of six rafted powerboat partiers. We get settled, go for swims in the glorious 24 degree water and then the girls construct a plateful of shish kebob skewers that Tony grills up and we devour every last piece of it, down to the final sizzling mushroom morsels. After dinner we set up on the top deck of Cabin Fever with fresh G&Ts, ready for the spectacular July 4th fireworks, being launched from Heart Island. But what’s more spectacular than the fireworks is the tenacity and volume of skeeters that are attacking our ankles, legs, arms, ears and faces. Ana brings up three big citronella candles and a whole pack of mosquito coils. We light them all up, but it doesn’t make a lick of difference. We decide that we’re not too interested in the fireworks anyway and we retire for the evening to the soothing sounds of exploding independence.

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