Thursday, August 23, 2012

Ottawa Ontario to Rockport Ontario - Thousand Islands

Getting ready to leave Ottawa, we stopped for some cheaper local gas. Then we returned to Kanata Honda so I could take the extended mirrors off the truck and stow them in the trailer. Finally, we went to a McDonald's in Stittsville to grab a bite to go while I phoned Rockport Cruises in (of all places) Rockport to see if we could get on the 4:00 PM cruise. No problem, they said.

I followed a dumbass route of streets the GPS selected to get us to Highway 416 south. In retrospect, I would have done better to go back to the 417 and get out of town on the slab. Oh well, I discovered a new and more convenient McDonald's on the way.

On 416 South, we passed another long military convoy. This one consisted of trucks and Humvee's but, interestingly, they were all American. Perhaps they were up here on maneuvers? In any case, we went by all of them before we got to the 401. I thought they might head for the bridge to Ogdensburg, NY, but they followed us west on the 401. This would make sense if they were planning to cross at Thousand Islands, perhaps heading for Fort Drum.

US military convoy southbound on 416

We were on track to be early for the cruise and I was wondering what we would do to kill the time when the road gods took care of that for me. As we approached Brockville and orange construction signs started to dot the roadside, all three lanes of traffic slowed and then ground to a complete halt. Luckily for us, there was an exit right where we stopped. The GPS showed a road through town and along  the river so we went to street level. Traffic here was moving, but slowly because a number of big trucks had the same idea. Still, we got to see downtown Brockville, a first. It is an older area but seems to be well cared for and it looked like it might be an interesting place to spend some more time.

The village of Rockport is small and picturesque, nestled along the shore of the St. Lawrence River. We arrived at the Rockport Cruise Lines lot just twenty minutes before the cruise as required. There were several tour buses in the lot and a lot of foreign bus tour looking people milling around looking like they were awaiting directions from their guides.

Getting tickets

I bought two tickets for the one hour Heart of the Islands cruise and we immediately went to Gate A. There was only one man there but, soon after we got positioned directly in front of the gate, the tour people started to gather. No one was speaking English. There were two separate groups as noted by the numbered neck tags they were wearing. One sounded Spanish or Portuguese and the other I couldn't identify. It turned out they were from Israel.

A three hour cruise? Gilligan?

Canadian Coast Guard

Our cruise boat

When the boat arrived and the previous passengers debarked, we were first aboard. There were three decks but the top one did not have seats. After checking it out, we moved down to the second level which had indoor chairs and also an open deck on the bow.

Sandy on the top deck

And inside where she decided to stay

At 4:00 PM sharp, they cast off the lines and we set sail. The Thousand Islands are actually the One Thousand Eight Hundred And Sixty Four Islands, which are spread throughout the St. Lawrence River in this area. They span both sides of the Canada/US border and are a popular place for cabins and, more often, summer homes for those who can afford them. One small pair of islands, collectively known as Zavikon Island, were described by the guide as straddling the border with the bridge between them being the shortest international bridge in the world. An interesting story, but untrue according to that font of all knowledge, Wikipedia.

Unknown but very posh residence

Zavikon Island

Supposedly the shortest International Bridge

Looks like a mobile home on a rock

Lighthouse with Alexandria Bay NY in the background

The cruise went past one side of Heart Island where the famous Boldt Castle is located. George Boldt built the castle and its picturesque outbuildings around the start of the 20th Century. Construction stopped when his wife passed away in 1904. In 1977, the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority acquired the property and has dedicated all the money raised through tourism to restoration.

Boldt Castle Powerhouse

Boldt Castle

Boldt Castle dock area

Boldt Castle Main Gate

Boldt Castle Alster Tower 

Boldt Castle southern face

After circumnavigating Heart Island, we cruised by several other interesting properties. A Norwegian natural gas tanker reminded us of the commercial impact the Seaway has on the North American economy. We did pass the Rockport Lines vessel Chief Shingwauk, registered out of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Sandy and I have been on this boat for a lock tour at the Soo, where it plied the St. Mary's River for 44 years before being bought by Rockport in 2011.

Norwegian gas tanker (note NO SMOKING lettering)

When I win the lottery

Cherry Island mansion

Another Cherry Island mansion

Someone must be Italian

No, this is my lottery prize

Lots of big places here

And some nice smaller ones, too

Afternoon pop-up cells are building

Skydeck Tower

Thousand Islands Bridge

Rockport Ontario

The Rockport General Store

The two castle tour looks like fun

It doesn't get any better than this

Back at the Rockport docks, we decided that this had been an hour well spent and that some day we would return and take one of the longer tours that involved going ashore at Heart Island. Since the island is on the U.S. side of the border, we will need passports to keep Homeland Security happy when we do.

We climbed back into the Avalanche and headed on to Gananoque for the next adventure.

This Segment Of Today's Route (89 Avalanche miles):

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