Islanders Take Boating Vacation
in New York

-- by Jane Winer

Photos by David Winer.

Sycamore Islander, September 2003

Jane Hill and Babs Bell return to Paul Smith’s College
from a late afternoon paddle on Lower St. Regis Lake.
In a caravan with Islanders Bill and Jane Hill, David and I headed for the Adirondacks the last week in July by way of The Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, N.Y. Clayton, a village on the St. Lawrence Seaway, gives access to the famous "Thousand Islands" stretch of river. We took advantage of an offer to tour the river in a snazzy reproduction '30s runabout. Back on shore, we found some extraordinary antique boats, including many speedboats. One, for example, was powered by a Spitfire airplane engine (1400 hp). In the midst of all this muscle we came upon an unusual canoe of molded plywood, which David had seen once before --

Brad Coolidge’s donation of a rare, molded
plywood canoe at the Antique Boat Museum.
in Islander Brad Coolidge's garage in Bethesda. "The Caroline," we read, "is an example of military technology marketed to take advantage of postwar prosperity." Brad, we knew, had recently given this boat to the museum. We report with delight that it is on display.

We proceeded to Paul Smith's College and by late afternoon we were admiring new as well as antique wood and wood/canvas canoes, all set out on the college green. This was our destination: The Wooden Canoe Heritage Association Assembly in the Adirondacks. We had come to the college for 5 days to paddle canoes, buy or sell canoes (we did sell one), or take a workshop: repair a canoe or build one from scratch; learn to knit, or to split cedar, cook over a campfire, or make a beaded necklace--among other offerings. Children were welcome. This year's theme, "The Bark Canoe," included lectures on the history of the bark canoe and its unique construction. And our Sycamore Islander group was scheduled to lead a nature walk one morning at the nearby Nature Center.

Gorgeous restored wooden canoes
displayed on the campus.
Nature walk at the Adirondack Visitor Center.
Jane Hill points out an unusual specimen.

On our first full day at the Assembly, David and I joined a group set on paddling to Bear Pond, five lakes and two carries out from the College. After stuffing bottles of water and peanut butter bagels into our pack basket, we paddled hard to catch up with our friends. The first carry from Upper St. Regis Lake dropped us into Bog Pond, via a narrow, winding canoe trail the color of dark tea. Sundews close at hand. At Bear Pond, the space opens up; cold, clear water attracts loons and mergansers. Sure enough, we watched a pair of Common Loons fishing nearby with their chick. As we were leaving the pond, we were treated to a full concert of exquisite loon vocalizations.

Canoeists land at our first carry to Bear Pond. Entering secluded Bog Pond.
Iroquois beaded pouches at the Six Nations Indian Museum.
Dull weather one day sent us visiting the Six Nations Indian Museum in nearby Onchiota. We found canoes there too, when directed: "Look up in the rafters!" Birch bark canoes, of course. There were superb examples of Indian beadwork on display and a surprise, the Six Nations Temperance Flag of 1844, the flag of the first temperance league in the United States. In front of the museum we found a monument acknowledging the Iroquois Confederacy as a model for the Constitution of the United States.

The speedboat tour from the Antique Boat Museum
included several local history stops... and some excitement too.
Meanwhile, back at the Assembly, somebody had discovered the canoe we had car-topped from home, an Old Town that David had bought early in the '60s--with sailing rig--was for sale. A fellow from Pittsburgh, visiting the Assembly with his wife and grandson, was anxious to buy the boat, "to teach his grandchildren to sail." Too bad David had left the mast behind on our deck in Bethesda. No matter, they wanted the boat "as was." The deal was struck. Everyone was happy. David wrote a postcard to our daughter that night in which he reported the sale and closed with these fond words: "My old companion since 1961 has found a good home."