Gananoque Boat Line–Photo Memories
Written by Tom King
posted on February 13, 2011 22:24
Having grown up in Gananoque I was introduced to the joys of boating on the St. Lawrence River at an early age. My Dad, Jim King, and I built a small wooden punt when I was 12 years old and that little boat opened a whole new world for me. I spent countless hours on the river with friends and my beloved dog, Heidi.
We would be on the water from early spring to late autumn, in good weather and bad. One of the most thrilling experiences that was always popular with my buddies, and not so much with the dog, was chasing the local tour boats and riding the roller coaster that was their wake. It was always a special treat when you could catch a “double header”; a Gananoque Boat Line tour boat followed closely behind by one from the American Boat Lines.
We got to know which boats produced the “best” wakes (the bow heavy Miss Gananoque II produced a monster wake at the right speed!) and were always on the lookout for our favourites. In the absence of tour boats we would have to settle for a wake from one of the many passing cabin cruisers, but they weren’t nearly as exciting. To this day, whenever I have to cross the wake of one of the local tour boats, my mind drifts back to the days of my childhood and a big smile comes to my face. Those playful days spent on the river are a very special part of my life and I will cherish them forever.
My father, Jim King, along with my mother, Betty, and their two eldest children, Barb and Doug, moved to Gananoque in 1949 when he was transferred to town to assume the position of Superintendent at the Steel Company of Canada Forge Plant. In the following years the family grew with the addition of two more sons, Steve and myself. Shortly after moving to Gananoque the family discovered the beauty of the Thousand Islands and countless hours were spent enjoying lazy summer days on the St. Lawrence River.
During the fifty years that my father lived in Gananoque he was very active in town through memberships in the Rotary Club, Grace United Church, and the Gananoque P.U.C., to name a few. The “J.W. King Water Filtration Plant”, which stands on the shore of the St. Lawrence River, was named after him in recognition of the contributions that he made to the upgrading of the Town’s water system while acting as Chairman of the P.U.C.
Two of my father’s passions were amateur photography, which he took up in the early 60’s, and gardening. His magnificent flower gardens were a source of immense pride and were also another place where he loved to snap pictures. He also received great pleasure sharing his photographs with others and he put on elaborate slide shows for numerous community groups and events. Although he passed away in 2003 his photography collection continues to provide a photo history, not only of the family, but of the Town of Gananoque as well.
2011 marks the 60th anniversary of the Gananoque Boat Line. No other business has done as much to put Gananoque on the tourist map as the GBL has and they are to be commended for their contribution to the prosperity of the town. While I was sorting though my father’s collection of 35 mm. slides I came across a number of pictures of the Gananoque Boat Line tour boats and I thought that, in light of their anniversary, it would be appropriate to share these photos with the Thousand Islands Life Magazine readers.
The “Linda” series of single-decker, wooden Gananoque Boat Line tour boats docked in the Gananoque River. (Circa 1965) Photo Credit – J.W. King
Miss Gananoque I, the first double-decker vessel in the Gananoque Boat Line fleet, was made of mahogany. (Circa 1970) Photo Credit – J.W. King
Miss Gananoque II, a steel hulled double-decker tour boat. (Circa 1970) Photo Credit – J.W. King
An example of the triple-decker, aluminum Thousand Islander series of Gananoque Boat Line tour boats currently in service. Photo Credit – J.W. King
A picture of the Gananoque waterfront with several tour boats loading and unloading passengers. At the far right, the Thousand Islander IV can be seen in its’ original double-decker configuration. It was later modified into a triple-deck design like the rest of the Thousand Islanders. (Circa 1976) Photo Credit – J.W. King
|All tucked away for the winter! This is a shot of a couple of the Gananoque Boat Line tour boats wintering in the Gananoque harbour (circa 1977) Photo Credit - J.W. King
By Tom King, Milton, ON.
Tom and his wife Marion have lived in Milton, Ontario for the past twenty-five years, where they both worked and raised their family of three children; Kris, Mike and Becca. Tom still has a strong attachment to the Thousand Islands, having grown up in Gananoque and being a “river rat” from a very early age. The family tries to return to the islands every summer and for the past few years have been renting a cottage on Sampson (a.k.a. Heritage) Island, just out from Gananoque.
Editor’s Note: Do you have memories of the Gananoque Boat Line, or other River tour boats, please share them with us below.
Comment by: Mike Fesko
Left at: 6:41 AM Tuesday, February 15, 2011
What a great story! I remember well the tour boats of the 60's and saw many of the Canadian boats around Clayton, NY. I left the area around 1970 and find it interesting that your shot of the Gananoque waterfront with tour boats loading and unloading passengers includes a double decker at the rear of the line that looks so much like the American Boat Lines (I think then it became the Gray Lines (?)) Venus or Neptune (aluminum hull double deckers successors to the wooden Adonis). It would be interesting to know if one of them was later put in service in Canada or just a coincidence? Thanks for a great article.
Comment by: Steve King ( )
Left at: 9:16 AM Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Well done Tom. A life time of memories in those photos. My fondest memories of the tour boats were going over the huge wakes in my 14ft aluminum boat. Seeing the pictures can't bring the spring season soon enough and another boating season in the fantastic 1000 Islands.
Comment by: Tom King ( )
Left at: 12:12 PM Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Thanks, I'm glad you liked the story. You have a keen eye - that is the "American Venus" parked at the Gananoque waterfront. The boat says "International Boat Lines" on it so obviously, somewhere along the line, the company changed its name from the American Boat Line (ABL), which is how I remembered them. I'm not sure what name the company operates under today, if it is still in business. The Venus, Neptune, and Adonis all made regular stops in Gananoque as part of their tour route. I can recall the fierce competition between the GBL and ABL ticket hawkers as they tried to be the first to stop each tourist's car that was passing by. Fun times!
Comment by: Herb Swingle ( )
Left at: 1:18 PM Tuesday, February 15, 2011
This story shows us all that we must cherish our fond memories of the "islands".We will always be respectful of our "good neighbors" to the North and the gem called Gananoque.
Comment by: Kearney Bennet ( )
Left at: 5:40 PM Tuesday, February 15, 2011
I too have great memories of jumpting the tour boats wake, particulary the Adonis and Venus in my 13 foot Boston Whaler (early 1960s) ---foolish, but I thought I was cool with the prop out of the water. And I believed it was value added for the tourists. Ah, young idiots!
Comment by: Heather Pelow (Mabee) ( )
Left at: 8:27 PM Tuesday, February 15, 2011
At a go Tom! I have shared many moments on the river, as well as high school with you and Marion. We have all grown to love the river. Remember the trips to the cottage on Tremont Island ( Tidds Island) . We all have a memory of the islands, but I have to add, I have spent EVERY summer there for my 54 years and they are all precious. You cannot beat boating to the mainland to go to school and your peers at school thinking you are crazy to be living on an island. My two siblings and I had the whole river to ourselves. Anyone for water- skiing after school? We have co-owned a cottage there for 13 years on Hay Island but we now have had our own cottage for 3 years. My brothers are on the same island ( Tremont Island). You cannot appreciate the solitude and mystic of the river unless you have lived there. Two kids and one grandchild later - it's still special!!
Comment by: Brian Johnson ( )
Left at: 9:28 PM Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Please let me congratulate you and your family for these treasured photos of a bygone era. Especially the flotilla of Lynda boats in the 'creek'. I was captain of the Lynda XII for another company in 1971 and well remember her cantankerous moods. Later, I joined GBL shortly after the Islander II was built in 1975, the year the beautiful Thousand Islander III was built and launched. I was mate with legendary skipper Capt Leland Earle with Gavin Duffy as engineer on the original Thousand Islander. Both men gone now.
Riding the boats with Bob Beckstead, Wilf Bilow, Jack Norris and of course, Charlie Brooks. Growing up with Chris, Marty, Paul, Neil, Bill, Peter...The lifelong friendships with GBL were the best times of my life!!
Comment by: eric schulz ( )
Left at: 10:46 AM Thursday, February 17, 2011
Tom, thanks for the trip down memory lane. I remember the Miss Gananoque 1 and 2 very well from the early 70's. My most memorable encounter as a young teenage was in the family v sterned canoe turning to go into the Miss Gan One's wake in the Raft Narrows and watching my outboard spin off the transom and disappear beaneath the waves. To this day I make sure the clamps are tight and the safety chain is clasped.
Comment by: Peter Glazier ( )
Left at: 9:18 PM Thursday, February 17, 2011
What a coincidence...I was in Dania Beach Fl yesterday and saw an excursion boat that had the same hull lines as the ABL boats from Clayton,[Slightly different cabin structure] cruising up the intracoastal.I think there is another around the lakehead somewhere.
Comment by: Mike Fesko
Left at: 9:55 AM Friday, February 18, 2011
Just looked at your pix again; what a great compilation! Speaking of tour boats... I heard one time that the old American Boat Lines "Adonis" (wooden hull precursor to Venus and Neptune) was built on a PT boat hull. Looking at pictures of her, I'd say that makes sense. Any others ever hear this? I have an old home movie on my Calumet Island memories webpage, but the link is here (about half way down the page) if you want to see her again for a few seconds.
Comment by: Peter Glazier ( )
Left at: 6:04 PM Wednesday, February 23, 2011
The Abl boat I saw is owned by the Water Taxi in Ft Lauderdale.There is a picture of her on their website under Fleet.
Comment by: Bud Andress ( )
Left at: 11:18 AM Thursday, February 24, 2011
Tom, I too very much enjoyed the old photos. I believe my uncle George Andress used to captain one of the "Linda" boats on the short evening tour, after a days work at the Post Office. Great shot of all those single wooden tour boats docked on the west side of the "crick".
Question for you or others....what was the name of the (converted) old wooden mine sweeper that used to run a tour down from Kingston, through the Wanderer's Channel, and then back up the Bateau Channel? I can see it in my mind, but can't remember the name (was it the Miss Kingston?)
PS: hi to Kongo!
Comment by: Tom King ( )
Left at: 1:29 PM Thursday, February 24, 2011
You are correct, the old converted wooden mine sweeper that toured out of Kingston was named the "Miss Kingston". I had forgotten, but there was also a Miss Kingston II that was much the same design as the GBL triple decker boats. I am putting together some more old pictures of the "iconic" boats from "back in the day" that I hope to have published in a future article in Thousand Islands Life.
PS: I'll pass along your best wished to Steve!
Comment by: Kevin Lackie ( )
Left at: 10:13 PM Thursday, February 24, 2011
Great article Tom
The photos also bring back great memories of the "River". I summered with my parents in a small brown cottage (still standing) on the inside channel near the Glen House and Lancaster Island for many summers and remember as a kid waiting for those huge waves to roll into shore as we swam.
I grew up loving those old boats and eventually went to work for GBL and "Hal", "Harry" and "Bob" for the better part of 10 years. I started as a deckhand on the TI II (fondly nicknamed the morning star), then engineer, then at 20 acquired my ticket and worked as a mate with Marty on the TI IV. They were great times and as Brian has said many friends were made. I too had the pleasure of working with "Capt. Charles Egbert Brooks" on many a cruise and he will be missed by all of us.
I been on Stonesthrow Island (the A-Frame next to MacDonald Island) since 1979 and still enjoy setting my watch to the GBL boats going by and having our pictures taken by residents of every country in the world. I applaud the GBL for their first 60 years and hope they continue to ply the mighty St Lawrence for at least that may more.
Comment by: R.C. Dorman ( )
Left at: 10:25 PM Friday, March 4, 2011
I found out about that wake from the GBL tour boats this past summer. I've just started kayaking the river and was behind St. Helena Island, in the channel, and didn't hear the GBL boat coming (the tour guides are usually chatting so I get a warning). I got hit by that wake sideways and it certainly was a roller coaster ride!! Alittle bit scary but a whole lot of fun all at the same time.
Comment by: Ted Bradford ( )
Left at: 7:54 AM Saturday, March 5, 2011
Well done Tom!!! I haven't seen the Linda fleet or the two Miss Gananques in ages, not to mention the shot of the American Neptune or Venus included here. I have fond memories of chasing down the wakes of many a tour boat over the years and was always excited to see a new addition to the river as the years progressed.I recall vividly the Thousand Islander 3 toppling over after rolling down the launch. Two of my favorites were the old Kingston boats that called the Buccaneer near Treasure Island home, The Miss Kingston and the much smaller and quite load Lady Kingston. When I was a youngster we spent every hour during the summer on the islands and I was able to identify the sound of the engines of a few of the tour boats on their routes and would either run from one end of the island to the other to see them or jump in my small boat to rip out to catch the wake. Famed icons of the river like Leland Earl and Art Pulaw always had plenty of time for a kid like me that couldn't get enough of what they did. The friendly staff of the Clayton Boat Line ticket office near Main and King Streets would always welcome me with open arms as well.
Comment by: Peter Glazier ( )
Left at: 9:38 AM Thursday, March 10, 2011
The Miss Kingston was a converted Fairmile B coastal patrol vessel, of which about 8o were built in various Canadian yards for WW2.I remember another Fairmile being operated as the Midland Penetang 88 [88 being the hull number] until about 1974. There is also a Fairmile currently in the process of restoration in Sarnia.
Comment by: Jinny McCreary (Chapman) ( )
Left at: 8:29 PM Sunday, October 23, 2011
OMG Tommy, I have just scanned some of your articles and it brings back such memories!! I will read them thoroughly tomorrow and pass on this website to my siblings, Brian and Judy. It will be a real treat for them as well. Keep up the good work and it was SO NICE visiting with you recently.
What a totally nostalgic experience. I also recognize a few of the names from the previous comments.
Jinny McCreary (Chapman)
Comment by: Mike
Left at: 1:46 PM Thursday, March 8, 2012
In the post I left on Feb 18th above, my URL has changed for the American Adonis tour boat video. You can now find the link half way down the page at
Comment by: Jeff Kitchen ( )
Left at: 12:16 PM Monday, June 4, 2012
I enjoyed this article and these posts immensly, thank you all for the memories. My parents have a place on the American side at Mason´s point about half way between Clayton and the American span of the 1000 Islands bridge and I remember all of the vessels mentioned here. I sure do miss the ABL boats, you could set your watch by them. My Dad took me on the American Venus back in the late ´60s and I also made a tour on the Adonis II sometime in the mid ´70s. I´ve always wondered what happened to those boats. I was in military service or in school quite a bit during the 80s so I didn´t get up to the islands very much. When I did later in the ¨90s they were all gone. Thank you all for the trip down memory lane, it´s bitter sweet.
Comment by: Mike
Left at: 3:37 PM Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Hi Jeff, I recall the double-deckers were the Adonis (wood), then Venus, then Neptune (both aluminum and those two being essentially identical). After my family moved away from New York state I lost track of the tour boats, but I do see references to the Adonis II - can you tell me if that was an entirely different boat or was it a re-naming of the Venus or Neptune?
(I have a little info on my site about the ABL boats in the 60's (http://www.1000islandssteelking.com/1000-islands-nostalgia/))
Comment by: Tom King ( )
Left at: 4:11 PM Tuesday, June 5, 2012
I did some quick research on the "American Adonis II" and found it listed in the Bowling Green State University Great Lakes Vessels database. According to the records she was built in 1972 by Paasch Marine, the same company that built the Venus and the Neptune. I came accross a postcard of her at "cardcow.com" and she looks to be identical to the other two ABL boats mentioned. The BGSU database also mentioned that she was renamed to "Island Princess" at some point in time.
Comment by: jeff kitchen ( )
Left at: 10:30 AM Friday, June 8, 2012
The Adonis II was built by the same yard , Paasch Marine of Erie, Pa, as the other two aluminum vessels and was identical to the other two but I could always tell the three of them apart even from a mile away. It began service the summer of 1972 and was the loudest of the three for sure but I used to love listening to it pass by. Even today if I hear a similar sounding engine it immediately takes me back. As it did replace the older vessel of the same name, ABL did not sell the old Adonis as I remember but kept it on for charters but for how long I don´t know. At some point ABL became International Boat Tours in the late ´70´s or early ´80s and sometime during the ´80s went out of business (their ticket prices were always the most expensive in the area but they gave the longest tours). After that I do recall one of the boats being with Gananoque Boat Tours for a short time and another (possibly the same) was with Uncle Sam boat tours for a time as well but this didn´t last. The old Adonis was in Boston as of 1989 however I have no idea what´s happened to it since then. I have no idea where the three aluminum boats wound up but I´m sure they continued in service somewhere. If you left the area in I think you said 1970, obviously you wouldn´t have know about the Adonis II. If you haven´t been to the thousand Islands in a long while don´t worry, it never changes. I´m in the offshore O & G business in Mexico and I go up to the islands for a few days every August, it´s the only place I can truly relax.
These days Uncle Sam Boat Tours are thriving in Alex Bay. They have some great tours including a dinner cruise which was quite nice. Gananoque Boat Line is still running three triple deckers and I took this cruise once back around the mid ´90s. There is a small party boat running out of Clayton with an outboard motor calling itself 1000 Islands Tours but that´s it for tour boats in the area. The Miss Kingston stopped running years ago.
I remember the captain of the Adonis/Adonis II because I sat up front near him when I took a tour on the boat in the mid ´70s, he was a real nice guy.
American Adonis: built 1943
American Venus: built 1960
American Neptune: built 1964
American Adonis II: built 1972
All the best Mile and thanks for your e-mail, Jeff
Comment by: Mike
Left at: 9:04 AM Monday, June 11, 2012
Jeff and Tom - Incredible information, thank you both so much for responding! I've been on Adonis, Venus, and Neptune and the sight and sound of each one is still a fresh and fond memory. I would love to find the original Adonis, and your report that the "old Adonis was in Boston as of 1989" gives me some hope. Please forgive me, I'm not promoting my website, but for fans of the original Adonis, I have a short home movie clip of her leaving for the morning run from the early 60's at
One last tidbit... look at the original Adonis - I was told she was built on a WW II PT Boat hull. Looks possible - any confirmation to that?
Comment by: Tom King ( )
Left at: 6:04 PM Wednesday, June 20, 2012
I have been trying to locate some information on the origins of the original "American Adonis" of the American Boat Lines. According to the Bowling Green State University Great Lakes Vessels database she was built in 1943 by Huckins Boat Works. That same company had a contract with the USN to build several PT boats in that same time-frame. However, the PT boats built by Huckins were 78 feet long and had a beam of around 19.5 feet. According to the BGSU database information the Adonis was 61 feet long and had a beam of 16 feet. Unless one of the original PT boat hulls was modified significantly it doesn't appear that the Adonis was built off one of them. Do you have any information on the dimensions of the Adonis to confirm the information in the database?
Comment by: Mike
Left at: 8:47 PM Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Sorry I don't have any more data on Adonis but do appreciate you following up on this. It is some good solid detective work! I may research Huckins a little and see what I can find, and report back.
Comment by: Doug Rombough ( )
Left at: 5:46 AM Sunday, August 5, 2012
I'm really pleased to see that you have saved and are sharing your dad's photo collection. They are priceless.
Currently I'm preparing a series of slide shows of my historical postcard and photograph collection of Gananoque. I will be donating them to the Arthur Child Heritage Museum in Gan and to Queen's University Archives. I would very much like to include some of your father's pictures in the presentations (especially those pictures of the GBL in this article). I'd be grateful if you woould send them electronically to me. Of course I'd give you and your dad credit for them. I can be reached at email@example.com. Thank you,Doug
Comment by: Mike
Left at: 9:12 AM Monday, August 6, 2012
I am still trying to chase down some details of the old ABL boats. I did get a note from the Clayton town historian who says the original wooden Adonis was indeed made from a PT boat hull. I contacted a couple places in regards to that but haven't heard anything back.
Comment by: Serge Letarte ( )
Left at: 11:24 AM Tuesday, January 29, 2013
The old Miss Gananoque is still in operation in my own town.
The name of the boat is now Fort-Saint Jean II
The Fort Saint Jean was the first cruise boat in Saint-Jean and it was the ex Lynda XII
Comment by: Stephen Shantz
Left at: 11:08 PM Thursday, December 8, 2016
We went on a Thousand islands cruise in the early 1990's and had our photo's taken by BAM photography for matching key fob's (Build a Memory).
At the time we asked the fellows taking the photo's if they'd pose for one for us. We jokingly promised them we'd send a copy and then life got in the way & we forgot.
I've rescanned some from then and would love to know if & or where to send them. I'm not sure if they were employed by Gananoque Boat Lines or a separate photo company.
We'd love to send them a copy, it did come out great.
We had a great little thousand islands cruise at the time.
Comment by: Susie Smith
Left at: 8:07 AM Sunday, December 11, 2016
Please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. S smith, editor.