Wolfe Island and Clayton, NY excursion

It’s been a long, long Canadian Winter but life is complete again, now that Vitae has been launched. After 2 years of closed borders to the US, we finally ventured across for a short trip to Clayton, NY and explored Wolfe Island on the way.

Our home port is the Gananoque Marina, so we are very fortunate that we are in one of the most beautiful sailing and boating areas in Canada — the Thousand Islands, where the St. Lawrence River flows out of Lake Ontario. As the crow flies it’s only about 5NM to Upstate New York and the little town of Clayton (by boat it’s about 8NM cutting between the eastern end of Canadian Wolfe Island and US Grindstone Island. This place has felt so far away in the last 2 years during Covid travel restrictions – how our perceptions change and how we perceive distance by how accessible a place is. We decided to circumnavigate Wolfe Island to get there, just to make it a longer excursion.

Being new members of the Kingston Velo Club we had signed up for one of their rides on Wolfe Island. So the first challenge was to store our road bikes on the boat. Since we still wanted to be able to sail, they had to go below in the quarter berth. It’s actually a benefit to be shorter as my road bike fit right through the companion way and into the quarter berth. Dave, however, had to take both wheels off, but we managed to get them in.

Waterfront with the Hotel Wolfe Island

We took the Bateau Channel from the Gananoque Marina as the wind was on our nose. By 5 pm we were heading into Barrett Bay and the little town of Marysville on Wolfe Island right across from Kingston. The Bay is fairly shallow and potentially weedy in the Summer, but there’s a deep buoyed channel used by the ferry to Kingston. Just east of the channel and a few hundred meters out from the dock in front of the Wolfe Island Hotel, there’s a few mooring balls owned by the Wolfe Island Boat Club. They are rented seasonally but check in with them as they are sometimes available during early or late season. We were hailed on our VHF by another moored sail boat and they told us. After checking the mooring to make sure the line was safe we had a good stay here. It was a bit noisy during the day as the new ferry terminal for the electric ferry was being finished to open the Summer of 2022.

The next morning we had to lower our dinghy and load our road bikes into it through the back of the cockpit and swim platform. Then we motored over to a little dinghy dock in front of the Boat Club, and then rode to the winter ferry dock 5km away to meet the riders coming across from the Kingston Velo Club. We had a beautiful ride to the East end of the island along quiet paved Country roads. It was about 60km there and back to Marysville, a cozy little town. It has a cute historic general store with beer and LCBO and a bunch of cozy restaurants and patios. The Hotel Wolfe Island (the historic General Wolfe Inn reborn) with their locally sourced menu is bringing in lots of live music and the new owners are revamping the water front with a patio restaurant and a stage on the pier. We will definitely be back to see some of their events!

Sign at the historical general store

The next day we cut south through the Simcoe Channel on the western end of Wolfe Island and sailed along the southern shore of this pastoral Island with it’s many electric windmills. Stubbornly, we refused to start the motor for most of the way but paid for it by being invaded by the dreaded midges or Great Lakes flies which come out in swarms each May. They have the uncanny ability to hang onto all leeward surfaces on boats, especially sails – and then get squished into the dacron when you furl or lower your sails. Here’s a picture of our jib after I spend more than half an hour trying to dislodge the carcasses with a hose. Luckily, these are our working sails – not that we have any others!

Hope the sun will eventually bleach out the stains left by the smooched midges

Our first night in the US was spent at the Clayton Yacht Club. We got a reciprocal ($25 US a night) and were able to tie up at the outside of the southern T-Dock. The club is super friendly and Leonard and his wife from “Our Gal Sal”, grabbed our dock lines, gave us the scoop on Clayton and the Club and even hoisted the Canadian curtesy flag on their boat just for us. Apparently, we were the first Canadian boat visiting in 2 years (due to the Pandemic). The club is beautiful and Eric, the VC, was immensely helpful and accommodating. If you have a shallow draft boat, I would definitely recommend stopping here. For most sailboats the depth is a bit of a problem and the club boats are all power. The outside dock is also not very comfortable in east wind. We had hardly any wave or wind, yet even the small slap of the waves woke us up a number of times during the night.

The old Clayton Yacht Club building, not as posh as the new structure, but this feels like a cottage where friends meet.

It poured rain all next day, but we headed to the visitor dock at the Antique Boat Museum across the bay during a lighter spell. We spent most of the day at the museum – conveniently, they give you a day pass so we could explore the town when there was a break in the rain. Clayton has a beautifully renovated waterfront, with many marinas, day docks and piers for larger tour boats. The river walk offers countless restaurants and pubs with view of the St. Lawrence. Historic buildings abound and there are cute shops to explore.

The Antique Boat Museum is a real treasure trove for anyone interested in boats. There’s something for everyone, from pictures and info on old sailboat wrecks in the depths of Lake Ontario to beautifully restored wooden power boats, racing boats, skiffs, sculls and canoes. It’s easy to spend an entire day exploring and we only scratched the surface by just touring the museum. There’s also a guided tour of the opulent houseboat “La Duchesse” as well as outings on the St. Lawrence in July and August. Personally, we got a real thrill out of seeing a few Pocock Sculls, as we both had just read Daniel James Brown’s “The Boys in the Boat”.

After a full day exploring we anchored in French Creek Bay, the big bay west of Clayton – great holding here and very quiet. The next morning we returned via the non-buoyed channel between Wolfe and Grindstone Island. It’s on the American side while the buoyed cut is closer to Wolfe and remains in Canadian Waters. I kept a sharp look-out on the foredeck just to be safe but we had no issues.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: