1,000 Islands - Great Lakes.

Trip Start Feb 01, 2005
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Trip End Dec 31, 2018


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Flag of Canada  , Ontario,
Saturday, June 11, 2005

It was time for country folk to get away from cities for awhile and stay in a country town. We caught a train from Ottawa to a small town called Gananoque in the 1,000 Island area. This is a very scenic area where actually more than 1,000 islands dot the huge St Lawence River which separates USA from Canada. Some islands are in USA waters and some in Canadian waters. Most of the islands are so small (less than a suburban house yard) but have a tiny shack, boat dock and a couple of pine trees. Other islands have huge mansions - the playground holiday houses of the rich and famous. Everybody it seems gets around by boat.

We made friends with a local chap who offered to show a couple of Aussies around the islands in his boat. By the end of the day he probably wished he hadn't offered as we managed to get embroiled in a lengthy customs/immigration hassle with the US coast guard!
We were having a lovely time and our host Mike said he would take us into US waters so we could visit the famous Boldt castle. This is a huge castle built European style by a wealthy American at the turn of the century as a testament to love he had for his wife. It takes up all of an island. Unfortunately just as it was almost finished, the wife died and all work on the castle ceased and the husband never returned. Now it is a tourist attraction in the 1,000 island area.

Just as soon as we entered US waters the coast guard cruised up, stopped the boat and asked our citizenship. When told Australian he got very officious and asked for our passports and spent all of 15 minutes reading the stamps! We were told we were to proceed immediately to the customs office at Boldt Castle. We told him that was where we were heading anyway but I don't think he believed us. Normally Canadians entering US waters just on a day trip only have to phone customs advising this but our friend was also told that he would have to go to customs. Once we arrived at the customs office the day deteriorated rapidly. All 3 of us were treated like criminals. We tried explaining that we had only just come from the US into Canada some 6 weeks ago and had previously entered the US on 4 occasions so we were not a threat to the US of A. We also explained we were only going to see Boldt castle have some lunch and then go back to Canada. The officials spent about and hour searching the boat from top to bottom. They then quizzed us in detail about whether we had property in Australia, and the ages of our children. We presumed that they thought we were trying to disappear into the US. (As if ANY Aussie would want to stay forever in the USA!!!!) Each one of us (including the Canadian) were told to come forward separately and empty our pockets and put our hats and bags on a bench for inspection. Every thing was minutely inspected and questions asked about medication and pieces of paper with writing on. Our host had an un cashed cheque in his pocket which caused them consternation and they actually rang the drawer of the cheque to check if it was OK! After a period of almost 2 hours they gave us a visa and we went back to the boat, looked at each other and all agreed "Lets go straight back to Canada"!!!
It was a pretty unique experience and the worst customs/immigration experience we have ever had and we have been to some pretty amazing places. We can only assume he was on a bit of a power trip or just got out of bed the wrong way that day!

One other experience of note in Gananoque was going to a live theatre production. Although a small town it has a lovely historic theatre and people come from far and wide, often by boat to visit the Springer theatre which is right on the waters edge. We saw a comedy "Communicating Doors" and thoroughly enjoyed not only the show, but the ambience of a theatre with a balcony that overlooks the islands in the waterway.
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