ERIE CANAL ADVENTURE: Anchored in the shadow of an abandoned castle

August 14, 2020

Story Location:
United States

SOUTH BAY, CARLETON ISLAND -- After exiting Sackets Harbor yesterday, we headed further north and east into these rocky northern islands.  Not in the thick of them yet but I expect so tomorrow.  

A fine old lighthouse with its classic attached keeper’s house - all painted white - stood at the end of Tibbett’s Point on Cape Vincent.

Becky read something that said Cape Vincent marks the western entrance of the St Lawrence River coming our of Lake Ontario. Our friend Sue spent summers up this way as a child.  She saw that we were headed toward Cape Vincent and sent an image of a painting of the lighthouse there done by her father many decades back.  Lighthouses have a habit of inspiring painters and photographers.  

We dropped the hook - nautical talk - in a cove called South Bay, protected from the north winds.  South Bay sits at the southwestern end of the island.  In eleven feet of clear,  green fresh water we can see bottom.  The water may seem green because of the tall grasses growing up from the bottom about six feet or so. 

The water’s a good temperature for swimming.  I was reminded of the freshness of the water when I went overboard and scrubbed Nellie’s waterline with a brush to erase some of the slime and scum that accumulates, especially in the canals and marinas.  Not much circulation in them.

I immediately noticed the lack of buoyancy we enjoy in the saltwater at home.  Had to work a little harder, but good physical fitness I guess.  That’s what Mark Carter calls physical work.  Fitness. I hope he had a successful paddle up the coast from Indian River and back down the canal from Lewes to the site of the new Grove Park Dock.  Mark’s been diligently promoting and raising funds for that project for years and it’s now approaching construction.

A few old houses stand up on the point that defines the southwestern edge of South Bay.  Behind them stands a much older and overwhelmingly larger abandoned wooden castle.  Pointed gables and proud, high stone chimneys stand in contrast to the slumping roofs.  They’re starting to give way to gravity, hard winters, and the lack of maintenance that ended more than half a century ago.

It’s said that a man who designed and engineered a popular typewriter for the Remington company used some of the copious proceeds to buy property on Carleton Island and build the castle. A New York City architect named Miller, who also designed several of the Ivy League-esque buildings for Cornell University in Ithaca, is said to have designed the slowly deteriorating castle. (A  Remington coincidence: Another friend named Sue texted us after we passed Ilion, along the Erie Canal, where her family lived when she was young.  She said her father designed and engineered a patented machine that etched the familiar crosschecked grip pattern into the stocks of Remington’s shotguns, which were manufactured in Ilion. There are so many accomplished and talented people on this planet.)

Paddleboarding this morning close to shore, I saw a large grey fish - about two feet and well fed - just off to my left and in clear, shallow water.  When I circled back to take another look, the fish had disappeared among the rocks.

I mentioned the fish to a man angling from a bass boat further out in the stream.  I described the fish.

“Sounds like a carp or a drumhead or made even one of the big smallmouth bass we see from time to time.”

I’ll have to look it up. But unless they have huge smallmouth bass up here I’d eliminate them from the possibility. 

Lots of shooting stars last night. Typical for the middle of August, but exciting nonetheless.  Especially the yellowish-orange fireball-looking shooting stars that streak a great distance across the stars before burning out.

Outside is good! There’s not much positive that can be said about CoVid-19 but it does seem to be getting people outside more.

Well, if you read all of this I thank you. Just rambling a bit and here are some photos to go along with the ramblings.

Keep the faith, spread a little love, think positive and stay in touch.

Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter