The Great International Steamboat Flotilla

A steamboat event in Ontario, Canada


| July/August 2000



steamboat flotilla

''The fleet'' steaming across Opinicon Lake on an excursion to Jones Falls.

The life of a steam hobbyist certainly has its ups and downs, as most of you can attest. My husband Kelly's going through one of the "downs" these days. He's been stinking up the place with noxious chemicals and lying on his back under his steamboat, Reciproca, scraping bubbled paint off the bottom for the last few weeks not the most pleasant of projects. He keeps shaking his head and moaning to himself "Why? Why? Why did I choose this hobby?"

When I can tell that he's reached a new low point, that's when I remind him of how great the "ups" can be. Like, for example, the trip we took with the boat to the 1999 Great International Steamboat Flotilla (GISF), held at Chaffey's Lock along the Rideau Canal in Ontario.

The GISF is an annual steamboat event, held alternately in Canada and the United States, which brings together steam boaters from both sides of the border. The 1999 meet, which took place June 21-25, was headquartered at the Opinicon Inn, a rustic country resort hotel with a main lodge, several cabins situated throughout the wooded grounds, and a dining room serving some of the most delicious (and abundant) fare this side of the Arctic Circle. The Cross family, owners of the Opinicon, were marvelous hosts to the rowdy bunch which seemingly took over the place for the duration of the meet. Our condolences to them on the loss of their patriarch, Al Cross, who passed away earlier in the spring.

Flotilla organizers Bill and Diane Burwell, from Canada, and Mike Condax and C'Anne Anderson, working on the Yank side, did a great job of pulling the whole thing together, encouraging attendance, making reservations, arranging excursions, providing fuel, and taking care of all details to make sure everyone had the best boating experience possible.

The Rideau Canal extends from Ottawa, Canada's capital city, to Kingston, a city on the St. Lawrence River, and was built after the War of 1812 to provide an alternate route for military and commercial shipping should the St. Lawrence River be blocked by American invasion. Only a few of the locks across its route been modernized; most are still operated by hand-cranked windlasses.

We arrived a couple of days early, so that we could have a chance to just hang around and relax before the real fun began, and also so that (okay, we admit it) we could get the boat off the trailer and into the water without an audience to make us self-conscious. Kelly also looked forward to some "tinker time" before the meet started.