Today, Victor, my 12-year-old schnoodle, tore the screen out of the back door of the houseboat. It’s day three of our Great Canadian Houseboat Adventure through the 1000 Islands with two people and two dogs.
“There goes the deposit.” This is an on-going joke throughout the trip, though this time I mean it. I should have known better. This is not Victor’s first offence. He’s been a screen-wrecker since birth.
Today, we get really adventurous (for us) and decide to navigate our way to Rockport, Ontario (one of the few gas stations we can get the houseboat into) then south passed the American/Canadian border and onto Heart Island, home of Boldt Castle. Unfortunately, Boldt isn’t dog friendly, not even in the gardens, so Victor and Sasha, a brown lab, have to stay on the boat for about an hour while we’re gone.
This doesn’t go over well. Hence the infraction.
Luckily the window is down too far for Vic to crawl out. Otherwise, we would have spent the afternoon tracking down a black poodle-like dog running around the grounds of this crazy expansive never-completed edifice to love or ego (depending on which story you believe) now owned and gradually restored by The U.S. Thousand Islands International Bridge Authority.
In the early 20th Century, George Boldt a multi-millionaire thanks to hotel investments that included the original Waldorf Astoria in New York City (where he allegedly invented 1000 Island dressing, inspired by this area) decided to build a mega castle sparing no expense.
Boldt Castle was to have marble floors, ornate ceilings, inlay wood flooring, three-level wooden staircase, 100 bed-rooms, three dining rooms, ballroom, pool, Italian gardens and a guest house (or kids’ castle) complete with bowling alley. It makes Toronto’s Casa Loma look like a reasonable dream.
The story goes he was building this mansion for his wife, the love of his life, and when she died unexpectedly five years into the project, he abandon the half-finished property never to step foot here again.
Or, as one local told us, “That’s bullshit. He ran out of money.”
Likely, there’s some accuracy in both versions.
Here’s what else is true: Boldt Castle stood empty for 73 years, left virtually abandoned then looted for copper pipes and covered in graffiti by partiers who spent the 1960s finding the Age of Aquarius here. In 1977, the Bridge Authority began the to-date $39 million dollar restoration. It’s far from complete but an interesting process to witness.
First though – check in at American customs. We have papers for the dogs too, though the men stationed at this not so dangerous post are not very interested. Then we leave the dogs on the boat to their own supervision.
A word of advice: if you take your houseboat here, don’t follow one of the tour boats back to Canada. They make a detour into the widest part of the St. Lawrence River where the freighters come through. Yes, those giant-ass-can-kill-us ocean boats. The idea that we’d encounter one scares the hell out of me so we 180 it out of there.
Somehow, we make it back to Rockport’s dock to check in with Canadian Customs via phone.
While fussing with equipment on the boat, I hear a voice far behind me: “Hey little dog, you should be on your boat.” I turn to see Victor hightailing it up the hill to dry land. Crap.
Next stop: (once everyone is accounted for) Mulcaster Island and the Glenhouse Resort for the much talked about Prime Rib dinner. Well, for Mario not me. I’m up for corn-meal encrusted pickerel with a glass of Merlot. (Hey, I didn’t say we were roughing it).
Sidenote: Victor is sporting the Outback Jack doggie life jacket. He has two: one green and one pink. There’s handles so we can carry him like a suitcase. Great for lifting on and off boats.