“We are no longer docked!” I wake up yelling in the middle of the night looking out the houseboat window into darkness. The boat is being tossed like a shipwreck about to happen. It’s storming and we are houseboating with dogs.
On the second night of our Great Canadian Houseboat Adventure through the 1000 Islands with the dogs, I have a restless sleep thanks to incredibly high swells tossing the boat in a fit of rage.
A huge storm is tearing through the area and – thanks to the advice of Park Warden Tim – we spend most of the day (and night) at the Camelot Island dock because we secured a spot early on a busy day and don’t move.
Looking out the window, I see nothing but vast surging waves and a shoreline far in the distance. That’s when the panic starts. After all, we’re houseboating with the dogs.
“We’re in the middle of the river with no running lights on,” I yell.
M, half asleep, jumps out of bed ready to start the ignition, but looks out the window first.
“We’re stilled docked,” he says. “You’re looking out the wrong side.”
Ok, he’s right. The boat is still tied up. It’s storming, but we’re fine. Victor, my schnoodle, is sound asleep unaware of the chaos. Sasha, a brown lab, just watches us flap about.
Welcome to Day Two of the Dog-friendly Thousand Island Houseboat Adventure
Earlier – before the storm – we explored MacDonald Island, which is easy because it’s small, and mostly campsites and a fire pit. It’s one of the few Parks Canada islands where generators are allowed, so there’s a loud hum from boats powering up.
Someone (not a friend) reminds us of park rules stating we keep the dogs on leashes.
Gananoque Park and Marina
Clearly, this island is too small for the many of us who’ve docked boats here (several with dogs), so me, M, Sasha and Victor head out to try our luck at the municipal marina. It’s here boaters can dock and walk to ‘town’ about 15 minutes away, which we do picking up more supplies and buying matching nautical bows for both Sasha and Victor from a vendor in the Gananoque Park craft show on this weekend. (In July, the park hosts an annual pet festival).
Back on the boat – and back to barking dogs – we navigate the most convoluted route possible to a marina gas station then push onward to Camelot Island; we’re told this is one of the best islands to take the dogs out for the afternoon. It’s here we meet Tim, who directs us to our next day route (Rockport then south to Boldt Castle) and suggests we don’t leave this spot tonight.
Tim is one of two park employees who patrol every Parks Canada Island in the 1000 Island system, every day, checking on boaters, campers and the park’s payment honour system (which often reveals people to be less than honourable).
National Parks Park Pass
We have a Park Pass, a benefit of houseboat rental. Good thing too, because I had no idea payment for docking and camping is required.
Camelot Island earns its reputation for being the best hiking option. Like all the Parks Canada island trails, these hiking paths are well marked, often with boardwalks and stairs, and take less than an hour to navigate. Camelot Island is rocky and craggy, making it slightly more challenging than other islands.
The dogs are loving being dogs: sniffing, peeing, sticking to the trails, stimulated by an unfamiliar route but curious to see what’s next. Admittedly, I frequently have to abandon the leash in favour of not being pulled over rocks and falling face first.
Victor is surprisingly keen on staying with the pack, leading the way around the island twice because at first we’re convinced we missed the ‘long’ route the first time around the island.
We didn’t; the trail is not very long. I’m loving the clean and modern outhouse facilities on each park island, and the fact our houseboat has a propane BBQ, so M has taken on the cooking duties each day.
After dinner the rain starts. Then the storm … you know the rest.
Tomorrow: Boldt Castle. Yes, a castle in the middle of the lake.
Missed Day One? check out Day One here.
Writer bio: Sherri Telenko has been a professional writer for decades and travel writer for the last two. She’s a member of TMAC (Travel Media Association of Canada) and Dog Writers Association of America, and travels almost weekly with her canine companion, Victoria.
[…] The best way to experience the unique Thousand Island National Parks is by boat – the most peaceful parts are islands dotting the St. Lawrence River. Renting a houseboat in the nearby town of Gananoque and taking the dog along is the best way to do it. (See here). […]
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How scary to be stuck in the storm! That would be terrifying!
Well, I made it worse than it was by getting excited … the houseboats are pretty hardy and the park Warden gave us good advice. One dog didn’t even wake up. He’s also never been afraid of thunder.