You may have read my recent post on the Boblo Boats, and as a matter of fact right around the time I was writing that, I was also going to the actual island itself. "But the island is off limits," you say? Well it was, until just recently.
Back in 2010 when you literally had to be or know an island resident to be allowed on the ferry to the exclusive community, my Windsor buddies Donnie Johnston and Navi Kolnik made a hilarious attempt at gaining access to the ruins of Boblo Amusement Park. Once they arrived and were questioned, Donnie quickly made up a bullshit story that they were there to visit "uhh, Steve Smith," a name he randomly pulled out of the air. Coincidentally, there happened to be an actual Stephen Smith living on the island, and the ferry operator said he could phone Mr. Smith to confirm this. Donnie quickly covered, saying that they were friends from out of town and wanted the visit to be a surprise. Amazingly this story was sufficient to dupe the ferry operators and they were given passage to the island, the rest of which is outlined on Navi's blog.
For a long time after that Chad and I wanted to try the same stunt, but we never got around to it. Just this spring I happened to get a tip from Donnie that the access restriction on being a resident to get to the island had been lifted. Perhaps the fancy restaurant was hurting for business since there were only about 200 residents on the island?
At any rate, it was extremely clear that a trip needed to be made immediately. It was only today that I saw this article in the Detroit Free Press declaring that Boblo Island was open-season for Detroiters to visit again for the first time since the 1990s. So let this be a heads-up to you, community of Boblo Island--prepare to be invaded by a bunch of plywood-peeling, HDR-shooting miscreants! Haha.
When I arrived at the ferry dock in Amherstberg, Ontario I had to fill out a lengthy waiver, and was charged $20 for the ride, which I immediately recognized as the absolute priciest ferry I had ever been on considering the ride lasts less than five minutes. Nonetheless I just assumed it was pricy because we were in Canada, and didn't think much of it until I heard from Chad that they charged him much less. Perhaps this was because Chad was in a much nicer looking vehicle than my rust-monster, which would undoubtedly require an eyesore tax in order to be allowed into the hoity-toity island community.
It was so weird to be back here...I hardly recognized the place at all. Here was what looked to be a mini-golf course...?
Ahh, finally something I remember well--the old Boblo Boat dock:
Good times, good times. Actually to tell you the truth, I was never a fan of amusement parks; I only liked Boblo because it involved a nice long ferry ride.
Up ahead was the literal dock, which itself looked to be made out of an old barge or something:
This thing isn't actually collapsed, it is hinged so as to accommodate changes in water level or different deck heights when docking a ship:
There were actually a few local kids fishing off the docks here. My partner and I went out on the part of the dock that looked like an overgrown ship hull:
In all reality, that's probably what they did was just get some tired old ship way back when, and fill it with earth or concrete to turn it into a dock.
This was also where we sat down for a moment to eat some of the snacks we had brought along with us.
I needed to go take a leak first, so I wandered off on my own to find a secluded spot for a quick tinkle. Most of this thing was covered in foliage:
It definitely had a uniquely "ship-shaped" appearance to it; here was what looked like a fantail at the stern of the ship, complete with some cleats:
I was having a hard time finding a place to wizz, much to my consternation, but for whatever reason something still managed to slowly arrest my distracted attentions just long enough for me to question what it was. It was a hole in the ground...
I anxiously prepared to make use of it as a potty, when suddenly it occurred to me that something about this situation was a little odd. I held my fire long enough to look a little closer...
This isn't a hole in the ground, it's a fucking ship! I zipped my pants back up and strained to contain my natural urges for just a little while longer, while I indulged my natural curiosity. This was a potentially incredible find...I looked around quickly but my partner was no where in sight--I excitedly tested the tangle of old rusty pipes to see if I could climb down into the old ship far enough to see if there was somewhere in there that I could stand. Unfortunately this was going to be an incredibly dicey maneuver, especially while holding a full bladder.
Clenching my camera strap in my teeth, I shimmied down a steel beam a little ways to find myself suspended above a darkened mystical waterworld of Gilded Age machinery and decor, all mostly submerged in clear waters of unknown depth.
There was a catwalk around the outer rim of the space, which appeared to actually be the ship's engine room, but it was soaking in at least an inch of water, which meant that it was probably so rusted that if I put my weight on it it would turn to dust on contact. (Something exactly like that had happened to me once in the flooded tunnels under the Packard Plant, and I ended up in water up to my neck in freezing weather before I could react).
In the meantime I climbed down gingerly onto the sturdier of the hand-railings that were sticking up above the water and began shooting pictures.
It occurred to me that my partner didn't know where I was, and that if I had a mishap in here it could mean certain death.
Over in this direction I could see what looked like dry land that might be strong enough to hold my weight, so I balance-beamed my way over there:
Thankfully it provided me with at least something to stand on, and I was able to rest my climbing legs and take better pictures. This is about as close to scuba diving as I will ever get. The reflection in the water shows the hole, and the pipes I climbed in on:
This was simply unbelievable...it looks to be at least 100 years old, and still contains most of its steam engine. At least now I didn't feel so fleeced at having to pay $20 for a ferry ride.
It was about this time that I heard my girlfriend roaming about up above, undoubtedly wondering where the hell I had gone to, and whether I had fallen into the river and drowned. Naturally, once she found the hole she realized that I was merely doing what I always do--getting into trouble--and called down to see what was going on.
It was kind of hard to work proper exposures with the glare from the sunbeam shining in through the hole above:
By this point I was surprised that I had not been attacked by mobs of fat juicy dock spiders, whose space I had just invaded. I made my way back aft to the very stern of the ship, to see the rudder gear and motors:
As it so turns out, thanks to the excellent website BobloSteamers.com, I now know that this ship used to be a bulk freighter named the Lachinedoc. She was built not nearly as long ago as I had surmised--in 1927--by Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson in Sunderland, England.
I took plenty of pictures from every possible angle, since I knew I would probably never make it back here.
According to BobloSteamers.com, Lachinedoc was renamed the Queenston in 1947, and over the course of her life of service she was owned by different concerns in Canada, the U.S., Great Britain, and Panama. At 252 feet in length, she was pretty small by today's standards. In 1961 she was bought by the Bob-Lo Ferry Co. Ltd., and sunk here for use as a dock.
This was definitely the engine room:
Shooting sharp photos in here without a tripod was tricky.
But what a surreal scene...
Soon I forgot all about the fact that I still had a huge island to explore outside! I peered ahead into the darkness on the other side of the pool, but I could not really discern whether there was any way into the forward compartments in the rest of the ship:
The engine was built by McColl & Pollock according to BobloSteamers.com, and is a triple-expansion three-cylinder steam engine:
The ladder also unfortunately came to a dead end at the ceiling:
This was reminding me so much of the time I had snuck aboard a mothballed freighter in the Yoopee a few years back.
I was amazed at how intact yet this ship's guts still were, considering that for all those decades as Boblo Island amusement park revelers were coming and going up above, this sealed compartment was down here all the while, bathed in oily water and complete darkness, preserved like an ancient tomb.
Next to the rudder gear was a small supply room:
I kept trying to get photos that showed what lay in the compartments further below. The water looks to be as much as 20 feet deep:
Now that I had pretty much seen all that could be seen in this small space in the aft end of the ship, I was interested to go back above and inspect the rest of it for clandestine entry points. I did not find any, but here was a pretty little planter on what would have been the bow:
Alright, time to get to exploring this amusement park before the daylight runs out.
CLICK for Part 2.
Great Lakes Lighthouses Encylopedia, by Larry & Patricia Wright, pg. 131-132.
The Patriot War, by Robert B. Ross, 1890, pg. 14 & 19-20.