Regatta on Lower Saranac Lake, c. 1929. The Algonquin Hotel can be seen on the far shore. John I. Kane's Adios II on Lower Saranac Lake
The Saranac Lake Boat and Waterways Club, sometimes given as the Saranac Boat and Waterways Club, first appears in local newspapers in 1914, 1 and continued as an active organization through at least 1970, although its glory years ended with World War II.
Lake Placid News, August 14, 1914
On Wednesday, Aug. 19, Venetian Evening will be observed on Lake Flower and a parade of decorated boats will move around the lake. A large supply of torches and red lights have been purchased, and it is expected that the shores of the lake will prove a brilliant scene.
On Thursday the Regatta will be held. Among the donors of prizes are the following:
Commodore Larom, Vice-commodore Swain, Rear-Commodore W. B. Trowbridge, Fleet Captain E. C. Leonard [sic], Treasurer Kenneth W. Goldthwaite, John Gilbert, Mrs. A. W. Stanley, Miss A. G. Nash who has given two cups, Mrs. C. J. Swain, Dr. J. L. Nichols and Richard Limberg. A few more cups and some cash for the $25 purse offered for the guides' race are still required.
The Essex County Republican, August 18, 1916.
BOAT AND WATERWAYS CLUB TO HOLD REGATTA
To Take Place on Saranac Lake Friday Afternoon August 25.
The annual regatta by the Saranac Lake Boat and Waterways Club is scheduled to take place next week Friday afternoon and the race committee is busy arranging the program.
It has been practically decided to have an "open motor boat race for premier speed events and thus dispense with handicapping troubles which have been the source of some dissatisfaction in the past and to adopt the "bang and go back" plan for other motor boat events of which there may possibly be two, depending on the number of entries.
Instead of having a "Venetian Evening" preceding the regatta as last year with a parade of decorated boats there will be illumination and band concert the evening of the regatta.
Besides the motor-boat races there will be swimming races for men and boys, a rowing race, canoe races— singles, doubles and mixed doubles, a hurry-scurry race for men in canoes, and a tub race for boys. The program is not entirely completed and other events may be added.
Charles J. Swain's new hydroplane is probably the fastest boat ever placed in local waters and may be expected to win the "open". In an "open" event, however, somebody's engine is always likely to go bad before the race is finished, which adds a considerable element of uncertainty. "Open" races have been known to be won by the slowest boat entered. The "bang and go back" event may be anybody's race as the man with an out-board motor has as much chance as man with the fastest speed-boat, the plan of the race giving an automatic handicap which should, theoretically, bring all the boats across the finish line at the same time.
From the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, October 20, 1990
When waterways hummed with regattas
Currently we are not too happy with the all too rapid passing of the summer months. Not so currently, some former summer activities have vanished just as completely as the recent departure of June, July and August.
One such summer attraction that drew considerable attention locally was the regatta that featured boat races on Lake Flower and Lower Saranac Lake. This popular activity was sponsored by a dedicated group of men who joined to form the Saranac Boat & Waterways Club.
For twenty years between World Wars I and II this organization served the boating interests of both the local residents and the many seasonal campers who made use of the Saranac chain of waterways. The purpose of the club was to promote safety on adjacent waters and to enhance the pleasure of boating in general. The "Waterways" in the title referred to Lake Flower, the Saranac River, Lower Saranac Lake and Round Lake (Middle Saranac Lake).
When the very early means of water travel in our area consisted of guideboats, skiffs, and canoes, navigational hazards were of minor concern due to the slow rate of travel necessitated by the manual manipulation of oars and paddles. Local guides quickly became familiar with lake shoals and those stumps and rocks along the river. They also knew precisely where the course of the river's channel provided sufficient depth for safe passage. Those pesky stumps that dotted the river and Miller Pond dated back to a period of lumbering when Pliny Miller's dam backed up the water to flood a large area.
The opening years of the 1900s ushered in a new era. Gasoline powered inboards and outboards were proving the advantages of a propeller versus a pair of oars. At first the village owners of motor boats were confined to Lake Flower and the river as far upstream as the falls. Public pressure soon convinced the state authorities that a pair of locks were a necessary improvement to the waterway to extend the range of boat travel from Lake Flower to the Lower and Middle Lakes.
When the lower and upper locks were installed a village boat owner could cruise a total distance of 20 miles without leaving his craft. The myriad of campers along the waterway could also enjoy the advantages of such un-limited travel. All of the camps between Lake Flower and the lower locks were on private property but only a very few could be reached by road. Above the locks, and for the western three-quarters of Lower Saranac, only state camp permits were allowed (past tense).
The upper river and Round Lake were also bounded by state lands with only two existing private camps (also past tense) on the western lakeshore. The Yardley camp could be reached by road from Rt. 3 but the Kingsford camp on Caper Point could only be reached by boat. These statistics display the importance of boat travel during the 20 years of the Boat & Waterways Club's function. Among the local residents who organized the club appear such well-known names as J. A. Galloway, E. L. Gray, J. R. Hogan, C. J. Ayres, W. G. Distin, Dr. M. Mills, W. C. Leonard, Perley Gould, W. H. Larom, J. S. Ridenour, W. Scopes and C. M. Palmer. Prominent among the summer campers were Charles Harris, E. Guggenheim, C. J. Swain, William Morris, S. Lincoln, M. A. Bronson and Mrs. Haase. Dues were set at $2 per season.
One of the first projects under-taken by the club was the marking of the river channel from Lake Flower to the Lower Lake and thence along the upper river to Round Lake. Stakes were driven to support wooden arrows pointing to safe passage and bordering rocks were painted red and white or black and white to conform with standard navigational configuration.
In the beginning club members volunteered to accomplish the task but in later years the job was let out to personnel familiar with the river. During the 1930s young men who qualified in-this category were lock tenders Charlie Keough, John Buehler and Robert Ryan whose many trips up and down the river made them knowledgeable in the secret turns and twists of the channel. The marking chore was an annual affair since the winter ice always managed to abscond with the wooden arrows and their stakes.
Come spring only the painted rocks held their position to offer directions to the early ice-out boaters. Occasionally some of the owners of large passenger boats took it upon themselves to improve the waterway by blasting some of the more obtrusive rocks and stumps to clear the channel.
One of the early proponents for improving the Saranac River's potential as a popular waterway was Captain E. E. Thomas who ironically lost his life in that same locale. His boat carried materials for the construction of the locks and when they were completed he ran his passenger boat from his Lake Flower dock to the Saranac Club at Bartlett's Carry.
Later, in August of 1923, as he was piloting a passenger cruise boat on a return trip from Lower Saranac Lake, his 10-year-old son, Roland, fell overboard in the narrows above the lower locks. Capt. Thomas immediately jumped in to save his son and disappeared below the surface never to rise. His son was quickly hauled on board and was never in real danger. The drowned body of Thomas was found on the following morning where it had been lodged between rocks in the river bottom directly in front of his own camp.
The next project to be sponsored by the Boat & Waterways Club was the Summer Regatta which was held either on Lake Flower or Lower Saranac Lake. The main attraction was boat racing which featured events for all the varying classifications. Guideboats, canoes, inboards, and outboards were represented in each of the individual classes listed in the program.
The power boats were rated by horsepower of the engines and handicapped according to M.P.H. limits. In this manner all boats, whether racing models or pleasure launches, could compete in the various events. In addition to the races aquaplaning and canoe tilting contests were popular attractions.
On August 30, 1922 the regatta was held on Lower Saranac Lake, beginning at 3 p.m. The program listed eight events. The event, type of boat, winning driver and boat name were as follows:
I — Outboard, Dorothea Simmons, Poker Dot
II — Class E (10 mph), E. P. Miller, Louise
III — Guideboat, Clint McDougal, Name unknown
IV — Class D (15 mph), William Hanes, Tonona
V — Class C (15 mph), John Kane, Adios II
VI — Men's Aquaplane, Frank Bentley, Muquet
VII — Ladies Aquaplane, Elizabeth Lockwood, Let-er-go
VIII — Bang & Go Back, Mrs. H. Thomas, WaWa
The club officers for that year were: Commodore — Walter H. Larom, Vice Commodore — Charles C. Harris, Rear Commodore — A.W. Currier, Fleet Captain — Matt Davis, Secretary — Morton Mills, and Treasurer — John A. Galloway.
Headquarters for the events during the 1922 meet were at the old Algonquin Hotel boathouse where, as can be seen in the accompanying photo, a large turnout of spectators could view the events. The hotel had been closed two years earlier but Burt Alvord had leased the boathouse which continued to operate for another 20 years.
Many members of the Boat & Waterways Club "owned" camps on Lower Saranac and on the river in the vicinity of the Rt. 3 state bridge. Also a much greater number of non-members enjoyed the use of state permit camp platforms in the same area. A general misconception existed at the time that since these camps were on state land they were open to the public. The Club decided to settle the issue by obtaining an official clarification in this controversial matter. Upon receipt of a favorable response the following letter was mailed under the insignia of the Saranac Boat & Waterways Club and since it was of vital interest to so many local residents it is worth repeating here in full.
"Knowing that you are interested in camp life, we think you will be glad to know that the Saranac Boat & Waterways Club is acting to break up vandalism, and to dispel the idea that because a camp is on state land it is everybody's property.
A ruling has been obtained from the State Conservation Commission that unauthorized entering upon a camp erected upon state land under legal permit, is trespass, and is punishable under the law. The Club in order to protect the property of members will enforce this ruling by prosecution of known offenders, and is offering a reward of $50 for information leading to the conviction of trespassers.
We ask your cooperation by joining the club. The dues, including initiation, are $3.00 (They had gone up a dollar). We supply to all members a weatherproof sign warning trespassers, for placing on your camp. If you are interested, inquire of any member of the club, or of Dr. Morton Mills, 6 Broadway, Saranac Lake, N.Y."
Signed by M. Mills, Secretary
After 20 years of existence the Boat & Waterways Club was also about to expire. World War II loomed on the horizon and with all of the major concerns, conscriptions, and rationing, motorboating by necessity had to take a back seat for the duration.
The Club's last hurrah was celebrated in 1940 with a gala clam-bake that was held on First Island in Round Lake. A flotilla of boats arrived at the site as the outing was well attended. Fortunately, a photographer was present and a picture of the gathering remains as a souvenir of this final occasion. Among those present were: Club Commodore Ambrose Furnia, Secretary Treasurer Bob Berry, bake master William Duquette, John Ridenour, Ned Cady, Tuffy Latour, Rodger Bouck, John Pedroni, Charles Keough, Robert Ryan, Herb Clark, Paul Dupree, Raymond Hall, Rodger Seney, Andy Stearns, Frank Baker, Steve Waltein, Arnold Schwartz, Truman Hanmer, Pat Hickey, and John Duquette. How many others can you recognize in the photo?
After the return to normalcy, at the end of the war, for some reason the club did not reorganize. Perhaps in part this was due to the taking over of the marking of the waterways by the state agencies. The D.E.C. currently maintains the system with floating buoys anchored in position to mark the channel and hidden hazards.
In 1972 the state accomplished what none of the vandals could ever achieve by simply rescinding all platform permits and bringing to an end that era of camping which had been enjoyed by so many local families.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, July 14, 1948
NEW OFFICERS OF BOAT CLUB ARE ELECTED
The annual election of officers of the Saranac Lake Boat Waterways club was held last evening at a meeting of the or ganization at Ampersand Bay boat house.
Charles R. Keough was elected commodore to succeed Alton B. Anderson, retiring head. Other officers named were Dr. E. M. Jameson, vice-commodore; Jack Lewis, rear-commodore; Robert E. Berry, treasurer and George Stearns, secretary.
It was voted to hold the annual regatta on Sunday, August 29th on Lake Flower. A committee will be appointed at the next meeting to formulate plans for the event.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, August 18, 1976
Memories of a classic regatta
SARANAC LAKE — One of the more sparkling nautical Adirondack extravaganzas now relegated to the discard was the Saranac Lake Boat and Waterways annual summer's end regatta.
Classic inboards belonging to the various camps were pitted against each other in handicap races over a 6 mile course and rivalry was extremely keen, so keen in fact that South Adirondack challengers began to look forward to the Saranac Lake Regatta with competitive zeal in hopes that they could crown a champion from outside.
The regatta was widely publicized around the state as early as 1922 with the dominant figure John I. Kane, whose mastery of his boat Adios II over the 6-mile course established him as the favorite for several years.
Adios II, a 22-foot, 2000 pound Fay Bowen with long slim lines, gave competitors anywhere from 2 to 4 minute handicap allowances and was still able to come in first under the wire.
In the first years two boats that challenged with perennial optimism were E.L. Gray's Let-er-Go and Muguet owned by Mrs. C. M. Hyde and driven by C. C. Harris. These boats, were constantly in danger of collision as they jockeyed at high speed for the inside corner advantage.
Outboards were also vying for regatta honors at a mile and two miles. Dorothy Simmons Poker Dot, Chief Elto owned by Leo Maas and Rev. E. P. Miller's Louise usually fought for honors against Selwyn Wood's Skip or John A. Galloway's Balbridge.
Over a period of time John A. Galloway, who ran the Chevrolet agency, became enamored of the bigger inboards and gradually emerged as the pioneer promoter of hydroplane racing on local waters.
Whether he had smelled enough exhaust as an also ran in the outboard classes or simply had a yen for power and lightning speed can only be surmised but by the year 1925 John A. Galloway was becoming famous throughout the state for his performances in a big inboard christened Miss Chevy.
Commodore Charles Harris and Rear Commodore Matt Davis usually laid out the official regatta course so that it would be completely visible from any point in the vicinity of the Algonquin landing or the Crescent Bay boathouses.
Others besides Galloway were seeking regatta honors in Saranac Lake. Outstanding contenders were Oh Boy, a Baker and Hill entry; Tinker Bell, owned and driven by D. C. Arnold; and Wisp, another Baker-Hill hopeful.
By the time Mrs. C. M. Hyde had added a second Muguet christened Muguet II to her stable of inboards but was running consistent thirds and fourths in spite of added mechanical innovations.
Hoodoo a crowd-pleaser driven by C.J. Swain, Jr., was always a threat but it wasn't until the sudden appearance of Sally Waters on August 15th, 1927 that inboard racing really became the showcase event of the northern lake country.
Sally Waters was Galloway's answer to second and third place finishes. She boasted a 151 cubic inch displacement engine in a hull of the newest hydroplane design. She won easily at Tupper Lake on August 25th against boats from Quebec, Ontario and New York State racing centers.
The engine was broken in slowly to prevent piston damage and eventually the speedy craft was taking every cup and crown-in sight. Galloway was selling Chevrolets as fast as they arrived from the factory with the publicity generated by Miss Chevy bolstered by the outstanding performances of Sally Waters.
Galloway then groomed his daughter Hope for additional family honors and she soon had her own boat, Happy Days, roaring around the lake.
A strong nucleus of local promoters had already laid plans for an officially sponsored Adirondack Racing circuit.
They included George Billings, H.W. Lockwood, Freeman and Frank Baker, Livingston Chapman, E.L. Gray, W.G. Distin, C. J. Ayres, R.W. Steel and W.H. Pilcher. All of them exerted influence to set the Saranacs apart as special inboard racing waters.
Eventually the clear dominance of hydroplanes and the phasing out of the Fay Bowen terminated the regatta on Lower Saranac but the memory is still strong among boating enthusiasts who lived through that special era.
Lake Placid New, August 15, 1924
THE ANNUAL REGATTA AT SARANAC LAKE
In spite of the disagreeable weather a large crowd of spectators turned out for the annual regatta held on Lake Flower Wednesday afternoon, by the Saranac Lake Boat and Water Ways Club, and the affair was a complete success.
Many of the speed boat entries were surprises to the spectators, particularly the "Experiment, a high-powered boat owned by J. A. Galloway. This boat was crude in appearance, small in size but the speediest boat on the lake, fitted with a Chevrolet motor, it is capable of propelling the boat to a speed of 30 miles an hour.
The Experiment was the last to start in the main event and the first to cross the winning line, and had a lead of better than two minutes on its closest competitor.
Lake Placid News, July 24, 1925
SARANAC LAKE CLUB TO HOLD REGATTA
The annual regatta of the Saranac Lake Boat and Waterways Club will be held between August 10 and 15 according to a recent announcement. Captain Elmer F. Volgenau of the American Red Cross will organize life-saving classes at that time and will also direct a life-saving demonstration as one of the feature events of the regatta.
E. L. Gray, who has directed the annual regatta for several years, has been appointed chairman to the 1925 regatta committee. He is busy formulating plans for speed-boat, guide-boat, canoe and swimming races.
Adirondack Enterprise, August 26, 1925
ANNOUNCE ENTRIES FOR LOWER LAKE REGATTA EVENTS
Locks Opened This Morning, and Full Field Will Start in Races
Boat and Waterways Club Is Ready for Second Big Water Meet
Opening of the Saranac river locks this morning has made a complete change in the program of the annual lower Saranac Lake regatta, which takes place tomorrow afternoon, making possible the entry of speed boats kept on Lake Flower and Lake Kiwassa. Entries are busy testing their craft to determine the handicaps in the various classifications around the new course on the lower lake. Buoys mark the circular mile and half course. The start and finishing lines will lie opposite the Crescent Bay boat-house.
The course has been so laid out that the finish of the races can be observed just as well from any place along the shore lines as they can from directly in front of the boathouse. The marking of the course follows the curving of the shore line and spectators will have good places of observation on both shores of the lake or from the shore of the Islands.
Plans for the regatta which commences at two-thirty o'clock, have been made by the Saranac Boat and Waterways club. E. L. Gray, chairman of the race committee, announces the following: list of contestants: — In the main event which will be run in [illegible] the Hoo Doo, C. J. Swain, Jr.; Tinker Bell, D. C. Arnold; Miss Chevy, J. A. Gallaway; Wisp, D. C. Arnold; To It, Freeman J. Baker; Muguet, Mrs. C. M. Hyde; Oh Boy, Baker and Hill, Let Er Go, E. L. Gray.
Officials of the races are Matthews Davis, referee; G. L. Jackson, starter; Livingston Chapman, announcer; M. M. Jones, official patrol; judges and timers, W. G. Distin, W. E. Colyer, W. H. Pilcher, R. W. Steel, C. F. Taylor, Captain Henry Lockwood and C. J. Ayres
- 1Malone Farmer, July 29, 1914