Top Ten Beginner-Friendly Tips For Navigating The 1000 Islands

Wavve Boating
Adam Allore

Adam Allore
Founder/CEO of Wavve Boating, lifelong River Rat
· 5 min read

Some sections of the St. Lawrence River are smooth sailing...

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But if you’re looking for a challenge, you’ll find it navigating the 1000 Islands - the narrow stretch of river between northern New York State and southeastern Ontario.  This notoriously difficult area shows off the River’s wild side. You can’t tame nature — but you can learn a few of its tricks to stay safe and enjoy a great time on the water.

Rough Waters Ahead

You’ve heard tales of dangerous shoals, unexpected outcroppings, and elevation changes that’ll  ruin your day (and, possibly, your boat). The 1000 Islands has ‘em all — and plenty of buzzing boat traffic to make the yarns that much more exciting.

Sheltered areas lull you into a sense of calm. But once you venture into the open water, unpredictability takes over. Unless you have the skills and confidence to stay in control:

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1. Know Before You Go. Where does the Canadian side of the river flow into the American side? Where’s north? It’s basic, but always orienting yourself can save you a boatload of time and worry.

2. Watch the Weather. It’s not about rain or temperature (a rainy day on the River is better than a sunny day at work!). It’s about wind speeds. Keep an eye on conditions before you set out.

3. Learn Your Reference Points. Wherever you go, you’ll be near Grindstone, Wellesley, or Wolfe Island. Other boaters recognize these as solid reference points; if you run into trouble or need directions, knowing where you float makes finding helping hands easier.

4. Stay Put. Have an anchor and a line at the ready. The ability to become stationary gives you a chance to breathe, assess the situation, and figure out your next steps calmly.

5. Know the 911 of the Water.  If you have a VHF radio, channel 16 is designated for distress and safety calls. If you need to contact a marina, most monitor channel 68.  Your navigation aids may also include emergency assistance functions.

6. Stick to the “Beaten Path.” When navigating the 1000 Islands for the first time (or second, or third!), stick to channels that are well marked by the Coast Guard, but keep an eye out for shipping vessels and tour boats.  Tempted to venture off the channels? This is the best part of the River — but these waters are not marked nearly as thoroughly.  Get some experience under your belt before you tackle them.

7. Navigate Like a Pro. Intuitive nautical charts, emergency call buttons, and community-sourced information are at the tip of your fingers. Familiarize yourself with apps such as Wavve Boating and the US Coast Guard mobile app. They’ll help you avoid confusion (and Gilligan Island-worthy excursions) in the maze-like Islands. Is paper more your style? Grab a chart at your local marina.

8. Learn the “Rules of the Road.” Vessels approaching from the starboard side, for example, have right of way. Don’t assume everyone knows (or follows) this and other rules. Stay alert and exercise caution.

9. Wait It Out. If you’re out on the water — along with every other boater on the Canadian/US border! — traffic can become overwhelming. Pull over in one of the bays and wait for rush hour to die down.

10. Be a Good Neighbor. If you’re going to anchor or dock across the border (and you should, otherwise you’re only seeing half the river!), check in with customs. It’s a breeze with apps like ROAM.

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Ready to put your skills to the test? The 1000 Islands are calling — it’s time to live your story.

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River rat

Navigate confidently.

Find your friends.

Explore new waters.

 

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