Two boats had the biggest hold on my imagination as a kid. The first was the ferry to Mackinac (pronounced mack-in-aw) Island—365 Boats will visit Mackinac sometime in the new year I hope. The second was the boat to Boblo. Boblo, officially named Bois Blanc Island, is an island in the Detroit River on the Canadian side of the maritime border. The island is 2.5 miles long and .5 miles wide. In 1796 Fort Amhertsburg was built there to guard passage along the Detroit River once Detroit had been turned over from the French to the Americans. Little else happened on the island until an amusement park was built in 1898 to service the growing populations of Detroit and Windsor, Canada. I remember some of the rides, most notably, The Nightmare, an indoor roller coaster all in the dark (my friend Joey and I once rode The Nightmare 20+ times in row until Joey couldn't take it anymore and puked outside in the line. Good times!), but what I remember most about Boblo is the ferry ride to the island. For 85 years the SS Ste. Claire ferried passengers to and from Detroit:
Stepping aboard always seemed like a really big deal, and also a little scary. The possibility of shipwreck was almost too exciting to bear. And upon disembarking the possibilities were endless:
As if Detroit didn't have enough bad news in the 90's, Boblo shut down following the summer of 1993. For the next decade and a half the abandoned island began to look like the rest of the city, worn down and forgotten about. Recently things have changed for Boblo. The Canadians are converting the island into a planned vacation resort. You can watch short videos of what the island is going to look like here. Make sure to click on the third video. It shows photo stills of the island's past with a pretty great Motown soundtrack in the background.