I remember the first time I explored the beach area. Up on the grass above the sand I found a pile of rotting wood. As I examined the mound more closely, I noticed several sections of boards had ribs attached. This appeared to be the skeleton of a boat. I asked Dad and he said, “I think that may be the remains of the original one-cylinder Comfort.
Apparently there were at least two small launches with one-cylinder engines used by workers and the caretaker at the island. The function of these launches was primarily to run errands, or to get to work and then back to shore at the end of the day. The construction was similar to the skiff, Bobby, but the hull and ribs were a little more substantial to support the motor and the shaft that spun the propeller. I had a ride in the sister ship, Medora, a few years later. I recollect feeling insecure with the lack of freeboard, and it took a very long time to go even as far as the mile to town.
Someone had pulled the Comfort up on shore and removed the motor long before my first summer at Comfort Island. Each day I was gaining a greater appreciation of what happens to things left to the elements for long periods of time.
The beach was another treasured feature of what made the Comfort Island location so special. Natural sand beaches are rare in the 1000 Islands region. This particular beach was a product of being at the foot of the island where waves and current wouldn’t wash all the sand away. What current there is sweeps across the beach in the direction of the main channel. A granite ledge known as “toothbrush rock” acts as a barrier to keep sand from advancing past the beach area. The “toothbrush rock” title dates back to the 1880s, but I don’t know if it was simply a figure of speech, or if the first summer residents, actually started off their day brushing their teeth at that handy location.
In addition to the sand on the beach there was an abundance of black shale material. Dad explained, “That is the residue from the spent coal used by the Mamie C steam yacht.” I thought back to the photo I’d studied so often in Dad’s office with steam billowing out of the whistle as it sat at the dock next to the beach. I realized the engineer had obviously shoveled the spent embers into the water at this convenient site. I found an unexpected form of recreation with this debris. The thin flat surfaces of the embers proved to be a functional shape for skipping these projectiles on top of the calm water.
Swimming was big at both ends of the island. At the Papworth end, we’d dive off their long dock, splash water at each other, throw beach balls or tennis balls back and forth, race from here to there and or maybe simply drift around on inner tubes. At our end the younger Papworth kids had an open invitation to come with an adult to swim and play. There were toys, the sand, and shallow water to play in without contending with the deep water and dangerous currents that existed at the upriver end.
Indeed the beach...