June 20, 2007. Basin Harbor, Vermont.
Monday saw the beginning of the 2007 Grand Journey. As the crew assembled on the morning of the 18th , you could feel a sense of excitement building among spectators and staff members alike. There was the usual last minute scurrying around to load the remaining victuals and baggage, the heartfelt goodbyes and well-wishing and then we were off. With some strong line heaving and gentle nudging from C.L. Churchill and Oocher the journey had begun. It was close to noon by the time we had shoved off and it was a beautiful day for cruising the lake with bight sunshine and bluebird skies overhead. Once we cleared North Harbor Churchill was secured to our starboard quarter and dutifully propelled us up the lake. Adam, Tom, Dale, Nate and I quickly settled into routine shipboard tasks like scrubbing the decks and organizing lines under the able direction of Len Ruth. Down in the hold Barbara and Kathleen were finding places to stow the mountains of food that had been collected to keep the crew fed and happy. Kerry was kept busy with a host of small maintenance tasks while Ivor and Art familiarized themselves with the workings of Churchill. Erick and Roger pored over charts and maps calculating travel times and looking at staffing needs. In the course of hours it came to feel as though we had already been away for days.
That evening found us anchored off of Fort Ticonderoga where several staff members took the opportunity to rinse off some of the day's sweat with a quick dip in the lake before dinner. Over a meal of hot dogs and hamburgers, grilled by crew member Tom Larson, we discussed the upcoming opportunities and challenges that we faced and the excitement we all felt for the coming journey. As the sun set and the mosquitoes emerged discussion slowly tapered off and folks looked to preparing their berths. By 10 pm the only sounds to be heard were the trains traveling the New York shore and the gentle rocking of McClure's rudder in a passing boat wake.
Tuesday's sunrise (and Dale's infamous "cowboy coffee") quickly stirred us to action and by 8:30am we were underway again; next stop Whitehall. This leg of the trip saw the transition from the wide open waters around Ticonderoga to the narrow winding passage of the South Lake. Boat traffic was light and we made excellent time. While continuing to complete the myriad of small tasks that a working wooden boat demands, the crew was able to enjoy the sights offered along this portion of Lake Champlain.
As we neared our destination we took a moment to salute a person who has added a tremendous amount of valuable information to our understanding of life aboard canal boats. Cora Archambault (103 years young) lives just north of Whitehall along the lake, and in her youth lived on and operated canal boats on Lake Champlain. So it was with great pleasure and a deep sense of appreciation that we saluted Cora with several blasts of Churchill's horns and hearty waving from all crew members as we passed her house.
The crew quickly downed another delicious lunch prepared by Kathleen and Barbara and prepared to transit the first lock of our journey, the first of 118 such transits that will be completed before Lois McClure returns to the waters of Lake Champlain in September. The canal operators had been forewarned that we were close and "green lighted" us directly into the lock. Under the expert direction of Roger, the watchful eye of Erick, and with an able hand at the wheel (my first time!), we were quickly through and tied off to the seawall in Whitehall for the night.
It was with a heavy heart that I departed the crew that afternoon just ahead of a severe thunderstorm. Duties back in the Conservation Laboratory at LCMM demanded my attention and necessitated that I cut my time with Lois McClure and her crew short. However, even in the brief time I was aboard it was readily apparent that another groundbreaking tour was underway. Though several long months and hundreds of miles of travel lay ahead of the small museum fleet, it was obvious that this was the crew and these were the vehicles that would complete this journey safely while exposing thousands of visitors to the rich history of the New York State Canal system.
Safe journey friends and watch out for low bridges!!! Chris Sabick Conservator/Archaeologist Lake Champlain Maritime Museum
Lois McClure Crew
- Roger Taylor, Captain
- Erick Tichonuk, 1st Mate
- Len Ruth, 2nd Mate, Boswain
- Kerry Batdorf, Ships Carpenter
- Kathleen Carney, Commissary
- Barbara Batdorf, Ship's Store
- Tom Larson, Able Bodied Crew
- Adam Jarrett, Able Bodied Crew
- Elisa Nelson, Homeport Logistics
- Sandy Jacobs, Tugboat Captain
- Art Cohn, Tugboat Captain, Project Director