July 4, 2007

Ship's Log


Art Cohn is the Executive Director of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. He is a professional diver and has coordinated and participated in Lake Champlain's archaeological projects for the past twenty years.

Cohn is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in Maritime History and Nautical Archaeology at both the University of Vermont and Texas A&M University.

He serves aboard CL Churchill as a tugboat operator and on the Schooner Lois McClure as an able-bodied crew member.

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Local Area Sponsors - Ithaca


Our first public stop was Ithaca, on the Finger Lakes, and for the very first time we had to turn people away. I believe that forecasts our "Grand Canal Journey" will be an extraordinary experience.

After traveling south then west with our three-boat entourage for 14-days and passing through 35 locks we locked through CS (Cayuga-Seneca Canal) #1 and arrived at the north end of Cayuga Lake. During the journey on the Champlain and Erie canals our crew passed through some of the most beautiful, historic and hallowed ground in North America. As the previous Lois Logs have reflected, it was glorious to see bald eagles, loons, and osprey and to encounter historic masonry locks, old channels and stone aqueducts that remind us we are following in the footsteps of many others.

The traveling itself was, for me, like stepping back in time. I had my Captain Theodore Bartley journals to read (I'm re-reading all his Erie Canal trips) and an 1824 New York State Gazetteer that provides perspective on all the towns we were traveling through just as the original "Grand Canal" was about to be completed. The enthusiasm of all we meet along the way and the friendship extended to us by New York's Canal Corporation workers suggested that the Lois McClure was heading in the right direction - but nothing we had done before prepared us for Ithaca.

As the Canal Corp crew from the Ward's Island derrick-boat assisted us in putting up our rig so that we could sail from the north end of Cayuga to Ithaca at the south end, we prepared to make the transition from a traveling mode to public exhibition. It is now fair to say that the transition was fairly dramatic and successful.

We sailed to Ithaca in a stronger than predicted breeze which allowed us to really experience the beauty of this vessel under sail and also arrive several hours early. I was at the helm of our sturdy tugboat the CL Churchill and had a better view than most of the Lois McClure sailing, as my tugboat crew Duncan Hay (NPS historian) and Larry Thompson (LCMM volunteer) snapped many wonderful pictures of the schooner's showy performance.

Ithaca Grand Canal Slam

Our arrival in Ithaca and the two days we spent hosting the public was very special. Our mission is to "preserve and share the history and archaeology of the region" and in Ithaca we hit a Grand Canal Slam. Hundreds of people lined the entrance to our berth at historic Lookout Point and city fire trucks saluted us with an arch of water from each bank. When we tied up at the stone-faced canal pier, a large crowd of people came to check us out and talk history. But it wasn't until the next day that we realized we had awakened a sleeping fascination with Ithaca's maritime past.

Bruce Stoff and his crew from the Ithaca Visitors Bureau and Chamber of Commerce had done such a good job of getting the word out about our arrival that a crowd began to form early Monday morning for a planned press event. On hand were our partners in this enterprise, Frank Dean of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor and Carmella Mantello of the New York State Canal Corporation who joined Congressman Maurice Hinchey and a host of dignitaries to welcome the Lois McClure to Ithaca. We were even presented with a letter from Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton which recognized one of the core strengths of this journey; "This epic undertaking [as] a cooperative endeavor involving federal, state and local governments, and communities and businesses from Buffalo to Burlington, Vermont" and closed by letting us know that "Your adventure is one we are all proud to share."

The outpouring of public interest really went to the heart of the journey's mission and the hopes and dreams of the partners for putting this traveling museum in motion. In a community with a population of 29,000, over the next two days we hosted more than 3000 people aboard and through the schooner. Most of the time we had a line of folks waiting to get on the boat and they kept on coming to the point where on Tuesday night, with a long line still growing, we simply had to close access to the boat and invite people to visit us at one of our other ports-of-call; it was after our closing hours and our crew was just plain exhausted.

We were also very well satisfied. The level of interest, enthusiasm, gratitude and affection was so plentiful that it reminded us of the special magic Lois works on the people who see her. A time machine - a 19th century truck - a mobile family home - an ambassador for shipwrecks - a traveling circus - a great watercraft - Lois was all of these things and more in Ithaca. The Lois McClure was the centerpiece in a community's rediscovery of their maritime roots. It was so glorious and satisfying I hated to leave and drive back to the museum for a Thursday night lecture on the American Revolution, but I did. Traveling home with my son Nathan, we were both exhausted from the canal travel and marathon interpretation, but as content as I can remember being in a long time.

I will return to the boat in Geneva and look forward to seeing how the rest of the 27-ports-of-call respond to our visit. If it's anything like the reception at Ithaca, I think we will have accomplished our mission and then some.

Generosity Abounds!

Many thanks from the crew of the Lois McClure to the Holiday Inn Ithaca Downtown for generously providing two rooms for the duration of our stay in Ithaca. Your hot showers and cool air conditioning are greatly appreciated.

Cayuga Wooden Boatworks/Tiohero Tours

Tiohero Tours

Cayuga Lake Cruises

Cayuga Watershed Network

Ithaca Yacht Club

Cayuga Radio Group

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County

Purity Ice Cream

Micky Roof Jewelers

Island Health & Fitness

Ithaca Waterfront Merchants

Music maven Nora Starr and the Ithaca music community

All the volunteers and friends of the Lois McClure

Thank You!

Phone: 802-475-2022