August 2, 2007

Ship's Log - Brockport


Tom Larsen has been involved with the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum since the tender age of 14. He is currently a student at Hartwick College and is hoping to crew on the Lois again next summer.

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Photo by Kerry Batdorf
Tom with youth group at the windlass

Thursday, August 2
The Tonawanda stop ended with free rein of the vendors on Wednesday night during their weekly concert - massive hamburgers, lots of soda, and some live music. It was a nice way to end a long hot visit. Today, we head to Middleport, and from there to Brockport. Hopefully the heat lessens a bit, or it will be a long trip.

Friday, August 3
9:00 am
Middleport was nice - very welcoming, good facilities, and a great restaurant. This morning, the bridge keeper (Jen) stopped by to double check when we were leaving so she could make sure that the bridge would be out of our way. Little things like that are what make this trip so nice. Overall, everyone has been wonderfully cooperative and excited to have us come through their towns.

Last night, we went to the Basket Factory Restaurant. There's a great story behind the establishment. According to the back of the menu, coopers of the area (the guys who make barrels) couldn't keep up with the demand for shipping barrels as canal traffic boomed. Two brothers had the bright idea to switch to baskets - cheaper, faster to make, and could hold up to the rigors of canal shipping as well. The restaurant is located on the site of the first basket factory of Middleport, and has tons of baskets decorating the interior. There was a lot of discussion over dinner about the history of the area and how to work the local history into our interpretation of the boat. The food was excellent as well, with LCMM covering half, and Art Cohn and John Tichonuk taking care of the rest - thank you!

After we got back from the restaurant, it was decided that a movie was in order (as the projector was going back on the van from Brockport). A side of the retail tent hung over the lifelines formed the silver screen, and entertainment rolled forth. All the comforts of home, on the canal boat the Lois McClure.

This morning, we head toward Brockport. Though my arm is just about healed, my encounter with the bicycles is fresh in my mind. I think I'll stick with walking.

12:00 noon
It's easy to become complacent when all you are doing is navigating a canal, and have been having the best service and cooperation provided for you. We just had a very stressful encounter with a lift bridge that didn't quite live up to its name. Of course, it didn't help that we came around the corner at full power and saw it immediately in front of us. That combined with an impressive series of radio miscommunications and a bridge operator making his way from a bridge further up the canal all combined to make a very tense moment. Kerry and I were thrown into the Oocher (minus a radio), and told to pull in full reverse. The Churchill started backing down as well, and we had to keep the Lois from hitting the canal walls as the brakes were put on. Luckily no bridges or boats were harmed in this operation. We now know that we do have brakes, should we need to use them.

Just before the bridge adventure, Erick had me take the wheel of the Lois. That was like nothing I've ever done. The boat doesn't respond fast at all, and you have to be looking way ahead of where you are going and planning each corner well in advance. Personally, I felt very nervous about the whole thing. I don't think I ever want to be a captain - too much stress.

Excitement on the Lois underway is a bad thing. This time, it was the tug having issues. Apparently, a fuel filter seal failed, and diesel fuel started spraying all over the hot engine compartment. Not so good. Luckily there was no fire to be had, though fire extinguishers were called for just in case. The tug was shut down, and we started coasting along. The Oocher was deployed (me at the helm, with Adam on the radio), and we stayed attached to the back of the tug to act as a brake if needed. Roger decided to land at the first wall possible, and it just happened to be a Canal Corporation facility. Talk about good luck! It took about an hour and a half to fix the tug, with the Canal Corporation providing everything we could want. During this whole thing, we got rained on as well (just to complete the experience). Now, we go on to Brockport, with hopefully no more adventures.

We got to Brockport with no more excitement, thankfully, and even managed to arrive almost on time! There was a welcoming ceremony, with the mayor welcoming us to the town and thanking us for coming, and Art weaving the story of the General Butler for the assembly. He is a very good story teller. There are a lot of events planned for this weekend, and lots of interest. We should see a lot of people through the boat.

Sunday, August 5
I had the day off, which was very nice. Erick did as well, and first thing in the morning we went to the Brockport Farmer's Market. They have a very cool setup for that - a side street is completely closed, and the farmers can drive their trucks down it, and set up right there. There was a huge selection of stuff, and watching Erick go through it was like seeing a kid Christmas morning. Every booth had something different and was greeted with appropriate excitement - "Look at those radishes - they're the size of beets!" A lady recommended getting some of the yellow watermelon, and actually gave us 3 of them since she had "gotten too many." We ended up getting one or two things from just about every farmer there, and gave everyone a Welcome Aboard brochure and told them about the boat. After the extravaganza at the market, Erick and I went to a local diner for a late breakfast, and then started wandering around the town. We walked past the Morgan-Manning house, saw lots of very cool architecture, and as we were walking past a fire station, a very cool fire truck caught our attention. We ended up getting a tour of the entire firehouse, which was a museum in and of itself. The building was originally the firehouse for the Capen Hose Company, and they have all sorts of antique fire equipment exhibited there now. The truck that caught our attention first was an early 1930's fire engine that had been restored and was a beautiful machine. They also had an old steam fire engine which would have been pulled by horses, originally built in Seneca Falls, as well as a hand pump engine, which was also restored. It's amazing how much of a presence the fire companies have in the towns by the canals. They really are the heart and soul of the community.

After the fire house tour, Erick and I went back to the Farmer's Market and got a melon from one of the vendors (after we helped unload the truck that brought them). The melons had been just picked and were amazing. We ate half of it, and brought the rest back to the boat. It was like trying to eat a water balloon - each bite let fly with a torrent of juice, and half of it ended up on your shirt if you weren't careful. It was very good.

Brockport has one of the oldest movie theatres around, so Erick and I paid that a visit as well, watching The Bourne Ultimatum. Good action flick, though Erick had some trouble keeping the popcorn under control. After the movie, we headed out to visit a man by the name of Hal McBride. This guy has an amazing collection of stuff. He really has almost a museum of his own. The highlights (for me, anyways) were his antique cars and tractors. Brockport had a small stint of making automobiles when they were just coming into being. They were truly horseless carriages, steered by a tiller arrangement, and looking like you could hitch a horse up to the front of it. As far as he knows, Hal has the only one in existence. He also had a very early Ford, and a 1925 Studebaker (wooden wheels!). His tractor collection was impressive as well, with an early John Deer and quite a few Allis Chalmers, all looking like they just rolled off the assembly line. He had quite a few other rare items as well, including a Brockport manufactured piano, a large collection of flexible flyer sleds, and some old farm tools. All of it was organized very well, and it was a real treat to see. Erick and I also sat on the front porch listening to stories of Hal's past, from his childhood in Brockport, to how he got some of his collections. He was a real treasure trove of information.

Photo by Kerry Batdorf
Sunset concert in Brockport

The day ended with a lively concert by the Dady Brothers, an Irish duo. Tragically, their performance was slightly shortened by uncooperative weather.

Monday, August 6
Brockport is over - what a weekend! We had 2300 people go through the boat, and lots of wonderful acts of random kindness. Saturday had 1200 people through the boat, with an after-hours fundraiser event as well. That started right at 6, and went until 7:30, which made for a long day. However, everyone who came through the boat was very interested and extremely happy that we had come to Brockport.

This morning was started off with the "gentle assistance" of a fellow who was biking along the path on the opposite side of the canal from us, and somehow ended up in canal! Bicycles are dangerous things. Erick, Kerry, and Art all responded in the Oocher, and Ralph took off to the fire department across the street to get more official help. I think the guy was more surprised than seriously hurt, but it was a startling start to the morning. We know now that we are capable of quick response in emergency situations. Good thing, I suppose. Thankfully, it wasn't one of us that we had to find out with. The official send off was at 10am, and we got underway shortly thereafter. Rochester is next!

Generosity Abounds!

Thank You!

Hanny Hayen, Carrie Maziarz, Bill Anderson, Morton Wexler, Connie Castaneda, David Wagenhauser and Ian Coyl of the Village of Brockport for the convenient shower, laundry and bath facilities as well as all your efforts in making our visit a huge success.

Phone: 802-475-2022