August 9, 2007

Ship's Log - Fairport


Volunteer Ellen Gurwitz has been welcoming visitors to Lois McClure since her construction at the Burlington Shipyard. This is her second Lois trip, as she was aboard in the Hudson River during the 2005 Grand Journey. Ellen currently works in a long-term temporary assignment at TruexCullins Architecture and Interior Design in Burlington. Her other activities include singing alto in Bella Voce Women's Chorus of Vermont and the Vermont Symphony Orchestra Chorus, and volunteering for other Burlington-area cultural and athletic organizations. She lives in Shelburne.

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Photo by Kerry Batdorf
Rochester Departure

Our journey leaving Rochester begins at 8:30AM. on Thursday, August 9. The weather is promising with the sun shining on the Genesee River, the temperature about 70, a light breeze keeping us cool.

The inflatable Oocher swings the Lois McClure stern around into the river, with the tug C.L. Churchill coming up alongside to be tied to our starboard hip. A jet flies overhead, a reminder that we represent an earlier century. We head south in the river, passing several people in single rowing shells.

We also see a man ashore, riding a bicycle and taking pictures as we travel. Clearly visible in red shirt and silver/white helmet, Charlie Copeland took photos of our approach three days earlier as well. Truly a boat fan, he even photographed the sail on Cayuga Lake in July.

Bound for Fairport 15 miles away, we turn left into the Erie Canal. Trees grow so close to the water that some branches skim its surface. Soon we are alongside I390, a feeder highway for I90. We see some 18-wheeled tractor-trailer trucks hauling goods, just as boats like ours did on the canal in the 1800s.

Especially as we travel east from Rochester on the canal, our boat might have been loaded with flour milled there, known for its "sweetness and fineness." Queen Victoria was known to have said that the best cakes in the world were baked with Genesee flour. (Information source: an excellent history of the canal, Wedding of the Waters, by Peter L. Bernstein. It is available through the museum.)

Photo by Kerry Batdorf

We arrive at the Fairport dock at 12:15 p.m., in view of ~30 town residents. Decorated with half-circle red, white and blue bunting, it has the feel of a bustling train station. That sensation is soon confirmed as a passenger express train zooms by, some 100 yards from the dock, across a parking lot. It reminds us yet again of the evolution of our transportation system, as railroads, then highways, paralleled the canal. A freight train passes an hour later, one of 67 trains that go through town each day.

Fairport's Mayor Fritz May, in a bright red shirt and crisp white shorts, comes aboard to welcome us, and helps to unload boxes for our Ship's Store, about to be assembled on shore.

We open the boat to visitors at 3:00, many of whom tell us how grateful they are that we are here. Two local residents, Helen Post and Fran Kidder Stiles, come aboard. Both women, originally from Burlington, share that they remember Lois (Howe) McClure from their childhood, recalling her nice family.

The boat is full of visitors until shortly after 7:00, when we hear bits of a concert from a nearby gazebo, as an award-winning fireman's band entertains a large and enthusiastic audience.

As often is the case after showing the boat, those of us signed up to prepare dinner do so quickly, as we all are hungry. After dinner, most of us use donated coupons at an ice cream shop nearby.

At 9:00 PM that evening, museum executive director Art Cohn gives an impromptu lecture about the boat to a class studying English as a second language. Countries represented include Armenia, China, Cuba, Japan, and Ukraine.

The next morning, we leave Fairport at 9:45 AM, headed east for Palmyra. We are joined by Fairport Mayor May; Palmyra Mayor Vicky Daly and her husband Bob Daly; Scott Winner, Director of the Fairport Village Partnership and his son Ian, and Betsy Lewis. On shore, we see a familiar site: Charlie Copeland biking on the canal's former tow path, now a bike path, taking pictures as we travel.

Our trip takes us through the canal lock at Henrietta. We stop at Macedon shortly before 11:00 AM to get diesel fuel, then proceed through the Pittsford and Palmyra locks.

Photo by Kerry Batdorf
Port of Palmyra Marina

At 1:15 PM, Captain Roger Taylor expertly guides us through a sharp and narrow 90-degree turn, to our dock space for the weekend's visit in Palmyra. Though it is cloudy, the greeting from gathered town residents is a bright and cheery scene. We are given welcome gifts - sturdy canvas bags full of Palmyra-inspired goodies. As ever, Charlie Copeland is there to take our picture.

Generosity Abounds!

Thank You!

Scott Winner and the Fairport Village Partnership for the use of their bath and office facilities and the ice cream treat.

Mayor Fritz May and The Village of Fairport for their efforts in supporting this successful event.

Phone: 802-475-2022