September 18, 2007

Ship's Log - Fort Edward


Jim Brangan
When he's not camping, canoeing, hiking, or skiing with his wife and two sons, Jim is the Cultural Heritage and Recreation Coordinator for the Lake Champlain Basin Program. Jim's work focuses on facilitating cooperation between Vermonters, New Yorkers and Quebecers on efforts that improve appreciation of the natural and cultural resources of Lake Champlain. He is working with state and provincial Quadricentennial commissions to coordinate preparatory efforts for commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Samuel de Champlain's 1609 arrival to the lake.

Jim formally worked with the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission, where he coordinated the county's Lake Champlain Byways program. Before moving to Vermont, Jim lived in West Virginia, where he developed interpretive programs/exhibits and established partnerships for the Monongahela National Forest's Seneca Rocks Discovery Center. Jim also worked as a wilderness ranger in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness and as a snow ranger at the USFS Lolo Pass Winter Recreation Area on the Idaho/Montana border. He has an undergraduate degree in journalism and history from the University of Connecticut. He lives in Shelburne.

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Photo by Leo Straight
Lock C-7

"LOIS McCLURE! LOIS McCLURE! LOIS McCLURE!," the radio boomed. It was the controller of Lock 7 of the New York State Canal Corporation wondering where we were. Special precautions the crew took to prevent the spread of aquatic nuisance species from the Hudson River to Lake Champlain made us just a little late departing from Fort Edward, NY on Thursday morning.

We enjoyed the kind hospitality of Fort Edward for two days and it was time to head north; to head home. More than 300 school children came aboard on Tuesday and Wednesday to learn about canal boats. A child called the Lois McClure a "time machine." Instead of H.G. Wells' futuristic Eloi and Morlocks, we imagined the deckhands and mule drivers of the past. We discussed how life would be for them as the children of canal boat operators: the hard work, long hours, and lack of schooling. The latter appealed to a few in the group before they considered going to bed at 10:00 p.m.-"Yeah!", exclaimed many-and waking at 3:00 a.m.-"Ugh!", they all concluded.

Photo by Kerry Batdorf
Neal Orsini, resident of Fort Edward, NY and owner of the Anvil Inn, was the 30,000th person to visit the Schooner Lois McClure on the Grand Canal Journey 2007. His daughter, Melina, accompanied him for the visit.

I was lucky enough to be there when the 30,000th visitor of the Grand Canal Journey came aboard. The boat's bell rang and he was awarded with a nice gift bag. But soon it was back to answering questions. I couldn't believe how exhausting interpretation could be. We were on our feet, thinking fast and fielding questions all day long. And to think some of the crew has been doing this for more than 100 days! Unlike canal boaters of the 19th century, we went to bed early.

Photo by Kerry Batdorf
Fort Edward Morning Fog

The cold night brought morning fog to the Fort Edward Yacht Basin on Thursday. Once underway, our captain Roger Taylor and the crew ably conducted a tricky maneuver around a hazardous shoal in the Hudson River and, within moments, we were within the walls of Lock 7. There were dozens of well- wishers at the lock; taking pictures and waving goodbye.

Photo by Barbara Batdorf
Champlain Canal Lock

The Champlain Canal is a wonder. A mixture of engineering, cultural heritage sites and natural beauty makes traveling on it a very memorable experience. I was surprised how quickly our six-hour journey passed. I was astounded when first mate Erick Tichonuk stepped aside and said "go ahead" when I asked if I could steer. I was so engrossed in keeping the boat in the middle of the channel that I missed lunch! I won't go into more details; that last sentence says it all.

My job required that I leave the boat and crew in Whitehall, NY. The trip is almost over. She returns to the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum on Monday, September 24th and moves to her home port at Perkins Pier in Burlington, VT on October 15th for the winter. Go out and say hello. Who knows; when you see her bow pushing the water as she travels the waterways, you too may want to cry out: "LOIS McCLURE! LOIS McCLURE! LOIS McCLURE!"

Generosity Abounds!

Thank You!

Darlene Devoe and the Village of Fort Edward

Fort Edward Chamber of Commerce

Phone: 802-475-2022