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Schooner Lois McClure | SHIP'S LOG
Claire Chasse
Claire Chassé
Claire has worked for Parks Canada at the Chambly Canal since 2001 as a bridge and lockmaster.  She is presently replacing the coordinator of the canal.  She was one of the first participants of an interpretive group, Brigade, founded to share the rich history of the Chambly Canal.

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Chambly to St. Jean | August 4
Claire Chassé 
Lois McClure, Titan the horse, and the Chambly Canal
Just to describe and have a better understanding of the feeling that I went through that day, here is a little resume of what my coworkers and I do on a regular basis everyday to sensitize the visitors about the historic Chambly Canal.
Towing along the Chambly Canal by horse.
Towing along the Chambly Canal by horse. Photo by Kerry Batdorf.

We are interpreters at the same time that we are Lock or Bridge Masters; we are the transmitters of information to the population of today and tomorrow; we remind them about the importance of preserving the trace of our ancestors, tell them about how they worked and lived. As an employee, I have the chance of experimenting everyday through our actions of operating the canal, and each time we turn any mechanism, we are making part of the history.  Questions and curiosity from the public is our way of communicating the importance of preserving our infrastructures and remains.  Chambly Canal is our pride, to the population and to the workers of Parks Canada. I am proud of our canal because it remains almost as it was back in 1843. Those locks have seen lots of merchandise going by, from north to south and vise-versa, barges looking just like the Lois McClure, filled up to the top. Horses were pulling those barges along the canal; they needed 3 horses back then to pulled one barge, it took the barge an average of 12 hours to do the 12 miles path. The canal was built for commerce. Vermont and producers from here put pressure on the government of the time to get this canal in place. We needed the canal to bypass four sets of rapids, an 80 foot elevation difference between Lake Champlain and the Chambly Basin.
On the morning of August 4th 2008, the crew of the Lois McClure gave me a chance to live an incredible journey - a tow along the canal with a horse! You could feel the vibrations of excitement going around the crew and the people present that day and almost touch the emotions in the air, the passion was there.  The setup was perfect; the entire crew and I were costumed for the occasion, and it was a pretty weird feeling. . . Hum. . . Incredible I would say . . . I felt like I was swept back in time, but that was nothing compared to what was coming. Everyone on board and on the tow path were working together to make this experience special for everyone. People were waiting to see on both sides of the canal, with smiles on their faces imagining the scenario in their heads of what was going to happen. On the deck of the boat, we women were standing and looking at everything getting into place; the men on board and the captain were looking to make sure everything was in order, that the lines were ok. We were waiting for the horse Titan to arrive that would be pulling the Lois McClure through a part of the Chambly Canal.  The plan was to go from the cement wharf  upstream of lock # 1-2-3 all the way to lock #4.  The Churchill towboat and the zodiac had gone into lock # 4 before the Lois McClure, and were waiting for us in lock # 5.
Towing along the Chambly Canal by horse.
Towing along the Chambly Canal by horse. Photo by Kerry Batdorf.
Wow!!! I did not realize right away that we were moving forward because it was so quiet; we heard the wind and looked ahead and felt the grace of Lois McClure.  We were slipping through the water so gently, I closed my eyes for a second and there I was swept into another time period; I looked back at the crew and was touched deep in my stomach, it was hard to believe that we were doing this experience, it was so real!  I felt like I was there in that time and saw the horse pulling on the Chambly Canal tow path bringing us toward lock #4.  Then we just let go of the line and slowly drifted towards the lock.  We slowly came to a stop as the crew slowed and stopped us with the lines.   It was great to see the other Parks Canada employees watching us and getting so excited.  With a round of applause from the crowd that had gathered to watch the horse tow came to an end as smooth as it had started.
 Now the tow boats waited outside lock #4 to take us on.  Lock #5 would be the first time Lois McClure had been in front of the doors when the lock was being emptied.  We didn't know what to expect from the turbulence.  As the sluice gate opened and the water flowed through the door the turbulence drew us closer.  Fortunately the zodiac was able to stop us from hitting the door.  They lengthened the bow lines to get us further away from the turbulence.  This technique worked for well for the remainder of the locks.
At some point during the lengthy passage between lock #8 and #9 Erick told me to follow him because he wanted to show me something.  I was curious and I followed him and we ended up in the front of the boat downstairs.  Then we stopped talking and he said to listen.  All I could hear was the sound of the water rushing by the outside of the boat.  I thought it was pretty cool and then he said, "Can you imagine? No one has heard for nearly 100 years."  For me this was a touching moment.  I thanked him for sharing this experience. 
I enjoyed seeing the sections between locks and bridges, the parts we canal operators never get to see.  After the passage of lock #9 and the last two bridges, we docked safely in St. Jean.  Once everything was secured there was a general sense of relief and happiness at having a good day.  The day had passed quickly and it wasn't until the following day that the full impact of what happened hit me.  I feel so fortunate to have the chance of being on a boat that would have traveled the canal so long ago.
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