Rouses Point | June 25
by Holly Puterbaugh
MONDAY, JUNE 22, 2009
I arrived in St. Albans, VT, about 8:00 am to board the Lois McClure. This was to fulfill an item which has been on my "bucket list" for several years. After having been an interpreter when the Lois McClure was at the Maritime Museum and in Burlington, I have wanted the privilege of crewing her while she is on tour.
We left St. Albans and headed for Rouses Point, NY. First the Oocher, an inflatable motor launch, eased us away from the dock. Then, the Churchill, from our starboard hip, pushed us out into the lake. The Churchill then moved in front, we attached a tow line, and were off. The weather initially was partly cloudy, windy, and cool. It quickly became totally overcast and, with the wind, very brisk. I added layers until I had a t-shirt, travel vest, polar fleece jacket, wind breaker, and PFD (personal flotation device aka life jacket). The PFD's must be worn when the boat is underway and the person is on deck. The trip from St. Albans to the North Hero draw bridge was rolling with the wind on our starboard beam. As crew, I did not have much to do except enjoy the scenery and think about the history of the ship and of the lake.
The Churchill expertly towing the McClure under the North Hero draw bridge. All images by Holly Puterbaugh
Our passage through the draw bridge had a few tense moments. The bridge opens to boat traffic every half hour on the hour and the half hour. We were running about 5 minutes late to catch the 11:30 opening; however, with no motor for reverse, it would be difficult to stop and wait for the next opening. After a few radio calls with the bridge operator, we were granted passage. The crew was given fenders and sent to the leeward side of the boat; then if we came too close to the bridge abutments, we could protect the boat. Erick steered the boat perfectly and we did not even have a close call.
We traversed the Gut and headed north. We now had a headwind and the ride was smoother but slow. I went below and helped to set up lunch. I quickly learned that I was not going to go hungry on this trip; credit can be given to the fine commissary plus generous donations from, among others, Hannaford's, Cabot Cheese, and Lake Champlain Chocolates. Actually, it will take some effort to not gain weight. There was plenty of food for the meal and plenty of snacks and munchies. It was interesting to see the ship set up for crew living after being familiar with it in the Museum mode. Each of the boxes which seem to be examples of cargo actually has a very important use--ice box, pantry, crew gear, etc. The dishes in the family cabin are used by the crew.
We arrived in Rouses Point about 4:00 pm at the Gaines Marina and attracted a crowd of curious onlookers. The Marina staff was very helpful and got us docked comfortably and quickly. Gaines Marina had been purchased by the Treadwell family who recently moved from Maine. They certainly live up to their motto of "Service is our Specialty." This is a well appointed Marina with friendly people. We had dinner (ham, asparagus, steamed carrots, and cookies) and settled in for the evening.
Some of the many visitors to see the McClure docked at Gaines Marina in Rouses Point, NY.
Lois and I slept on cots in the hold. We were given inflatable mattresses to put on the cots to make them even cozier. I slept well.
TUESDAY, JUNE 23, 2009
I started the day at about 6:15 which made me a slacker. I will need to be up and moving faster tomorrow. After taking down our cots and eating breakfast, we stowed the tables that we use for living. These come apart and look like appropriate cargo. It is a very clever set up.
At 9:00 we had two school groups arrive and were "in business." These kids seemed to have a good time and later came back with parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.
The regular visitors started arriving at 10:00. They all came because they had heard and read about the Lois. They were very curious, asked many questions, and took to experiencing the history of the setting. One woman, when her family tried to move her along, said, "I just want to soak in the history." The children were awed by the family cabin. Some like the idea of sharing a bunk with their siblings and others said "No way!" Age influenced the responses; the younger ones were much more amenable to the idea.
I was surprised by the number of people who had family members who had lived on canal boats. They were really interested in seeing how their life would have been. One man, who grew up in Rouses Point, knew where the original canal docks had been and enjoyed talking with Art about it.
Beatrice Jefferson, at age 85, had actually lived on a canal boat until age 6. I talked with her while she was in the family cabin; she was trying to match her memory with what she was seeing. Some of it was very familiar, but she also had memories that did not match. She was very appreciative of having the chance to revisit her childhood.
The Rouses Point Historical Society sponsored our visit. The leaders wanted to spend the day with us, but had other things to organize. They shared their local history with us. Rouses Point was a terminus for both the lake traffic and railroad traffic and Customs for cargo entering from Canada. That provided the primary reason for the existence of the town. Now they are a struggling community trying to re-invent themselves as a recreational spot. The Historical Society is also working to convert the old railroad station into their museum. The day moved along with conversation. Samuel de Champlain and his wife Hélène Boullé also came to visit. Hélène actually came as Sister Hélène de St. Augustin; she became a nun after the death of her husband.
Sister Helene de St. Augustin and Samuel de Champlain on board the McClure.
The Historical Society sponsored a wine and cheese party in the evening where we could purchase souvenir wine glasses. This was on the dock next to the boat, so many of the guests of the party also visited the boat. A band of 3 women played music appropriate to the setting. At 8:00 pm after about 400 visitors we closed the boat for the day.
We finally had dinner at 9:00 pm and I quickly collapsed into bed. It had been a long but very pleasant day.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 24, 2009
We could start the day with a slower pace since we were not scheduled to open until 10:00. I had the feeling that the energy level was lower after the long day yesterday. Erick got a phone call from a local teacher at about 9:00; the teachers who came the day before reported such a good experience that this teacher wanted to bring her class. So Erick rallied the troops and we went to work at 9:30. It is another beautiful sunny day with a breeze that made it quite comfortable.
The day's visitors brought many of the same questions. Everyone seemed to know what the schooner was and wanted to see it up close. The hospitality of the local merchants was amazing. I found that we were thanking them for everything they did while they were thanking us for being there. It is a happy day when everyone is pleased.
During time off, I walked and explored some of the town. It got much hotter as soon as I left the shoreline, so I stayed mostly on the street that paralleled the lake. Some of the homes are spectacular. The business district showed some deterioration, but also signs of refurbishment. It seems to be revitalizing. I stopped at the local pizza/ice cream shop for a creemee.
Gaines Marina had also managed to produce mugs which featured a picture of "The Lois" on one side and their marina on the other side. It included the dates of our visit.
In the evening, a group from Chambly, Quebec came to provide their musical interpretation of Champlain's visit. It was in French and unfortunately I speak almost no French. I returned to the ship to help prepare dinner. It was bedtime, so we pulled out the cots and mattresses and went to sleep. It was a warm night, but a fan in the hold made it totally comfortable.
Geri Favreau of the Rouses Point Historical Society whose tireless effort made this event a complete success.
Hannaford Supermarket, South Burlington
Gaines Marina and the Treadwell family for their incredible hospitality.