Colchester | July 4
by Jeff Hindes
SATURDAY, JULY 4, 2009
Driving north on US Route 2, the canal schooner Lois McClure looked magnificent at the dock of Hero's Welcome general store in North Hero, VT. This is where I joined the crew for our trip to Malletts Bay.
After a fitful night of sleep where the mosquitoes clearly enjoyed the new "flavor" on board, I awoke to find an overcast sky at the top of the companionway stairs. The morning was spent readying the boat for departure: loading signs, taking in the shore power, breaking down and loading up the ramps. (All of these are old hat for the seasoned crew of Lois McClure.) Before shoving off some of the crew took a moment to savor one last pastry from our generous hosts at Hero's Welcome. At last the time came to leave and with the Churchill pushing from the hip we headed south for the broad lake.
As we neared the drawbridge on Rt 2 we saw people pouring out of their cars to snap a photo or wave as we passed through. Our brief trip from the bridge through the "gut" was punctuated by glimpses of sunshine which gave us hope of a fair day of travel. Earlier in the day Capt. Roger had referred to these gaps in the clouds as "sucker holes". Indeed they were, as no sooner had we entered the broad lake than we had to scurry below to retrieve our foul weather gear as a wall of rain marched steadily towards us from the west. After the deck had been thoroughly rinsed we enjoyed a tremendous stretch of sunny travel while keeping a wary eye on the New York shore which was under slate gray clouds and often hidden from sight by rain.
Stormy skies outside of Malletts Bay. All photos by Kerry Batdorf.
We enjoyed the sun all the way to Carleton's Prize when churning slate gray clouds and a white sheet of water rushed at us over the top of Stave Island. Roger rounded up to face the storm and gain what lee we could from the island. As visibility dropped to almost zero in driving rain and slashing wind, the Coast Guard broadcast a notice to mariners regarding a lake thunderstorm watch. We could certainly attest to that! Thunder and lightning were crashing all around us. There was arcing and crackling in our shrouds. Art got a shock through the throttle of the Churchill. Needless to say there was plenty of energy in the air around us. Eventually the storm passed over us and we followed it at a safe distance through the "cut" and into Malletts Bay.
The new Colchester Police boat, our prearranged escort, raced out of the rain ahead of us. We thought that he was in quite a hurry just to escort us into the bay. In fact, after a brief consultation with Roger and Art, Marine Officer Mike Cannon sped out to the broad lake in search of a vessel that had issued a distress call in the midst of the storm. As we watched more rescue boats responding to the distress call we made our way across the outer bay in light wind with sun and broken clouds behind us.
Local sailor and volunteer crew member Tom Raub acted as our pilot, helping Roger find his way to our destination of Bayside Park in the inner bay. We made our way through the mooring area to the two 4000-pound mooring blocks that the town of Colchester had placed for us. At that point the shallow water required us to let loose the Churchill and use some good old fashioned elbow grease to get situated at the floating dock off the sandy beach. Using the concrete blocks, an anchor pounded into the sand on the beach and a convenient cedar tree the crew pulled the schooner into place in 3 feet of water at the end of the dock. With the boat secured and yet another shower rinsing the deck the crew turned their thoughts to dinner and the busy day that the next morning would bring.
The McClure docked at Bayside Park in Colchester.
The next morning was spent readying the boat for Colchester's July 4th festivities. With generous help from the town's Parks and Rec staff we were ready to welcome visitors at 10:00 sharp. As the day progressed we greeted 1066 visitors including the mayor of Colchester, England; Governor Jim Douglas and a troupe of highland dancers who performed on deck. As the day went on the breeze built up out of the west. This dropped the air temperature but certainly not the enthusiasm of the crowd for the annual boat parade. This year our stalwart tug the C.L. Churchill was in the lead. As the parade ended we closed up and made preparations for the next stage of the day, anchoring out in the bay to watch the fireworks.
After the terrific fireworks display the crew headed for their bunks to enjoy a cool night's sleep. The morning brought chilly air and abundant sunshine. At 7:00, after sending our inflatable tender the Oocher in to pick up volunteer crew members Paul Nelson and Bill Suiter, we used the windlass and burton tackle to pick up the anchor and set out for what promised to be a beautiful day on the lake.
Highland dancers celebrating the 4th on board the McClure.
We passed through the "cut" in the causeway and made sail just east of Stave Island. We had a delightful sail into Burlington Bay. We made such good time with the fresh northwesterly breeze that we had time to do a few laps of the bay including a "fly-by" of the waterfront from just beyond the breakwater. Eventually we had to lower and furl our sails in order to prepare for our grand arrival at our home berth at Perkins Pier where we were met by an eager crowd and the maritime melodies of the band Atlantic Crossing.
Once again the crew secured the boat, rigged fenders and deployed ramps in preparation for welcoming a week's worth of visitors aboard Lois McClure, the flagship of the Champlain Quadricentennial.
The Town of Colchester - to Kimberly Murray and all those involved in making this an extraordinary event.
Buzz Hoerr - for guidance and support in making this visit possible.
The Moorings Marina - to Moe Germain and Peter Hill for providing logistical support.
Great Harvest Bread Company for their generous donation of bread for the crew.