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Tugboat C.L. Churchill
Tugboat C.L. Churchill hard at work in Whitehall, NY.

Tugboat C.L. Churchill

Today our tug Churchill is home-ported in Burlington, Vermont. She assists the replica schooner Lois McClure in her operations, and on tour. She is not available for public boarding at this time.

This September, she attended the 8th Annual Tugboat Roundup in Waterford, NY, the confluence of the Erie Canal and Champlain Canal. This fantastic display of tugs of all sizes is free to the public, and many boats are open for boarding. Lois McClure and C.L. Churchill both attended last year and saw over 2000 visitors.

Brief History of Tugboats

C.L. Churchill arrives in the tugboat parade at the Tugboat Roundup 2006.
C.L. Churchill arrives in the Tugboat Parade
at the Waterford Tuboat Roundup,
September 2006.

Tugboats have been an indispensable part of maritime transportation for nearly 200 years. They maneuver larger watercraft in tight areas, and tow unpowered vessels from port to port. Tugs were invented in the 1810s, shortly after steam-power was successfully applied to watercraft. During the 1800s on the Hudson River and Lake Champlain, old stripped-down side-wheelers and propeller-driven towboats were used to move ever-increasing numbers of watercraft, especially canal boats.

Within the Champlain Canal, teams of mules and horses were the standard towing method for the canal boats until the early 1900s, when tugboat lines became more common in the canals. The normal tow for a tug was four canal boats in line. The tug was attached to the first coupled pair of canal boats or double header by a long towing or hawser. The first double header was separated from the second by a 150-foot long towline. A tug towing two double headers (four canal boats) through the Champlain Canal took about five days, working 15 to 16 hours per day, to travel the 62 miles from Waterford to Whitehall. The line and trip teams (animals) generally made better time than the tugs, especially going upstream. the tug captains seldom used their steam whistles to notify a locktender of their arrival because they traveled at such a slow speed that the locktender usually saw them and had the lock ready.

Today, tugboats are still a major element in the maritime transportation system, providing the muscle to keep commerce moving. On the Hudson River and Erie Canal, many tugs are still in operation. Visit the Tugboat Roundup's website to learn more about hard-working tugs like Urger, Cheyenne, Frances Turecamo, and many more.

Refit of the Vessel

Boatbuilder Kerry Batdorf
Boatbuilder Kerry Batdorf .

C.L. Churchill

The tugboat C.L. Churchill was built in 1964 in Cohasset, Massachusetts for Chester L. Churchill, a Massachusetts and Vermont lumber dealer. Originally powered by steam, Churchill was later repowered with a diesel engine.

The hull of Churchill undwent repairs in 2005
C.L. Chuchill pulled from the water for her refit,
Winter 2004/2005.

C.L. Churchill was acquired by Vermont's Shelburne Shipyard in 1974 as a yard tug and yacht. In 2005, Shelburne Shipyard graciously donated the C.L. Churchill to the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum.

With the help of lead boatbuilder Rob Thompson and his crew of staff and volunteers, during the winter of 2005 Curchill's hull and systems were given a major refit. Her stem, keelson, and some frames and planking were replaced, and she was given a fresh coat of paint inside and out. Electrical and steering systems were upgraded, her rudder was rebuilt, and new bits and cleats were added.