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Standard Canal Boat (Wreck JJ)

Wreck JJ is a standard canal boat located in 1999. The vessel sits upright on the muddy lake bottom in shallow water. The vessel’s structure is largely intact, although many of the timbers are eroded and several planks have sprung. This canal boat still contains its last cargo: a load of marble. The presence of cargo indicates that this vessel is a shipwreck, not a vessel scuttled at the end of its working life.

Wreck JJ has a length of 91ft 4in (27.8m) and a width of 14ft (4.3m). These measurements are consistent with those of canal boats built after the opening of the enlarged locks in the Champlain Canal in 1862; therefore, Wreck JJ was built after that date.

This vessel is an excellent example of a mid to late-nineteenth century standard canal boat. The hull retains numerous interesting structural features. The bow of the vessel, which is sharper than most canal boats of its type, was protected from impacts with other vessels and the sides of the canal by three thick wooden fenders. The deck in the bow contains two windlass bits located side-by-side. These upright timbers were used to secure the now absent windlass. On the port side of the vessel just abaft the windlass bitts there is a small hatch leading to the forward part of the hold. Most of the vessel’s deck is open via the large central hatch. The hatch is 68ft (20.7m) long and 8ft 6in (2.6m) wide. It is divided into six sections by five deck beams spanning its width. These beams are placed at inconsistent intervals with room and space ranging from 10ft to 12ft 5in (3.1 to 3.8m). Each deck beam is supported by a stanchion along the centerline and two hanging knees at the side of the hull.

An inspection of the interior of the hull revealed it to be constructed using the plank-on-frame method. Walkways, 2ft 9in (81cm) wide, parallel each side of the hatch for its entire length. A series of four bits are located along the length of the vessel in the walkway. These were used for tying up in a tow or for towing in the canal. The stern of Wreck JJ still retains the cabin roof; a fragile feature which is not frequently found in an archaeological context. The after edge of the cabin roof is punctuated by the companionway. An inspection of the interior of the cabin did not reveal any readily apparent artifacts, although a thick layer of silt in the hull is almost certainly concealing any artifacts. The vessel’s stern deck is open, and notably absent from this area is a ship’s wheel. The rudder is of the “barn door” type, laid over hard to port.

Wreck JJ is an interesting and well-preserved vessel dating from Lake Champlain’s commercial era. The vessel is currently being considered for inclusion in the Lake Champlain Historic Preserve Program.


Information Source:
Kane, A. and C. Sabick, Lake Champlain Underwater Cultural Resources Survey, Volume IV: 1999 Results and Volume V: 2000 Results. Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, 2002.