Coming home to Shoreham

by Art Cohn

Shoreham, the beautiful town of rolling hills, orchards and farms was another great destination for our Farm, Forest and Fishery Tour. Having ridden out Hurricane Irene at anchor in Vergennes, we left Otter Creek on a swift current and headed for Shoreham.  The YouTube video of this is well worth the watch.  On the way to Shoreham we had the experience of being the first non-construction vessel to pass under the new center arch of the new Champlain Bridge. That evening, we spent a comfortable night at the Crown Point Reservation dock reflecting that the high center arch of the 1929 bridge had been designed to accommodate the steamboats and few commercial sailboats still operating on the lake at that time, while the new arch had been designed, in part, to accommodate the sailing rig of the Lois McClure.

The Champlain Bridge
A view of the new Champlain Bridge (photo: Art Cohn)

The next day we continued on to Shoreham, a community we love to visit. I have been coming to Shoreham for nautical projects for more than 30 years and I have many fond memories and good friends from previous dive projects staged out of this place. The greater Shoreham-Ticonderoga area has a rich history and therefore an extraordinary collection of submerged cultural resources. Previous surveys have allowed me to attain the status of “temporary” Shoreham resident and over the year’s I have made many closed friends in this neighborhood. For this year’s visit our goods hosts were Paul and Renee Saenger, proprietors of the historic Larrabee’s Point dock and operators of the Carillon, “the Best Boat Ride in America.”

1983 dive Crew for the Great Bridge Project
1983 dive crew for the Boscawen and Great Bridge Project

I first came to Shoreham in the early 1980’s for one of our first dive projects. Colonel John Williams introduced me to Shoreham historians Bob Maguire and Sanford Witherall. Through these three knowledgeable mentors our dive team was able discover the 1759 British sloop-of-war HMS Boscawen and the American made 1777 “Great Bridge”, one of the lake’s most important submerged historic sites and perhaps my favorite. We spent two summers excavating the Boscawenin partnership with the venerable Fort Ticonderoga, where the conserved artifact collection is housed.

A historical map of the Great Bridge between Ticonderoga and Mount Independence
A historical map of the Great Bridge between Ticonderoga and Mount Independence (click to enlarge)

The  “Great Bridge” had been built by American forces during the winter of 1777 using the ice as a platform. At Mount Independence we also located an extensive artifact collection that had been thrown into the lake during the British retreat to Canada after John Burgoyne’s defeat at Saratoga. This collection was recovered 10-years later after an out-of-state diver was caught pillaging it. The collection was conserved at LCMM and today much of this material is on exhibition at the State of Vermont’s Mount Independence Visitors Center. Both Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Independence are great destinations for anyone interested in American history.

Mahlon Teachout painting
Mahlon Teachout painting the Lois at Larrabee's Point (photo: Art Cohn)

Today, this extraordinary story of Colonial, American and regional history is is brought to life almost every day by our hosts the Saengers. They operate of Carillon Cruises and anyone who has not yet experienced a Captain Paul narrated historical cruise is “missing the boat.” Paul and Renee’s passionate commitment to telling the story of this important place is total and it was great to be back at the historic landing. We had timed our visit to participate in Shoreham Festival Days, the 250th Anniversary of the community. Upon our arrival, I discovered that Mahlon and Gina Teachout had returned to Shoreham for the summer. Mahlon and Gina had begun the Carillon Cruise operation and had been part of the community support that had made working out of Shoreham such a positive experience. Visiting with Paul, Renee, Mahlon and Gina and a host of other friends just added to my sense of homecoming.

The Saturday event was wonderful, made more so when Linda Welsh of Sunnyside Farms provided apple donuts, mums and handmade stuffed animals for sale (I got a stuffed moose for my wife Anne). Champlain Orchards brought down apples to sell and the historic dock came alive with visitors and friends swopping stories with our crew and each other throughout the day. The coming and going of the Shoreham-Ticonderoga cable ferry just added to the wonderful rhythm of the day. A historic lakeshore landing, memories of dive-projects past, a communities 250th anniversary, a vibrant farm community with Mount Independence, Mount Defiance and Fort Ticonderoga serving as the backdrop. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Art Cohn

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