As I bent down to peer into the tidy cabin of the vintage wooden cruiser, with the long and graceful arched cabin top, I heard a voice from up on the bank of the canal – “I’ll be right down.”
It was Sunday, August 1st, and my third day aboard the Lois, having joined the crew at Waterford (the eastern terminus of the canal). We had come around the bend in the Mohawk River at Rexford and eased in very gently to the dock at the Schenectady Yacht Club. Our stay was courtesy of our very generous host, John Jermano, former director of the New York State Canal Corporation from 1984-1995. After we docked, I got off and started wandering down the long line of boats, when I spotted the wooden classic among the many modern fiberglass vessels.
I was about to make the acquaintance of the owner of the old boat Clarede, Mr. Clark Farnsworth. He arrived at the boat, and we soon settled into the cozy cockpit area where he began to tell his story and that of the boat. Clark is eighty nine and the boat is ninety eight. Both seem to be holding up well, even though in the not too distant past, during maintenance on the bottom, Clark fell and broke his neck. He has not let that slow him down, but is now much more willing to let others give him a hand during maintenance.
Clark was a Chief Petty Officer aboard an aircraft carrier beginning the year after World War II ended. He was an aviation metalsmith, who after leaving the service six years later, worked for General Electric as a ship fitter. In the 1980s, he was instrumental in forming and leading an alumni group of those had served aboard the carrier he did.
In answer to my obvious interest in the boat, he told me it had been built in 1912 by the Albany Boat Company, in Albany, New York. He and his wife Edith had purchased it from it’s fifth owner in 1957. That year when they were cruising the canal near Waterford, they encountered a guard gate in the down position. After half an hour wait, he went to shore to see about the delay. The gate keeper stepped out and said to him “I used to own your boat.” He told Clark that he had purchased it from the canal system and that it had been a canal inspectors boat. That fact caught my attention as I own a photo that my father took in 1951 of an even longer, more elegant yacht which was also a canal inspectors boat. Now I was wondering if it too was built by the same company. I have some research to do when I get home.
By the end of our conversation, and a further exploration of the Clarede, Clark said that he was going to drive home and make photo copies of material that had been given to him about the Albany Boat Company. He said he would bring it right over, which was a great favor of him to do for someone he had just met. I guess we bonded well as fellow wooden boat and canal enthusiasts.
Time and again I have found great generosity and camaraderie amongst those who love to mess about in boats. This meeting with Clark Farnsworth was to be the first of several of the voyage, I’m sure. True to his word, he returned a few hours later with copies of his material on Albany Boat Company.
As we parted, I felt truly grateful for the opportunity to meet this gentleman, who seems to be savoring each day to its fullest. We shall be sure to do the same.
Born in the Mohawk Valley of New York State and a resident of Fort Plain, NY until age 9, Kent now lives in Stowe, VT and winters in The Villages in Central Florida. As a veteran of the US Army (1966-1970), a graduate of Johnson State College (1977), he and his wife Annie operated Goldbrook Video Productions in Stowe in the 1990’s and retired from that in ’99. He is an avid photographer and has enjoyed documenting their travels around the world. He first joined the Lois as a volunteer in 2009, and is back for more!