Fun Facts about the replica schooner Lois McClure 

By Kelly Bartlett, Lois McClure Archive Project Archivist

The schooner Lois McClure, a full-scale replica of an 1862-class sailing canal schooner, was built by Lake Champlain Maritime Museum based on two shipwrecks located in Lake Champlain, the O.J. Walker and the General Butler.

Since its start in 2001, the goal of this replica schooner project was to better understand our region’s unique 1862-class sailing canal schooner; how it was built and operated; and the economic, cultural, and personal impact the canals had on our region and people. Thanks to dedicated staff and volunteers, Lois McClure set sail from Burlington Harbor on July 3, 2004 and the schooner’s annual tours welcomed students and all those interested in learning a piece of our history aboard. After 20 seasons traveling local waterways to educate and engage the public in the rich history of Lake Champlain and the canal system, the Lois McClure retires at the end of the 2023 season (read more about what’s happening next with the boat here). Over the past year, we have been documenting all the research, history, tours, and people that were a part of this project as part of the Lois McClure Archiving Project to share with all who are interested.

We get a lot of questions about this replica project, so we gathered up some of the most popular questions and answers, as well as some fun statistics about its tours and history from our archives for you to explore! 

How long is the Lois McClure?  

The boat is 88 feet long. 

How much does the schooner Lois McClure weigh?          

Unladen, the boat is 75,000 lb. (37.5 tons!)

How much cargo can it carry?  

These boats could carry up to 300,000 lb. (150 tons)

How many masts does it have?                     

The boat has 2 masts (fore and main) which carry 3 sails (jib, fore, main). When it travels down the canals, the masts are lowered and the centerboard is raised to transform Lois from a sailing vessel to one that can be towed along canals.    

The replica schooner Lois McClure in July 2004 on the way to launch in Burlington Harbor.

Why is the bottom flat?   

Canal boats all typically had a flat bottom so that they could fit inside canal locks and maximize cargo space. 

Where did they keep the sails?                     

When the boat didn’t need to sail, the masts were taken down and the sails were stored on the fo’c’s’le (aka forecastle) or as a cover over the cargo. 

How many people are needed to operate the boat?   

In the 19th century, these kinds of boats were typically operated by 2-3 people. Our replica boat Lois McClure, had a crew of 8-10 people, including those aboard the C.L. Churchill, the  tugboat that assisted the movement of Lois McClure. 

The replica boat project underway in 2002

Who built the boat?  

The Museum initiated the replica project and designed the replica boat based on research from two shipwrecks of sailing canal schooners in Lake Champlain. With the help of 4 professional boat builders and 200 volunteers, we built the replica sailing canal schooner Lois McClure.  It took 20,000 hours of building time over 2 ½ summers to complete. 

What happened to canal schooners? Why don’t we see them in use anymore?  

Most sank in storms or became old and were scuttled or taken apart for the wood. With the development of roads and railroads, sailing canal schooners were not the most efficient or economic way to move goods from one location to another. 

What kind of wood did you use?  

The builders used white oak and white pine for the planking, and white oak for the structural timbers, while building our replica.  

How is it powered?   

Sailing canal boats could be powered by sail, tugboat, or (historically) they were towed by mules in the canal system. 

How did people cook their meals when living on a canal schooner?  

On the wood stove. 

Where did the crew sleep?   

On bunks or on cots.  

What cargo was shipped by canal boats?  

A variety of forestry, agricultural, and mining products along with merchandise. This included objects like iron ore, coal, railroad iron rails, grain, barley, sugar, coffee, timbers, glassware, and furniture. 

Replica Schooner Lois McClure by the numbers: 

  • 2 countries (US, Canada), 2 provinces (Quebec, Ontario), and 3 states (NY, VT, NJ),  
  • 14 tours 
  • 15 waterways traversed: Erie Canal, Oswego Canal, Cayuga-Seneca Canal, Champlain Canal, Hudson River, Lake Champlain, St Lawrence River, Richelieu River, Chambly Canal, Rideau Canal, Grenville Canal, Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue Canal, Carillon Canal, Lachine Canal, Lake Ontario 
  • 18 years on the water/inland voyages  
  • 75 artifacts on board 
  • 200+ volunteers 
  • 315 ports visited 
  • 9,200+ miles traveled 
  • 25,000 feet of white oak and pine 
  • 312,000+ visitors stepped aboard 

If you want to learn more about the Lois McClure or get a greater understanding of history and impact of canal schooners you can reach out to us at info@lcmm.org and be sure to visit our canal schooner exhibit when it opens next year!