by Jean Belisle
24th of September, it is 7 in the morning but I can’t see anything A very thick fog is covering Amsterdam. But like magic around 9 a ray of sun and a second. Suddenly the sky is clear. Ahead of us the NY Canal tug Governor Cleveland is leaving , floating on water smoke. Soon after we are following. And we can see first hand the damage of last year hurricane. The locks of the Erie Canal are still in reconstruction. They became little islands in the middle of all this destruction. But where is Half Moon?
I never heard of this place. I know like anybody that it is the name of the ship of Henry Hudson, but why the little town we are heading is call Half Moon? Looking at a map, it becomes more obvious – the town is shaped like its name. The portion we will be docked at is a hamlet in the town, called Crescent. At 3:30 in the afternoon under a slendid blue sky Half Moon is in sight. On the dock John Callahan from New York State Canal Corporation is waiting for us in full suit, ready to take our dock lines. The dock is dusty and there is a big barge taking most of the space at the dock. Are we in the middle of nowhere?
Soon after docking an electrician from the Canal Corp is on site to help us with shore power and rapidly people are starting to appear (some are even bringing us tomatoes from their garden!). Then Ellen Kennedy, the town historian, is at the bottom of the gangway hoping to help us. And for sure we need help. What is the strange stone structure under our stern? The answer is coming fast – the Lois McClure is docked over the north abutment of Crescent Aqueduct. Our stern is in original Erie Canal!
The Crescent Aqueduct is in fact a bridge for boat with a towpath. This aqueduct was one of the 32 aqueducts built on the Erie Canal. And the Crescent one was the longest at 1,137 feet of length resting on no less than 26 arches. It was built in 1846 on the remains of the first aqueduct. It remain in operation until 1916 when the 5 new locks of Waterford with theirs dams raised the water of 28 feet at the level of Half Moon. The old aqueduct became obsolete and an obstacle to navigation. It was demolished at that time. But both abutments north and south survive in ruins with a little section of the crescent channel. Because I was forgetting, the name of Crescent for the hamlet is coming from the 90˚ curve the canal take here to cross the Mohawk River.
Many houses dating from the height of the canal era are still visible in the village. The following day we are open to public. Early in the morning workers from the municipality are in the parking setting up a sign welcoming the Lois McClure to Half Moon. Around 10 a group of student from a school of Saratoga came on board for our education school program. In the afternoon we are open for the general public. Suddenly the parking is full with car and people are coming to visit the boat. It was unexpected. Half Moon is surprising us with a lot of style.
After closing we are going to the icecream store to keep alive a new tradition for me and Art – the evening banana split! The next day we are ready to go but Oocher don’t want to leave. His engine refuse to start! Well it is difficult to leave such a surprising place.
Special Thanks to:
- New York State Canal Corporation
- Ellen Kennedy
- Mindy Wormouth
- Peter Bardunias
- Henrietta O’Grady
A recently retired professor from the Art History Department at Concordia University, Jean has been involved with LCMM for many decades. He joins us for his second year as crew aboard the Lois McClure.