Launch of the “Annie O”

Fourteen students from Middlebury Union High School and Vergennes Union High School have been working for the past 5 months with the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s Champlain Longboats Program to launch this year’s 32’ pilot gig, the Annie O, on Friday May 31st.

Launch parade from the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum to Basin Harbor where the boat will see its first water, photo by Buzz Kuhns

Students involved in this unique program learn vocational skills as they work together with expert boat builders and volunteers to build a 32’ Cornish Pilot Gig from scratch. The immersive program cultivates teamwork in and around the boat shop while providing students experience in a workplace environment. From milling the wood to rowing a finished boat out on Lake Champlain, the students learn how to work with each other instilling skills that will last a lifetime.

Vergennes Senior Jody Forbes speaking at the “Annie O” launch celebration, photo by Buzz Kuhns

This year the crew of 6 Middlebury Union High School students and 8 Vergennes Union High School students worked with expert boat builders, Nick Patch and Charlie Beyer and Americorp member Laura Caldwell to build and launch the Annie O. The boat was named in memory of Annie Albern Olmstead, a Middlebury College graduate who passed away at age 52. The boat’s glistening red coat resembles her tenacious personality and the rudder, featuring a running foot, symbolizes her graceful disposition as an avid runner.

Friends, family, educators and members of the community gathered around Basin Harbor this past Friday to congratulate the boat builders, commemorate Annie Albern Olmstead, and welcome the Annie O to the fleet. The Annie O marks the 20th boat in the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s active fleet of rowing boats that are used by over 200 adults and 600 youth annually. Memories of Annie will live on as her boat cultivates power, grace, and community with rowers around New England.

Maiden Voyage of the “Annie O” built by Vergennes and Middlebury High School students at the :Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, photo by Buzz Kuhns