Ship’s Log: Schooner Lois McClure, End of the 2017 Legacy Tour

Matt Harrison

Winter is in the air in Vermont and New York and the 2017 Lois McClure Legacy tour has come to a successful conclusion!  The canal boat made 36 stops in communities all along the canals, connecting the public to the history of their local waterways. Thanks to all of our friends who followed along online! As many have noticed, our blog entries gradually dwindled. The day-to-day tasks necessary for conducting a replica canal boat hundreds of miles along the Erie Canal can be time consuming and, regretfully, by the middle of the trip they had began to outpace our crew’s journal writing capacity. There were so many good things happening that it was all we could do to keep up the momentum! Much thanks to the volunteers who not only helped on the journey but also contributed their experiences for the blog.

The busy second half of our tour was full of highlights. The towns of Pittsford, Palmyra, Clyde, and Newark, along the idyllic section of canal between Lockport and the Montezuma Swamps, were gorgeous and full of history. They also consistently provided the crew with generous accommodations and excellent weather. From there we headed on down to the Cayuga-Seneca Canal and spent a weekend in historic Seneca Falls, with its Victorian houses and historic downtown. A short jaunt down the Oswego Canal next brought us to Phoenix, where we had a blast with the local fourth graders, before proceeding on to another busy stop in Brewerton.

The big event of the tour happened in Syracuse in late September. As Peggy recorded, the crew had quite an adventure getting Lois into and out of the shallow Syracuse Inner Harbor without the help of tug Churchill. It all went smoothly and turned out to be an enjoyable break-from-routine! The Inner Harbor was looking its best for the conference and it was a fun novelty for the crew to be so close to a big city. Late in the week, we were honored to be a part of the World Canals Conference, which took place between Sept 24-26. Hundreds of professionals involved in the world of Canals gathered in Syracuse for a week of tours, seminars, and roundtables to consider the future of man made waterways around the world. For the grand public opening of the conference, Lois was one of numerous attractions open to the public within the Inner Harbor, another highlight being the Corning Museum of Glass’ glass barge. The unseasonably hot weather did not deter the brisk stream of visitors, even with glass furnaces over 2,000 degrees adding to the heat.  For the final event of the conference, Lois was looking particularly handsome, lit up for a sunset cookout on Paper Mill Island adjacent to the Glass Barge on the Baldwinsville waterfront.

World Canal Conference, with LCMM’s Jimmy D rowing in the background

With the conference concluded, we made headway for the Hudson, with some final quick but productive stops. In Ilion NY, we discovered a pleasant farmers’ market below a regal old barn and enjoyed the hospitality of Village Marina’s Café on their final night of the season. Onward to St. Johnsville, where we welcomed another fantastic batch of fourth grade students. The crew very much enjoys these visits by enthusiastic forth grade classes. Erick and Matt were also lucky enough to tour the Margaret Reaney Memorial Library & Museum, a hidden gem in St. Johnsville that a number of visitors had clued us in to.  In Halfmoon, NY, we spent a day welcoming passersby aboard on our final stop before descending the great Flight of Five locks to Waterford. It was good to be back on the waters of the Hudson for our final open day, at the Waterford Farmers’ Market along the waterfront. One last bunch of Waterford and Cohoes school groups left with plenty of little oaks and pines to plant in celebration of what they’d learned aboard. It was the perfect way to end a great tour! Although the boat won’t be returning to Burlington this winter, our arrival in Waterford felt like a homecoming nonetheless, with old friends and familiar scenes. Lois will be well taken care of this winter, fittingly resting so close to where the Champlain and Erie Canals met for a hundred years.

We want to once again thank the numerous volunteers and community friends who helped us in one way or another along our journey, and particularly during the second half of the tour. We hope you’ll indulge our request for forgiveness in not mentioning everyone in this final condensed blog.  There are simply hundreds who make our voyage possible, and a sincere pleasure to undertake.

We would also like to thank and acknowledge the New York State Canal Corporation, our principal partner in this tour, for empowering us to make this historic voyage, and helping New York celebrate 200 years of canal history.  In addition, our home state of Vermont, for supporting our work as Ambassador for the State and the Champlain Valley.  Our sincerest thanks to the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership and Lake Champlain Basin Program for providing funding for our Stem to Stern and Aquatic Invasive education programs. And to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Saratoga Nursery for providing the trees we spread across the State.

While the Legacy Tour may be over, Lois will have only a short sleep this winter. She’ll be back on the water in early spring, in preparation for the 2018 Glass Barge Tour in conjunction with Corning Museum of Glass and South Street Seaport, beginning in Brooklyn NY in May!  Stay tuned for more on-water adventures.