Erick Tichonuk, Fort Edward/Schuylerville, NY
We left Westport on Monday morning under blue skies, but with the specter of a closed canal in front of us. Heavy rains at the end of the previous week had deposited 3” of rain causing the canal and its associated rivers to swell to alarming heights with increased currents. As a safety precaution the Canal Corporation had closed the Canal, but the clear weather meant water levels were dropping, and soon the canal would open. It took us 8 hours to traverse the 42 miles to Whitehall and alas, the canal would remain closed that day. We anchored in the section of channel known as The Elbow just below lock 12 amid fish jumping and birds chirping. A more picturesque setting couldn’t be imagined in a more historic location. Later that evening we used our inflatable to head to town, and bore witness to the pounding water and currents rushing through the dam adjacent to the lock.
Tuesday morning we locked through and entered the Champlain Canal, exactly 200 years to the day that the first shovelful of earth was cut from the ground in Rome, NY, marking the beginning of construction of the Western Canal, which today is better known as the Erie. The same piece of legislation in 1817 had also authorized the Northern Canal, a predecessor to what Lois McClure now traveled. It also happened to be the 241st birthday of our nation. Once again we almost made our destination at the Fort Edward Yacht Basin, but high water on the Hudson prevented our passage through lock 7. Morning dawned bright and word passed down that we could make our target destination just around the corner on the Hudson. With shining decks and new crew shirts we made preparations to stage an opening ceremony and press conference.
We were officially welcomed to Fort Edward by Adam Devoe, President of the Fort Edward Chamber of Commerce, which would later treat the crew to dinner at the Anvil Restaurant. New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton welcomed the crowd and put our 2017 Legacy Tour into the big picture perspective of 200 years of canal history. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Region 5 Director Robert Stegemann officially presented the Lois McClure with a payload of white pine and white oak trees and seedlings raised under the care of David Lee at the Saratoga Nursery. The crew will present these trees to the communities along the tour route for planting in public areas, a symbolic reminder of the important role our forests and trees have played and continue to play in our environment and economy. The ceremony concluded with the crew of Lois McClure presenting the first trees of the tour to Fort Edward. A vibrant afternoon of visitation followed on a glorious sunny day.
After a relatively quick passage we made “landfall” once again at Hudson Crossing Park and made quick preparations for a 3-hour whistle stop. Energy was building thanks to good press in Fort Edward and the support of our friends at the park. We welcomed aboard nearly 200 visitors in our short visit. All the crew was truly energized by the enthusiasm and excitement around the boat, the canal, and the bicentennial. We would like to thank Cindy Wian, Debbie Peck Kelleher, Mike Bielkiewicz, Darryl Dumas, and all our friends at Hudson Crossing Park for hosting a spectacular event and providing a fabulous feast for the crew!
If our first three stops is any indication of how the 2017 Legacy Tour is going to go, we’re in for a great year!