In mid-January, on a routine daily check of our replica boats at their winter berths at Basin Harbor, our staff discovered that the Philadelphia II was resting on the bottom of the lake. The boats are kept in a protected area of Basin Harbor for winter near the shallow western shore line and while we are still determining what caused the boat to sink, plans began immediately to recover the Philadelphia II. Thanks to a great team of friends and staff we were able to do so successfully and we wanted to share this epic project, their efforts, and some great video footage of the recovery.
Pierre LaRocque from Champlain Divers led the dive to assess the situation and soon afterwards put together a comprehensive plan to recover the Philadelphia II. After consulting with the Museum and Basin Harbor, the decision was made to float the boat off the bottom using heavy marine salvage air bags, pump out the water, and tow it to the other side of the harbor where it could be lifted out of the water and placed onto a trailer using a crane.
In mid-February, the plan kicked into gear. Pierre rigged the float bags with assistance from a second diver and Museum volunteer, Ron Adams. Additional Museum staff were tasked with moving equipment, picking up debris, manning pumps, and towing to the lift area, with help from Basin Harbor staff, including co-owner and Museum board chair Bob Beach.
The following day, we formed a Museum staff “bucket brigade” and unloaded all the extra weight that could be moved by hand, which consisted of oak decking, stone ballast, oars, ropes, tackle and assorted accoutrements. (Text continues below images)
The third and final day was the lift itself, which was done by DeMag Riggers and Crane Service out of Williston. After the crane removed the mast and each of the three cannons to reduce weight, the now empty (yet still weighing in at 20 tons) Philadelphia II was lifted out of the water and set down on its custom-built trailer and towed to the Museum campus by a large bucket loader, compliments of Road Foreman John Bull and his staff from The Town of Ferrisburgh.
The Philadelphia II will be on view in its new temporary home on the Museum campus green as we spend the next year working on essential repairs and maintenance. While we do not know what caused this event in the first place, we are grateful for this team of experts and staff who safely and successfully recovered the Philadelphia II.
Watch the highlights of the recovery process: