The schooner Lois McClure is a full-scale replica of an 1862-class sailing canal boat, constructed in Burlington, Vermont, and based closely off of two shipwrecks located just offshore of the city. Each season, Lois embarks on a voyage along our local waterways, celebrating the maritime tradition of this interconnected region. Stopping at communities throughout Vermont, New York, and Canada, she welcomes the public aboard to learn about topics related to history, archaeology, and conservation.
This summer, as part of the International Year of the Salmon, Lois McClure will share the history, ecology, and conservation story of Atlantic salmon in Lake Champlain. Visitors will experience stories of environmental change, human impacts, and the feats of ingenuity and cooperation underway to bring Salmo salar back to these waters after an absence of more than 150 years. Step aboard a 88’ full-scale replica boat at any of its port stops across Lake Champlain in July, 2019.
Canal Schooners in History
In 1823, the Northern Canal connecting Lake Champlain to the Hudson River was completed. This canal, the sister of the more famous Erie Canal which runs east to west, knit together an already historic north-south transportation route. The lake, which had been an expanding commercial highway since the end of the American Revolution, now virtually exploded with trade.
Along with the traditionally designed sloops, schooners, and the recently invented steamboats, the lake now witnessed the birth of a watercraft new to North America; the sailing-canal boat.
The Lake Champlain sailing canal boat was built as an "experiment." Traditional canal boats, which lacked masts and sails, relied entirely on towboats and mules to move from place to place. Designed as a money-saving alternative, the sailing canal boat aimed to be able to sail from distant lake ports to the canal on the power of the wind alone, thus avoiding towing fees. Upon reaching the canal, the masts were lowered and centerboard raised and the transformed vessel could enter the narrow canal, where mules took up the lines.
The first editions of the craft, dubbed the "1823" class, were characterized by the randomness of their design, as individual families constructed a hodgepodge of vessels. By 1841 the design had been standardized and the "1841" class were just under 80 feet in length and roughly 13 feet in beam, so that they could fit the locks and canal prisms of that period. By 1862, the expansion of the canal allowed for an expansion of boat design and the "1862" class was developed. This new vessel was roughly 88 feet in length and 14 feet in beam, with a slightly deeper hold for a greater cargo capacity. Two of these 1862 class shipwrecks were studied for the creation of our replica Lois McClure, both located in Burlington Harbor, Vermont. For the detailed story on these wrecks, follow the links to the OJ Walker, and General Butler. Now these shipwrecks are part of the Lake Champlain Underwater Historic Preserve System, accessible by any SCUBA diver.
Building the Replica Schooner Lois McClure
- Length: 88 feet
- Beam: 14 1/2 feet
- Cargo Capacity: 4400 cubic feet
- Cargo Weight: 60 - 120 tons
- Sail Plan: Mainsail 1309 square feet; Foresail 768 sq.ft; Jib 196 sq.ft
Construction of Lois McClure began in earnest in 2002 at the Lake Champlain Transportation Company's Burlington Shipyard, shortly after the building of her tender, Mac. Since no plans exist for these sailing canal boats, LCMM turned to a talented group of naval architects, historians, and archaeologists. Both General Butler and O.J. Walker have been studied and documented. These reports were handed over to naval architect Ron A. Smith to create the plans necessary to build Lois McClure.
Boatbuilders Rob Thompson, Paul Rollins, Steve Page, and Lianna Tennal headed up the large team of LCMM volunteers and staff, spending three seasons constructing the schooner, while keeping the space open for visitors to view the work in progress. The hull was built from more than 20,000 feet of white oak. White pine was used for the decks, while masts, booms and gaff were hewn from white spruce. This wood was nearly all local: with white spruce from Vermont, white oak from Vermont and New York, pine from Vermont and Maine, cedar from Maine, and even recycled Mahogany from NASA.
But our greatest resource was (and still is) our volunteers: thousands of hours of time were donated by our tireless volunteers to build and interpret this fascinating vessel. The schooner is named in honor of Lois McClure, who, along with her husband Mac, has been a major contributor to this and many other worthy community projects in the greater Burlington, VT area.
Wheel of the O.J. Walker
Sonar image of the General Butler on the bottom of Lake Champlain
Lois McClure Tours:
- 2019 International Year of the Salmon Tour
- 2018 Glassbarge Tour
- 2017 Legacy Tour: Waterways & Trees: Stewarding Their Interconnected Relationship
- 2016 Lake Champlain and Public Boarding in Burlington, VT
- 2015 Repair and Refit in Waterford, NY (photo gallery)
- 2014 Tour: From War to Peace
- 2013 Tour - 1813, The Story Continues
- 2012 Overhaul
- 2011 Farm and Forest Tour - Lake Champlain and Beyond
- 2010 Our Shared Heritage: World Canals Tour on the Erie Canal
- 2009 Quadricentennial Tour - Flagship of the Quadricentennial
- 2008 Our Shared Heritage Tour
- 2007 Grand Canal Journey
- 2006 Fall Educational Tour
- 2005 Grand Journey
- 2004 Launch and Inaugural Tour
The Lois McClure is launched at the Burlington Waterfront in July, 2004