Lois McClure

The schooner Lois McClure is a full-scale replica of an 1862-class sailing canal boat, constructed in Burlington, Vermont. 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.

In 1823, the Northern Canal connecting Lake Champlain to the Hudson River was completed. The lake, which since the end of the American Revolution had been an expanding commercial highway, now virtually exploded in 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" and designed to be able to sail from distant lake ports to the canal on the power of the wind. Upon reaching the canal, the masts were lowered and centerboard raised and the now transformed vessel could directly enter the canal. The first editions of the craft, dubbed the "1823" class, were characterized by the randomness of their design. 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 prism of that period. By 1862, the expansion of the canal allowed for an expansion of 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 depth of hold.

Two shipwrecks in particular 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.

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Wheel of the O.J. Walker

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Sonar image of the General Butler on the bottom of Lake Champlain

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.

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The Lois McClure is launched at the Burlington Waterfront in July, 2004