This online document is a means of sharing the adventure of traveling on America's waterways with friends and family. Last Dance is continuing to take her crew to historical, natural, beautiful, and interesting places. Enjoy the ride.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Lake Champlain

Lake Champlain lies in a north/south orientation, a long and skinny lake that is the divider between the states of New York and Vermont.  This view is looking south at the north end of the lake.

There are few communities along the lake that are large enough to qualify as a city.  The largest city by a large measure, one that many would describe as only medium-sized, is Burlington, VT.   It is Vermont's largest city and home to the University of Vermont.  The lighthouse at the left of this image is on a breakwall that provides some protection to the marinas along the shore and a mooring field.  "Some" is the operative term as this harbor is not recommended in rough weather.

 A look at the city inside the breakwall.  The city rises from the waterfront to the top of a hill where the old downtown streets parallel the water.

Burlington is vibrant.  The streets downtown are filled with people, all of whom have a spring in their step and a song in their voice.  One main street has been turned into a pedestrian mall, a concept tried in many cities, but not with the success enjoyed here.  Even on Sundays, every business is open and filled with customers.

Every storefront is occupied and there is an inside mall, in historic buildings.  It would be impossible to sample all of the interesting restaurants given a month visit.  Oh, if it only were not so cold in the winter.  Even in the summer, the residents tend to wear flannel and one of the stores on this street is a flannel shop.

A view from the marina.  The breakwall can be seen with the wide lake appearing as only a sliver of shiny water.

A look back at Burlington as Last Dance continues her journey south.  This more distant view gives a majestic image to this most interesting city.

Heading south from Burlington, one of the widest sections of the lake, a view of mountain ridges in New York dominate the horizon.  In between two of those ridges, a protected bay is formed which Last Dance took advantage of for an anchorage.

At the end of the bay was a bulbous area, ringed by ridges on all sides.  This protected spot is a perfect home to a marina, filled with sailboats.  Most of the boats are owned by Canadians, who travel only a few hours south to a lake perfect for sailing.

Another view of the western shore of the lake, the New York side, with multiple ridges unspoiled with little development.  This is typical of both shores of the lake.  The trees, however, are new growth forest.  The Champlain Valley and the Adirondack Mountains were voraciously logged for timber in the 18th and19th centuries.  One Lake Champlain visitor in 1853 was quoted describing the valley: "One may now travel for miles in that region and not find a tree large enough to make a respectable fish-pole."  The conservation activists of the 20th century must be credited for the now scenic, forested views.

Along some shores, the high ridges are right next to the lake.  This ridge boasts a lighthouse.  The small recreational trawler/tug traveling close to shore attests to the ridge continuing underwater at the same steep slope, creating good depth right to shore.

Toward the southern end of the lake a large peninsula, known as Crown Point, juts into the lake creating a narrows.  This area has been used as a place to cross the lake from the days of native Americans.  It had the first bridge spanning the lake, built in 1929, and now boasts a new, similarly-shaped bridge, opened in 2011.  The dinghy is tied to a state park dock on the New York side of the lake.  The grass reaching the top gives an indication of shallow water.  Correctly so.  Last Dance, anchored seemingly far from shore, is in only 6 feet of water.

The west end of the bridge lands in New York, on Crown Point, where auto travelers are welcomed by a road sign.

A major part of the state park on Crown Point is occupied by the ruins of two armed forts.  It was first occupied by the French, who built Fort St. Frederic in 1734.  The British engaged them in battle for four years, defeating them in 1759, burning the fort.  That year, the British built a new fort, His Majesty's Fort, their largest fortification in North America.

South of the bridge, at the site of the old ferry dock, when ferries provided the transportation across the lake, the Samuel de Champlain Tercentennial Memorial lighthouse now stands.

The Vermont end of the bridge lands at Chimney Point, so named after the British defeated the French and burned all of the homes the French had built on the eastern shore, leaving only the chimneys standing.

Vermont has built a new floating dock under the bridge, making access easy for boaters.  Since this spot has always been the easy place to cross the lake, travelers have been coming here for 9,000 years.  Still remaining is the tavern and roadhouse built in the 18th century.  It currently houses a museum archiving the history of activities occurring here.

One of the exhibits at the Chimney Point Museum depicts the horse-powered ferries that crossed the lake.  This particular design had two horses walking on a circular treadmill, turning a shaft that was geared to two paddlewheels - ingenuity of applying available power to transportation prior to the steam engine.

While most people's image of New York is a huge city with a skyscrapered skyline, upstate New York is still farming country.  And, farms extend right to the lakefront.  Waterfront property used as a peaceful farm.  Hopefully, Florida developers will not find this area.

At the southern end of Lake Champlain, and now the northern terminus of the NY Champlain Canal, lies the old town of Whitehall.  At the time of the American Revolution, it was known as Skenesboro and was the site of the sawmill where Benedict Arnold built nine ships to engage the British in battle.  High on the hill opposite town, the Skeene manor still stands.

The town of Whitehall, like many towns in northern New York State, has seen better days.

The empty buildings do give evidence that this was once a thriving town with many business and entertainment filling the downtown.

Many historic buildings remain, some still housing businesses, as the town struggles to rebuild the economy.  The old economic drivers have changed.

There is pride in the history of Whitehall.  An outside display is in a park located along the Champlain Canal, which bisects the town.  It is, after all, where the US Navy began, with Benedict Arnold taking Skenesboro from the British and seizing British Army Captain Philip Skene's trading schooner.  The schooner was armed and captured a British ship at Crown Point. Arnold later built the Revolutionary War ships here.

One of the displays is quite large - the sunken remains of the passenger steamship Ticonderoga.  Lake Champlain was the major transportation route through this area for 1,000s of years.  As technology progressed, larger vessels were developed, carrying more passengers.

An old canal terminal building, now surrounded by parkland, has been repurposed as the Skenesborough Museum, displaying artifacts, models, and information about the history of the town now known as Whitehall.  The operating hours are few as the museum is staffed by volunteers.  It was not scheduled to be open while the Last Dance crew was visiting, but a volunteer happened by to complete some tasks and invited the crew in for a private tour.  While Whitehall may not be an active town, with stores and restaurants, it is worthy of a visit.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Champlain Maritime Museum

The enjoyment of visiting new areas is enhanced by knowledge of the history that has occurred there.  Reading is always an avenue of learning, but seeing physical evidence of the history is more effective.  For Lake Champlain, there is a maritime museum. Fortunately for cruising boaters, it is located right on the lake.  Those arriving by car are greeted by a sign flanked by buoys.

The museum is comprised of exhibits in multiple buildings and outdoor areas.

One building is dedicated to the Revolutionary War battles on Lake Champlain.

When arriving at the museum from the lakeside, one is greeted with the view of the Naval ship Philadelphia, General Benedict Arnold's Gunboat.  It was the beginning of the U.S. Navy.  Before Chambly and Champlain Canals, boats could not reach Lake Champlain.  The British sailed their ships up the St. Lawrence, then up the Richelieu River to the rapids.  The ships were disassembled and carried overland to Lake Champlain and reassembled.  General Arnold went to Skenesborough, NY (now Whitehall), at the south end of  Lake Champlain, the location of the only sawmill in what is now upstate New York, and built nine gunboats to battle the British.  The Philadelphia at the museum is a full-size replica.  The original Philadelphia was sunk in battle.  It was found at the bottom of the lake in 1934 and is now displayed at the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington, DC.

American History Museum Article

The small bay off Lake Champlain next to the maritime museum has a mooring field, operated by a nearby yacht club.  This view is over the Philadelphia's bow-mounted cannon, across the bay and the ridge on the other side of Lake Champlain.

The Philadelphia, which is 54 feet long, carried a crew of 40 men.  Forty men fighting, sleeping, eating, in an area just over 1 foot of boat length each.  Tight quarters.  The gunboats have an interesting design for fighting on a lake - small to make more difficult target, low freeboard for the same reason, small enough to be rowed when there is no wind, and cannons all around the boat.

The cannons ranged from 2" to 10".  The smaller ones were easily aimed by one man, such as this one mounted near the stern.

The docent on the Philadelphia replica was quite knowledgeable, but was not dressed in period costume.  Learned later that he was just filling in, having a much larger and different role at the museum.

One museum building is dedicated to the Revolutionary war history at Lake Champlain.  A scale model of the Philadelphia is one of the displays.

The museum covers all eras of maritime history on Lake Champlain.  The Phoenix, displayed in scale model form, was a steam-powered boat that ferries cargo and passengers along and across the lake.  It was built in 1815 and met its end in 1819.

And a dramatic end it was.  The Phoenix caught fire one night, burning and sinking in the lake.  This event is depicted in oil by Ernie Hass, who served as our guide on the Philadelphia replica.  The Champlain Maritime Museum has many Ernie Hass oils and sells prints as a fundraising source.  His work is well researched, detailed, and expertly painted.

One building display focuses on the history of canoes.

Another building displays a huge collection of outboard boat motors, each with detailed descriptions and history.

Located in a natural, wooded setting, with a variety of wildlife, the museum is a beautiful spot.  Boaters are allowed the use of the dock and access to the grounds 24 hours/day.  A wonderful spot to spend a few nights and a great educational opportunity.

Richelieu River and Chambly Canal

The Richelieu River flows from Lake Champlain north to the St. Lawrence River.  A portion of the river was made navigable in the early 19th century by the construction of the Chambly Canal, which parallels the Richelieu River rapids.  Last Dance's journey was upstream, south on the river heading toward Lake Champlain.

The ride up the Richelieu revealed that one portion is also used as an airport runway.  In the northern waters, it is somewhat common that the waterways are shared with aircraft.

After the planes land, they are pulled ashore onto the airport property by a towmotor.  The use of the river as a runway saves a lot of paving of wooded property.

About halfway up the river lies the town of Chambly, the beginning of the Chambly Canal.  The first lock is actually two locks, constructed in a stepped fashion.  This image is looking into the first lock chamber, which is currently empty, sitting at the river level.  Boats are raised to the top of this chamber, then the doors open to the upper chamber, where they are again lifted to the height of the upper doors.  The Chambly Canal is the smallest of any of the canals.  The lock chambers can only fit two boats of the size of Last Dance.  The entire canal is 7.5 miles long with 9 locks.

The upper chamber of Lock 1, looking north at the river.

The Chambly Canal was completed in 1843, about a decade later than the Rideau Canal.  It is also a hand operated system requiring lockstaff to hand crank the gates that allow water into and out of the lock chambers, and opening the large wooden lock doors.  The difference a decade makes with better tooling producing higher quality and more modern machinery is apparent.

The Chambly Lock system is operated by Parks Canada, which achieves their goal of maintaining the locks and surrounding property as an accurate historic park.  This is the lockmaster's station, where they would maintain watch.  All of the lock property is manicured and complimented with trees and landscaping.  The lockstaff are most welcoming, helpful, and friendly.  The beautiful surroundings and quality staff make the transit of the Chambly Canal a pleasurable adventure.

Just above Lock 1, the park along the lock wall provides a quiet setting between the 18th century town and the 17th century French fort.  A couple days were spent here, providing a convenient spot to explore the history of the area and sample a few of the quality restaurants.

In the old downtown, many historic houses have been renovated and maintained as residences.  A walk through town is an exhibit of historic architecture.

A new condo project in town has been designed in keeping with the architectural style found in many of the historic homes.

On the other side of the canal lies Fort Chambly, built by the French in 1711 to provide protection to the French Canada settlement.  It is right along the edge of the Richelieu River at the Richelieu Rapids.  It is operated by Parks Canada as a historic site.

When the French built Fort Chambly, they also built quarters for the officers stationed there.  A couple of the officers' quarters have gone to private hands and been renovated into magnificent homes.

Behind the houses along this street lie the Richelieuu Rapids, which in this image are somewhat calm.  Large rain events and high waters bring steeper and raging waters.  The need for a canal to make these waters navigable, particularly in an upstream direction, become obvious when looking at the rapids.

The land between the Chambly Canal and the Richelieu River near the fort is filled with beautiful, old homes sited in luscious, mature landscapes.

At some points along the canal, the land separating the Chambly from the Richelieu is only a thin strip.  At other locations, the land is wide enough for neighborhoods of homes.  The length of the canal has a popular walking/biking trail.

The narrowness of the canal can be seen in this image of a swing bridge.  Parks Canada, in keeping with the historic nature of the canal, does not use radios for communication.  Boats pull up to the swing bridge, talk(in a projected voice) to the staff member on the bridge, and he/she then opens the bridge.  The small operator's station can be seen in the third image.

Another of the bridges along the canal was a hinged lift bridge of a quite different design.  The floating dock was needed to moor the boat while waiting for the staff member to come from a different location to operate the bridge.  The pace along the canal is leisurely.

Photo (c)

Lock 9, the southern terminus of the Chambly Canal, is located in the middle of the town of St.-Jean-Sur-Richelieu.  St. Jean is an active little town, undergoing a rebuilding effort, with many restaurants and an amazing French Bakery.

The newest building project in St. Jean was a central downtown park.  The sculptor was finishing the installation of his contribution to the park.