LCMM Receives Funding to Assess Shipwreck for Inclusion in Preserve

Lake Champlain Maritime Museum (LCMM) is pleased to announce the receipt of a grant award from the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership (CVNHP) to investigate and recommend an additional shipwreck for inclusion in the Lake Champlain Underwater Historic Preserve.

The Lake Champlain Underwater Historic Preserve system provides public access for scuba divers to some of Lake Champlain’s remarkably preserved historic shipwrecks. There are currently nine wrecks designated as part of this underwater park, eight of which are in Vermont State waters. Feedback from the diving community indicates a strong desire for additional sites to be opened for recreational exploration.

This award from CVNHP will fund the assessment of selected sites on the basis of diver safety and archaeological sensitivity to determine which wreck will be recommended for inclusion. Dive safety considerations for selection are based reasonable boating traffic and environmental factors, suitable depth for recreational dive limits, and predictable underwater conditions. Archaeological considerations for selection will include structural tolerance for reasonable impact from divers.

Funding will also be used to document a potential shipwreck selection using direct diver measurement, videography, and artifact assessment. Lake Champlain Maritime Museum will make recommendations to the Vermont Division of Historic Preservation in its role as the Manager of the Underwater Historic Preserve.

Funding for this project came from a 2015 Water Trail Grant from the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership. This project was funded by an agreement (P14AC01016) awarded by the United States National Park Service (NPS) to the New England interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC) in partnership with the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership. NEIWPCC manages CVNHP’s personnel, contract, grant, and budget tasks, and provides input on the program’s activities. The viewpoints expressed here do not necessarily represent those of NEIWPCC, CVNHP, LCBP, NPS, or the U. S. Government, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products or causes constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.

NEIWPCC-CVNHP-LCMMsm

 

LCMM Launches Rowing Program in Champlain, NY

The Village of Champlain, New York, in partnership with Lake Champlain Maritime Museum (LCMM) is launching a rowing program for youth and adults on the Great Chazy River and Lake Champlain. Janet McFetridge, a retired school teacher and current trustee in Champlain, New York, has spearheaded the effort with the help of volunteers Aaron Merrill and Bill Wrye together with Mayor Greg Martin and Village Superintendent Mike Jolicoeur. Community members responded with enthusiasm during the summer, and rowing opportunities continue into the fall. “Team rowing is a safe, supportive and fun way for people to get out on Lake Champlain,” says Ms. McFetridge. “More than 450 students and adults are out rowing on the open waters of the lake each year, and we are excited to have Champlain Village join this growing movement.”

 

Rowing-Champlain-NYsm(above) Rowers from Champlain, NY rowing on the Great Chazy River in “Triton”, a thirty-two foot pilot gig built at Lake Champlain Maritime Museum.

In June, LCMM delivered a 32 foot long, six-oared pilot gig rowing boat to Bill Earl Park on the Great Chazy River in the heart of the village of Champlain. This location was the site of a major boatbuilding industry during the nineteenth century. Community members met regularly for rowing during the summer, and a four-oared 25’ Whitehall-style rowing boat was brought to the park in August to serve the growing number of participants.

At a recent training session provided by LCMM staff, over 20 people from the region came to learn how to row a 32’ pilot gig. As school begins, Janet McFetridge is working to recruit area youth from Northeastern Clinton Central Middle and High Schools for the rowing program in Champlain. The teens have had an initial practice and word about this unique opportunity is starting to spread. “Both individual skill and coordinated teamwork are needed,” explains Nick Patch, LCMM’s Outdoor Education Director, who founded Champlain Longboats. “Rowing can appeal to students who are not involved in other extra-curricular activities.” Both youth and adults from the Champlain area will be able to participate in competitions sponsored by the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum on Lake Champlain. “We hope to see some friendly, cross-lake competition in the annual rowing meets hosted by the Museum. It would be great to have a New York team at the James Wakefield Rescue Row in October,” says Ms. McFetridge, “and by next year we might be ready to travel to Boston Harbor.”

(above) Rowers from Champlain, NY on the Great Chazy River.

The colorful rowing boats used in this program are built by area high school students at the LCMM boat shop in what is known as the Champlain Longboats program. LCMM has built nineteen boats with area youth since 1999. Thirteen of the boats are actively used in LCMM’s Champlain Longboats program for youth after school rowing, the Museum’s adult Community Rowing Club, and in regional competitions. The other six boats are being used in similar programs around New England. One of the Champlain Longboats was recently purchased by the United States Navy for use by the crew of the U. S. Constitution, and a whaleboat built by the Champlain Longboats program has traveled with the whaleship Charles W. Morgan.

This project was funded by an agreement (P14AC01016) awarded by the United States National Park Service (NPS) to the New England interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC) in partnership with the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership. NEIWPCC manages CVNHP’s personnel, contract, grant, and budget tasks, and provides input on the program’s activities. The viewpoints expressed here do not necessarily represent those of NEIWPCC, CVNHP, LCBP, NPS, or the U. S. Government, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products or causes constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.

Schooner “Lois McClure” Travels for Restoration this Fall

Burlington, VT – On Monday, August 24, Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s schooner Lois McClure leaves her home port on a very important mission – getting ship-shape in anticipation of her twelfth year of operation. Her destination is the New York State Canal Corporation shipyard at Waterford, New York, where a team of shipwrights working with David Short of North Atlantic Shipbuilding and Repair, of West Montville, ME will replace any worn, damaged or rotted planking and timbers and recaulk seams. “We’re especially grateful to the McClure family and to the many donors, volunteers, and friends of the schooner who made her first decade so successful, and whose enlightened support provides for the maintenance essential to her continued operation,” said Michael Smiles, Executive Director of the Maritime Museum. “Schooner Lois McClure has been the most effective outreach program LCMM has ever conducted, and a leader in the world of Maritime Museums. The schooner will be in highly qualified hands for this essential maintenance work, and we are already looking forward to her 2016 season.”

Schooner Lois McClure departs Burlington, VT, on route to Waterford, NY for haul-out and hull maintenance. Volunteer Leo Straight in the foreground adjusts lines to the tugboat C.L. Churchill.

Launched in 2004, the replica 1862 canal schooner Lois McClure embarked on eleven journeys with her faithful sidekick and essential power source, the tug C.L. Churchill. Having logged over 5,200 miles on our interconnected lake, canals and rivers, she has ventured as far south as New York City, as far west as Buffalo, and as far north as Quebec City engaging people in the history and archaeology of their waterways. Over 220,000 visitors have stepped on board in 220 communities, and learned of shipbuilding races, naval battles, lake ecology, shipwreck preservation and invasive species.

“Caring for a wooden boat is an ongoing process, much like owning an automobile,” explains Deputy Director Erick Tichonuk, who oversees schooner operations. “It’s never finished, always an ongoing process. As these boats age, greater maintenance and occasionally a larger project are needed. And with replica vessels, we learn a lot from experience, since the boatyards and crews of the past are long gone.”

Annual maintenance of the schooner includes safety inspection and repairs or replacements of accessible portions of the vessel showing wear or rot. Over the years, sections of decking have been replaced, rigging has been repaired and replaced, and repainting is always part of the program. The biggest project so far was replacing the foremast, in 2011.

What’s different about the ten-year haul out? Every five years, the vessel undergoes a hull inspection which requires haul-out, during which careful scrutiny is given to the vessel, especially areas below the waterline which are inaccessible during normal operations. Any areas needing work are identified, and assessed. Immediate repairs are undertaken and larger repairs, especially any below the waterline, are scheduled. The time in dry dock this fall is our opportunity to tackle any issues below the waterline. Since there is only one facility in the Champlain Valley that could handle this vessel, we had to wait for the availability of a dry dock with facilities to handle this boat, and the availability of skilled shipwrights to converge. “The scale and scope of the dry dock at Waterford is phenomenal,” notes Tichonuk. “When flooded it’s equal to five barge canal locks in scale – we will be in there with other boats at the same time. We will make the most of this opportunity to witness another aspect in the life of a working wooden canal boat. The dry dock is historic in and of itself.” Shipwright David Short of North Atlantic Shipbuilding and Repair has also made his mark in schooner restoration with work on the Lettie G. Howard of South Street Seaport and the Bowdoin, originally built for Arctic exploration.

LCMM’s tugboat C.L. Churchill tows ahead in windy conditions on Lake Champlain.

LCMM is grateful to Lake Champlain Transportation Company and the New York State Canal Corporation, both of whom have provided in-kind services that have greatly reduced the costs of this required work, and have been essential in ensuring the continued operation of schooner Lois McClure. Says Brian Stratton, Director of the NYSCC, “We are delighted to assist this icon of our canal heritage so that she can continue her mission of engaging people with the story of how New York’s canal system was central to the growth and development of the state, the region and the United States.” LCMM also thanks Burlington Parks, Recreation, and Waterfront, and the Lake Champlain Basin Program for helping to make the schooner operations possible. The schooner’s 2014/2015 operations were funded in part by an agreement awarded by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission to the New England Water Pollution Control Commission in partnership with the Lake Champlain Basin Program. NEI WPCC manages LCBP’s personnel, contract, grant and budget tasks and provides input on the program’s activities through a partnership with the LCBP steering committee.

“For tall ship ambassadors around the world, periodic maintenance and renewal assures these messengers continue their mission for years to come,” says Mike Smiles. “We welcome the community to join us in preparing for the next chapter in the schooner’s very own ‘historic story.’ The 2016 season is coming fast, and we are looking ahead to 2017, the Bicentennial of the Northern and Western Canals, when the first shovel went into the ground at Rome, NY, starting construction of the canals that transformed our waterways and ultimately led to the launch of our own canal schooner Lois McClure.”

More information about Schooner Lois McClure

Want to Support the Restoration with a Donation?

Mapping the Otter Creek

As the new Ecology Programs Director at the Maritime Museum, one of my first projects was the Otter Creek Mapping Project with the Boy Scouts from Vergennes. This spring the Museum received funding from the Lake Champlain Basin Program to offer a program for area youth to explore and map Otter Creek from the water, using longboats. For me the project was a fulfilling opportunity to get to know fellow staff members better, to learn to row a longboat and to become much better acquainted with Otter Creek. Most importantly this trip served as a pilot for new education programs to come.

I was hired in May by the Museum to teach the Paddling Ecology trips that Matt Witten and Ben Mayock have led for years in canoes. But I had no experience rowing the big gigs.   So veteran LCMM boat builder Nick Patch taught Paige Brochu (History and Archaeology Youth Programs Instructor) and me to coxswain.

Unlike the big guide boats I’ve rowed full of gear, the longboats are designed for groups of people. They provide an ideal “container” for lessons about teamwork. If you aren’t rowing for competition they also offer perfect front row seats from which to view sites along the shore and overhead.

LCMM Deputy Director Erick Tichonuk,  Paige, and I spent the week prior to the program arranging logistics. On Saturday morning June 6 Boy Scout Troop 539 met us at the Vergennes Falls. Some of the scouts were tentative about the trip but all were curious about the beautiful boats.

Over the next five hours they pulled seven miles, from Vergennes to the mouth at Lake Champlain. Throughout the day there were waves of struggle and of pride.  The underlying principle of relying on each other and pulling together hit home early.  It was rewarding to see the boys dig in and–despite some protest—most seemed to like the work of rowing.

All the boys clearly enjoyed being outdoors.  Ages ranged from 9-15 and degrees of leadership and “followership” fell into place nicely.  The boys came with enough knowledge of hunting and fishing to point out lots of wildlife on their own, making it easy and fun to connect what they knew to concepts like watersheds, habitats, human impact and landscape connectivity. Beaver dams led to talk about the history of the fur trade and the importance of river corridors not only to wildlife but also to people.

On the river we stopped at historic sites from the Revolutionary War—the Brickyard, the Dugway and Fort Cassin—as well as the much older Dead Creek site where Paige was able to show artifacts from the site and explore the context of archeology in today’s world. Over lunch we talked about the ownership of artifacts and the ethics and legalities of stewardship.

Day two of our program brought the boys to the Museum to create their map. They entered data from waypoints they had marked the day before into ArcGIS software. This software is used by professional mapmakers and has applications to many occupations.  What they found important on the river became the waypoints described for others to find in the future.  Their map has become both a journal and a resource for the future.

Educational experiences like this project expand what educators can do to meet kids’ needs to learn actively.  Seeing osprey nests above your head in cottonwood trees has more impact than seeing photos in a book or watching a video online. Marking waypoints with a GPS unit and uploading data to a personalized map helps place learning into a context that feels relevant and important. Learning traditional navigation skills ties us to ongoing history. Making the map as a group connects us as a small community of explorers to a place we love.

Read More about this Otter Creek Mapping Project

 

This project was funded by an agreement (P14AC01016) awarded by the United States National Park Service (NPS) to the New England interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC) in partnership with the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership. NEIWPCC manages CVNHP’s personnel, contract, grant, and budget tasks, and provides input on the program’s activities. The viewpoints expressed here do not necessarily represent those of NEIWPCC, CVNHP, LCBP, NPS, or the U. S. Government, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products or causes constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.

Aquatic Invaders to Vermont and New York

Thanks to a training session on invasive species, a number of us at the Museum can now explain to our visitors which species are encroaching on Lake Champlain and what boaters and anglers can do to help keep them out.

Above: Bethany Sargent, Volunteer Monitoring Coordinator with the State of Vermont (far right) works with VIP participants in the 2015 training at Lake Champlain Maritime Museum.

From the tiny transparent spiny water flea that looks as if it is dangling a long fishing pole, to the ubiquitous Eurasian water milfoil, Bethany Sargent of the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation showed us images and specimens of these critters that do not belong in Lake Champlain’s ecosystem but have set up shop here anyway.

With the DEC, the Maritime Museum co-hosted this “Vermont Invasive Patrollers” (VIP) training. The purpose of holding the training here was to inform staff about these species and also to offer a course to those who live or work on other lakes and ponds. Aside from a half-dozen staff, participants came from Lake Willoughby in the Northeast Kingdom and the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park in Woodstock, which contains several ponds. The program encourages trainees to monitor for invasive species in their body of water two times per summer.

The Maritime Museum has been concerned for years about the effects of mussel colonies on underwater shipwrecks. The byssal threads of zebra mussels – the strong strings with which they attach to surfaces – can gradually degrade the wood of shipwrecks. LCMM Conservation Lab staff have also found that zebra mussels carry bacteria that increase the rusting rate of iron, such as the fittings on shipwrecks.

Imagine our concern to learn that, unlike zebra mussels (which inhabit shallower waters), quagga mussels can survive at depths of 400 feet. If this invasive species reaches Lake Champlain it will thus be a potential threat to all of our hundreds of shipwrecks. One quagga has been found in the Mohawk River.

This VIP training contained several hands-on components.

Ms. Sargent of the DEC’s Watershed Management Division gave us a view into the complex patterns involved in limnology – lake science – through the example of how several invasive species affect the lake’s plankton community. Acting as the base of the aquatic food chain, a balanced plankton community is essential to a healthy lake. The toxic blue-green algae blooms that have occurred in Lake Champlain with increasing frequency in recent years point to an imbalance. Although these blooms are largely caused by nutrients that erode off the land, other problems may be caused by the spiny water flea as well as alewives, both of which are invasive species.

Spiny water flea, which is visible to the naked eye, was found in Lake Champlain in 2014 and has already spread rapidly. It feeds on the native zooplankton (animal plankton), which can lead to a rise in algal growth due to fewer of the native zooplankton feeding on the green stuff. This can reduce water clarity. Alewives, which compete with the much more desirable native rainbow smelt, can play a similar role by eating vast quantities of zooplankton (in addition to washing up by the thousands on beaches and rotting there!).

Although there is an element of depressing inevitability about the arrival of many of these nuisance invasive species, measures are being taken to ward off the spread of the spiny water flea to other lakes, and to keep out species such as the tiny New Zealand Mudsnail, which has been found in the Great Lakes. In both cases, cleaning boats and other equipment with hot water is crucial. The water must be at least 140 degrees and then drying must take place for 5 days to be sure spiny water fleas have been killed.

The DEC is planning on having three decontamination stations on Lake Champlain starting sometime in July, said Sargent. These hot power-wash facilities will occur at Malletts Bay, Charlotte and the Mississquoi National Wildlife Refuge.

More information about the Vermont Invasives Patroller program.

 

Want to Get Involved?

Sign up for a VIP workshop through the Vermont Watershed Management Division, or contact us to host one at LCMM: Ecology Programs Director Elizabeth Lee, elizabethl@lcmm.org.

 

This project was funded by an agreement (P14AC01016) awarded by the United States National Park Service (NPS) to the New England interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC) in partnership with the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership. NEIWPCC manages CVNHP’s personnel, contract, grant, and budget tasks, and provides input on the program’s activities. The viewpoints expressed here do not necessarily represent those of NEIWPCC, CVNHP, LCBP, NPS, or the U. S. Government, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products or causes constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.