Vermont Humanities Council Grant Supports Programs with Abenaki Artists at Lake Champlain Maritime Museum and Area Libraries

Lake Champlain Maritime Museum is pleased to host “Presenting Abenaki Culture in the Classroom,” a Summer Workshop for Educators, on Wednesday, August 2. Members of the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association serve as faculty for this all-day seminar, and for a series of panel discussions for young adults and adults to be offered in the fall and spring at area libraries. Supported in part by a grant from the Vermont Humanities Council, these programs are presented in conjunction with the traveling exhibition Alnobak: Wearing Our Heritage, now on view at Lake Champlain Maritime Museum.

Developed by Abenaki culture bearers with deep understanding of how this vibrant regional culture continues into the 21st century, the Summer Workshop for Educators will provide teachers and home school educators with new resources and age-appropriate techniques to help elementary students learn about the Abenaki tribe’s 11,000 years in the Champlain Valley. The seminar will help participants to better support any Native students while presenting American history, and will establish a network of educators and Native culture bearers who can remain in dialogue through online and social media platforms. The program will also include a gallery talk in the exhibition Alnobak: Wearing Our Heritage, which explores Abenaki identity and continuity through garments, accessories, and family photographs.

Workshop presenters draw on recent scholarship and oral history combined with cultural traditions and personal experience to provide a Native perspective on the history and culture of Vermont and New England. “History books, museums, and schools in New England often present Native culture as if the Abenaki disappeared in the eighteenth century,” says VAAA director Vera Longtoe Sheehan. “Now we are trying to bridge the gap between the Native and non-Native communities through the Wearing Our Heritage project. Our goals are to reclaim our place in New England history, to make connections between our shared past and the present, and for the region’s Native people to be recognized as experts in their own history and culture.”

Lake Champlain Maritime Museum has been collaborating with the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association (VAAA) and the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts to present the traveling exhibition, an illustrated catalog, and a series of public programs at LCMM, the Flynn Theater, and area libraries including Fletcher Free Library in Burlington, Bixby Library in Vergennes, Pierson Library in Shelburne and Charlotte Public Library. The library programs, which will take place this fall and in the spring of 2018, will include presentations and discussion of topics such as the experiences of youth living in traditional and contemporary worlds; women’s experiences with the dichotomy between the respected position of Abenaki women in our past and the challenges faced by Indigenous women today; the expression of community and tribal identity through art and how cultural traditions suggest possibilities for change in the future.


Ship’s Log, Schooner Lois McClure, Rome, NY

Drew Stierhoff

Members of the Rome Historical Society on board Lois McClure look to a bright canal future
Lois’s deck crowded with visitors in Rome.

There was a lot of excitement among the crew leading up to our stop in Rome, where we would be joining in the festivities of the Erie Canal Bicentennial Celebration. The community of Rome pulled out all the stops for the Celebration with live music all day long, vendors and food trucks as far as the eye could see, and reenactors in firing off cannon shots as if it was the Wedding of the Waters ceremony. Rome has a good reason to put on such an extravagant celebration for the Erie Canal. Two hundred years ago, on July 4th 1817, the Erie Canal began construction, and the first shovel full of dirt was dug in Rome. The Rome Historical Society even did a reenactment of that fateful day. Of the many towns we visit on our tour, Rome has the longest history with the Erie Canal; and they sure know how to celebrate it.

The crew pauses for a photo the day before the Bicentennial Event in Rome

The community of Rome, as well as canal enthusiasts from all over, came out to the Bicentennial Celebration in huge numbers. The Lois McClure saw her biggest crowds yet, with over 800 people stepping aboard the boat! It was astounding to see so much excitement about the canal, and we were glad to be a part of such an amazing event. The day ended with the Lois McClure crew watching the fireworks show from the deck of the ship. Special thanks to our principal partners at the New York State Canal Corporation and the New York Power Authority, plus the town of Rome for planning the Bicentennial Celebration, and inviting us to share the history of the Erie Canal and the boats that plied its waters.

SeaPerch ROV Lake Adventure Camp, 2017!


A week of robot creation, lake exploration, and fun has just come to an end for another summer; ROV building summer camp was fantastic! Thank you campers!

We had a great time, and wanted to share the videos taken by camper’s ROVs. SeaPerch kits can carry a GoPro video camera and they bring back some fun footage from under the waves of Lake Champlain. Enjoy!

Check out more photos from the week over on our Facebook page. 





Ship’s Log, Schooner Lois McClure, Utica, NY

Erick Tichonuk, Utica, NY

Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri and DPW Commissioner David Short accept White Oak and White Pine trees on the deck of Lois McClure

It was a glorious sun filled, blue sky day in Utica.  We had entered Oneida County and were now under the caring eye of Kelly Blazosky, President of Oneida County Tourism.   Many months ago I had done a reconnaissance trip along the canal thanks to a planning grant from the Champlain Valley National Heritage Corridor.  My goal was to make contact with communities where we hadn’t been in a while or people in various positions had changed.  I worked with our principal partners, the New York State Canal Corporation, to get contacts and stakeholder names in the various communities.  It’s a long process to plan out 37 ports-of-call!

Kelly was my rock star.  She embraced the coming tour, made all the necessary contacts with communities within her area, and set up meetings for us to attend to make connections and build excitement.  Some facilities along the canal lack certain amenities such as showers.  You can imagine how our crew smells after a day on the water in the blazing sun.  Let’s just say engaging the public can be a challenge.  Kelly provided us with a hotel room in both Utica and Rome so the crew can rotate through and “freshen up.”  It’s people like Kelly that make things happen.

A NYS Canal Corporation barge laden with dredge spoils passes Lois McClure in Utica

Beverly Esche, General Manager of Aqua Vino, has hosted us before.  Her restaurant is on the best section of dock in Utica and she welcomes us with open arms.  She also serves up some delicious food in a great atmosphere.  We started off right in Utica, being hosted on a morning talk show and getting great coverage on the local television news.  Mayor Robert Palmieri stopped by shortly after opening to get a glimpse of the history upon which his City was built.  He was fascinated and appreciative of our boat and tour efforts, and excited to accept our gift of White Oaks and White Pines.  They’re currently working with NY DEC to inventory their city trees and have a park in mind for planting our contribution.  The Mayor could appreciates our style of engaging folks on a personal level through conversation.  He was on his rounds of the City doing exactly the same thing.

The crew is looking forward to a down day in Utica to explore everything the City has to offer.  Maybe that will even include a laundromat.  Hey, it’s a great gig, but it’s not all glamorous.  Next stop is Rome where we’ll join the City celebrating the very beginning of construction of the Erie Canal.

Ship’s Log, Schooner Lois McClure, Little Fall, NY

Ship’s Log, Schooner Lois McClure, Canajoharie, NY

Erick Tichonuk, Canajoharie, NY

Moveable dam dumping water on the Mohawk on the way to Canajoharie. Heavy rains have caused high water and swift currents.

To say that putting an 88’ wooden canal boat into a lock while the Mohawk River’s flow rate is up thanks to heavy rains is a bit “squirrelly” may be a bit of an understatement.  Fortunately our trusty tug C.L. Churchill and our inflatable bow thruster Oocher with the 50hp Honda are just the vessels to get the job done.  It’s a bit of an odd arrangement to not be completely controlling the tow (Lois) strictly from the tug, however Churchill’s low wheelhouse doesn’t afford good visibility so most of the steering is done from the canal boat.  The tug has far superior capability to turn the package of vessels quickly, so it’s a common phrase to hear “Art, half right” over the radio, meaning I’ve just asked Art at the helm of the tug to turn the rudder half to full over right.  The results of the request are rapid and definitive.  The tug also controls the forward or astern propulsion, so it’s like telegraphing to an engine room to make requests except via a radio.  After thirteen years of working together and with Captain Roger Taylor we really have evolved our system and have a good feel for how things react.  The strong currents keep us on our toes, so you’ll frequently see us with binoculars to our faces trying our best to “read” the currents and eddies in an attempt to anticipate which way we’ll be set.

Visitors gather on the deck of Lois McClure in Canajoharie.

So with squirrelly currents we made our way to Canajoharie.  It was with great excitement we touched down on their riverfront park, complete with the Village Police to greet us (no we hadn’t done anything wrong in Amsterdam).  Each time we come to port the crew is busy putting away modern intrusions to make the visitor experience better.  Today was no exception to the clean-up but it was accompanied with an air of excitement to this three hour stop. We had been coordinating with the Arkell Museum and the Village who were expecting the arrival of Cycle the Erie ,  an annual event that draws over 650 cyclists who bike from Buffalo to Albany.  The crowd was steady and appreciative.  Our crew enjoyed tours of the Arkell Museum during breaks from interpreting.

As curtains closed on our public boarding hours volunteer Churchill Hindes went to work making some magic happen in the limited galley facilities of Lois McClure.  Our hats off to Church, for so willingly and enthusiastically embracing our desire to consume good food.  He and his son Jeff, a history teacher and captain, have been frequent volunteers on “Camp Lois,” as they call it.  They’re part of what makes our program so special.  We extend our sincerest thanks to volunteers like Churchill and Jeff and all the folks in the communities we visit.  Special thanks to the Arkell Museum and Village of Canajoharie for a wonderful visit.  And the next time you’re visiting the Arkell check out the spiffy white oak tree in their yard.

Ship’s Log, Schooner Lois McClure, Amsterdam, NY

Drew Stierhoff, Amsterdam, NY
The Lois McClure crew left Waterford with thunderstorm forecasts looming overhead.  The crew’s eyes were on the sky as we moved from Waterford to Schenectady, then from Schenectady to Amsterdam. Luckily for us the thunderstorms never came.  We got to Amsterdam under clear skies.  While underway the crew got a first hand look at the Erie Canal’s transformation from a commercial waterway to a recreational waterway. As we travelled along we encountered kayaks, fishing boats, row boats, water skiers, and more.  The Lois McClure was the largest boat on the canal, where 100 years ago it would have been considered small and not gotten a second glance.  It’s wonderful to see people taking pictures of the boat at locks and as we travel along as a moving piece of history.  We have encountered plenty of enthusiasm for canal history already, and our tour down the Erie Canal is just beginning!
A crew from the Amsterdam Recreation Department took possession of a fine white oak and pine for planting in the community.

We docked in Amsterdam the night before our tours the following day. The forecasted rain finally hit us that night and into the next day while we were open for tours. We still had a great turnout on the rainy day!  After closing for the day we packed up our gangway and made way above lock 11 to get a jump on the following morning, and to get a great Italian meal at a crew favorite, Russo’s.  Our stop in Amsterdam was outstanding thanks to support from the community.  We’d like to acknowledge and thank Gina DaBiere-Gibbs, Director of Tourism for the Fulton/Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce and Danielle Whelly, Assistant Recreation Director for the City of Amsterdam.  Danielle organized a crew to receive our gift of a white oak tree to be planted in Amsterdam.  Many thanks to Dan Nelli at Riverlink Park for great food and hospitality.

The following morning we got an early jump on it, meeting on deck for our safety briefing at 6am.  Our early start was intended to allow enough time to remove our rig at the Canal Corp facility in Fonda.  We had brought our masts with us anticipating wintering over in Waterford to get an early start on the Hudson in the spring for our 2018 tour.  Rather than carry our rig throughout the season and try to navigate with limited visibility we opted to leave the rig behind, like so many other sailing canal boatmen before us, and become a standard canal boat.  The crew at the Fonda facility under the supervision of David Lamphere couldn’t have been more accommodating, skilled or professional.  We had the rig removed in less than an hour.  What a transformation!  With decks cleared we got underway for Canajoharie and an afternoon opening.

Ship’s Log, Schooner Lois McClure, Canajoharie, NY

Drew Stierhoff, Canajoharie, NY
As we left Amsterdam we were seen off by a group of waving spectators on the foot bridge. We headed for Canajoharie on a dreary day with on and off rain. On the way we lifted the masts off of the Lois McClure using a crane, as we will not be needed them during our tour down the Erie Canal.  The Lois looks like a whole new boat without them! 
We had a short but eventful stop in Canajoharie. We stopped for the night on our way to Little Falls and had an evening event, where we got to meet many of the cyclists participating in the Cycling the Erie Canal tour.  It was great to be able to exchange canal history and conversation with another group of people touring the canal. The cyclists showed how valuable the canal is beyond an economic trade route.  The Erie Canal cyclists, old and young, had been deeply impacted by the canal, and it was enlightening to hear their canal stories.  The Arkell Museum in Canajoharie was also nice enough to let the Lois McClure crew walk around their museum for free!  The crew was able to check out the museums fascinating art exhibit on the Erie Canal during our off time. Thank you to the Arkell Museum for sharing their historical art with us! 

Ship’s Log, Schooner Lois McClure: Waterford, NY

Drew Stierhoff, Waterford, NY
Maritime Apprentice Matt Dematties runs the controls of lock E2 under the watchful eye of the lock keeper

After a great stop in Schuylerville the Lois McClure continued down the Champlain Canal to Waterford, where we began our journey up the Erie canal by passing through the first of 35 locks. We tied our boat up on the intersection of the Erie Canal and what used to be the Champlain Canal, before it was updated to the barge canal in 1918. During the barge canal expansion a section of the old Champlain Canal was re-purposed into a water bypass for lock E2 of the Erie Canal. It was interesting being at the intersection of the old and new canals, and seeing how the old canals were re-purposed as the canal system expanded. Waterford has been greatly impacted by the canal system, which made it an interesting stop on our tour. As the intersection of the Champlain Canal, the Erie Canal, the Mohawk River, and the Hudson River the town celebrates the canal system, and the interconnected waterways the canals create. The canals allowed for Waterford to prosper, and the prosperity brought by the canals is commemorated all over the town through artwork and historic exhibits; and this weekend the Lois McClure contributed to the festive atmosphere.

Entering our first lock of the Erie Canal.

Unfortunately our luck with the weather ran out. After enjoying sunny days for almost a week straight the rain finally came while we were docked in Waterford on Saturday. Despite the rain crew of Lois McClure had a great time talking with folks who came out to tour the boat, and hearing how the canals had impacted their lives. On Sunday we also said goodbye to our first two maritime apprentices, Kael and Matt. Thanks for all your hard work during the first week of our tour! While we’re sad to see Kael and Matt go, we’re happy to welcome Jeff and Church Hindes to our crew, who will both be volunteering on the schooner for the next week. We also welcome our two new maritime apprentices Oliver and Brandon. We put our new volunteers and apprentices to work right away, having them put some finishing touches of paint on the Lois McClure on Monday. We’re looking forward to a great week with our new crew members as we head up the Mohawk Valley to Amsterdam, Canajoharie and Little Falls.

We’d like to give a big thanks to Adrienne Vaccaro for bringing us delicious mac and cheese on Saturday and to the Callaghan Family for inviting to their home on Sunday evening. Canal hospitality never ceases to amaze us.

Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s Challenge Race Spirited, Wavy, and Fun

Rowing gigs navigate the turn around the marker buoy during Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s three mile Challenge Race. Photo credit: Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, Matt Witten.

Over 70 rowers and paddlers dug deep in the waters of Lake Champlain on Sunday in the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s 21st Annual Challenge Race. The race, an annual event for 21 years, has a distinctly communal spirit – with a delicious and bountiful potluck picnic afterwards – while also fueling participants’ desire to fiercely compete.

“Everything was going for us today: we had a great turnout, superb weather, and spirited youth and adult competitors from the Champlain Valley as well as from Massachusetts. It takes a community to pull off such a successful event,” said Nick Patch, LCMM’s Director of Outdoor Education.

Jim Fredericks cruises to victory on his surf ski in Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s 2017 Challenge Race. Photo credit: Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, Matt Witten.

Many of the boats rowed by teams of 4 to 6 people are built here at the Maritime Museum by students from Addison County high schools. The youth boatbuilding program – Champlain Longboats – has constructed 21 wooden boats, many of which took part in Sunday’s race. A number of solo participants brought their unique versions of muscle-powered boats, from kayaks to surf-skis. Over 10-knot winds and 2-3-foot waves proved challenging for some of the slimmer, lighter craft, but the larger rowing vessels plowed ahead.

After the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum Challenge Race, the rowing team from Duxbury took home their newly purchased pilot gig “Mad Martha,” seen here being rowed by the Champlain Longboats crew that built her. Photo credit: Buzz Kuhns

The weekend began on Saturday with the arrival of teams from Hull and Gloucester, MA. They were joined by rowing team members from Vergennes and members of LCMM’s Community Rowing Club and spent the day in light-hearted, informal cross-lake rowing, swimming and picnicking.

This warm and welcoming spirit extended throughout the weekend. “The teamwork of the entire rowing community was evident, especially in races where rowers from Vermont and Massachusetts were randomly mixed into new teams,” commented

Skiffs line up for the start of Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s 2017 Challenge Race. Photo credit: Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, Matt Witten.

Community Rowing Club coordinator Lisa Percival. “After the racing was over, people lingered for lunch and a chance to continue visiting.” The LCMM connection has a new dimension this summer for the rowing team from Duxbury, MA. At the end of the racing weekend, they took home their newly purchased gig “Mad Martha,” which was completed and launched by LCMM’s Champlain Longboats program in May. “It can be hard to say goodbye to our newest boat,” Patch acknowledges, “but the sale of boats helps fund our youth education programs. All of the boats we have built are still actively being used, and it’s great to meet them again when we travel to races around the region.”