Lake Champlain Maritime Museum Opens For Season May 23

Lake Champlain Maritime Museum (LCMM) opens for the season on Saturday May 23, 2015 offering Addison County residents, students with college ID, and veterans, as well as active and reserve military personnel free admission over the entire Memorial Day Weekend.  “Memorial Day, which was created to honor people who gave their lives while serving in the nation’s armed forces, has special meaning for the Maritime Museum,” says Executive Director Mike Smiles. “Lives were lost to create and defend our country in these local waters during the American Revolution and the War of 1812.” LCMM’s exhibit Key to Liberty and replica 1776 gunboat allow visitors to step back in time to the nation’s founding. Detailed ship models of War of 1812 vessels are featured in LCMM’s new exhibit History in Miniature: The Models and Dioramas of Bill Kissam. For more than 25 years, Kissam, a resident of Westport, NY, has created detailed and accurate scale models and dioramas for museums in the region, including ships from the War of 1812, Lake Champlain steamboats, iron mines, and historic gardens. The exhibit brings together models made for LCMM and private collections. A checklist accompanying the exhibit will guide the visitor to other regional museums where Kissam’s work can be seen.

LCMM encourages visitors of all ages to go deeper, and challenge themselves to make new connections with the lake, the surrounding community, and the world around us. The Museum’s main campus at Basin Harbor outside Vergennes, Vermont, with 14 exhibit buildings and replica 1776 gunboat Philadelphia II, provides an incredible opportunity to explore the maritime heritage that transformed this nation over the centuries. Exhibits, Archaeology Lab, Boat Shop, and metalworking facilities support hands-on learning and specialized adventures such as the five-week teen kayak building and camping experience of Champlain Discovery, using foundries and forges inHeavy Metal Mania, or getting back to basics with Survivor Then & Now.

Daily visitors can choose to add a 60 to 90 minute mini-workshop or on-water experience to their Museum admission with a new pilot program of 60 Minute Experiences.” “If you like to roll up your sleeves and try something new, we have a menu of bite-sized adventures,” says Site Manager Kris Jarrett. “We can get you out on the water or into a workshop where you create something to take home.” During Memorial Day Weekend, 60 Minute Experiences include Copper Fold Forming(Saturday at 2pm); Longboat Rowing (Sunday 2-3:30pm); and Ropework (Monday at 2pm); additional fee applies. The discount package of Museum admission, lunch at the Red Mill, and history cruise return this season as well. Find more information and program registration online or call 802 475-2022.


Lake Adventure Camps:

LCMM also launches an exciting new series of adventure education programs this summer on the Burlington waterfront in partnership with Burlington Parks, Recreation & Waterfront, and at the LCMM campus in Vergennes. These week-long day camps in June, July and August are designed to inspire a new generation of adventure historians, scientists, collectors, and stewards of Lake Champlain. The Burlington Waterfront will be an extraordinary adventure camp site for LCMM. “We’ll use canoes, longboats, and power vessels to access lakeshore environments and an amazing array of shipwrecks,” explains Program Director Erick Tichonuk. “We’ll teach snorkeling techniques with the Waterfront Diving Center so students ages 4-16 can experience in-water connections with the lake’s creatures and shipwrecks. We go underwater to view shipwrecks and aquatic life without getting wet using our Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) – we’re the only camp on Lake Champlain with a robot on staff!” A new shuttle service will provide pick-up and drop-off in Burlington and Shelburne for some of the Vergennes-based camps, and each of the Burlington camps includes one day-trip to the Vergennes campus. Registration now open online.


Looking Ahead:

LCMM’s featured exhibits for 2015 offer varied perspectives on the region’s maritime heritage.

  • Great Shipwrecks of New York’s Great Lakes, a traveling exhibit designed by LCMM on view May 28 through Sept. 7 presents several of Lake Champlain’s historic shipwrecks together with shipwrecks in other waterways throughout NY State.
  • Parley & Protocol: Abenaki Diplomacy Past & Present on view from June 28 through Oct. 11 is a loan exhibit by members of the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association.

Special events fill LCMM’s calendar throughout the summer:

  • May 21: Champlain Longboats Launch Day
  • May 30: LCMM Golf Challenge and Spring Wave Youth Rowing Competition
  • June 13-14: Kids Pirate Festival
  • June 27-28: Abenaki Heritage Weekend
  • July 3: The Big ShaBang – Food, Fun & Fireworks!
  • August 15-16: Rabble in Arms Reenactment Weekend
  • Rowing and racing events for youth and adults include weekly rowing with the Community Rowing Club and Rowing For Racing, and travel to regional rowing competitions.
  • View the Complete Calendar of Events


New Waterfront Exhibit: Maritime Burlington!

Starting June 20, LCMM presents a new interpretive exhibit, Maritime Burlington! In a festive setting at Perkins Pier on the Burlington waterfront, the exhibit will serve as a porthole to history for visitors and area residents, and a discovery resource for LCMM’s new Lake Adventure Camps. The exhibitMaritime Burlington presents highlights from LCMM’s nautical archaeology fieldwork and historical research that encourage exploration and discovery “right where history happened,” and will also include stories of former slaves for whom the historic waterway served as a corridor to freedom. Several boats from LCMM’s fleet will add color to the waterfront at Perkins Pier: wooden tugboat C. L. Churchill; MV Baldwin, which will host Saturday Shipwreck tours in July and August; and “Champlain Longboats,” the student-built rowing boats used for community rowing, regional racing events, and On Water Ecology tours. LCMM’s schooner Lois McClure will be present as a backdrop but not available for boarding as she is being prepared for restoration work. The schooner departs in late August for the NYS Canal Corporation shipyard where a team of shipwrights will prepare her for the 2016 season.



LCMM is grateful to the Basin Harbor Club and Lake Champlain Transportation for their generous support. ROV acquisition was made possible by the Bristow Foundation, Barney Bristow, the Lake Champlain Basin Program (LCBP), Oakland Foundation, Greensea Systems, Inc., and International Paper. The 2015 Lake Adventure Camps and restoration of schooner Lois McClure are made possible thanks to the generous support of sponsors including the McClure Family and the Lake Champlain Basin Program. This project was funded in part by an agreement awarded by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission to the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC) in partnership with the Lake Champlain Basin Program. NEIWPCC 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.

Winter Care for a Replica 1776 Gunboat

Philadelphia II at her winter berth in Basin Harbor.

Our replica of the 1776 Gunboat Philadelphia here at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum sees something every year that the original boat never did: WINTER.

Winter Care for Replica 1776 Gunboat Philadelphia II

by Kris Jarrett


Basin Harbor on Lake Champlain, Vermont

Benedict Arnold built and sailed his wooden fleet on Lake Champlain during the American Revolution. These vessels were built of green lumber and became famous for their role during the Battle of Valcour Island in October 1776. Most of these, however, never saw the snow of that winter, succombing to sinking, burning, or capture.  In contrast, gunboat replica Philadelphia II, built by the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, has seen 22 winters now, and many more to come.  How do you care for a wooden replica gunboat?

In order to keep her safe during the frozen months, we have a team of staff and very dedicated volunteers who check on her daily, pumping out any water that leaks in, ensuring that the ‘bubbler’ is still running and doing its job, and that the docks and lines are all shipshape. The bubbler is really the key to the system; a small submersible electric motor with a prop which keeps the water around the hull moving, and therefor liquid, throughout even the coldest of Vermont winter nights.

Why don’t you just haul out Philadelphia II for the winter?

Philadelphia II has oak planks which swell in the water, reducing the spaces in between the planks and caulking, and making her watertight (mostly!) If she were hauled out of the water each winter, the planks would dry and shink; and when she went back in the water in the spring, it would be less of a “launching” and more of a “sinking” until she took up water again. Keeping her in the water all winter – even though it is labor-intensive – is the best care for a wooden boat like this one.

The second line of defense from the elements is the cover, a large greenhouse style wooden frame with plastic to keep the rain and snow out. Of course putting up this cover means that we must unstep the mast, often by hand using 18th century skills, a few sticks, rope, and some block and tackle. Winter is a good chance for us to replace any rigging that is in disrepair and inspect pieces and parts that spend most of their time 50 feet in the air.

The warmer breaks during the winter and the greenhouse effect of the cover allows for some maintenance, specifically ‘mooping’, or the task of applying a mixture of turpentine, linseed oil, and tar to all wooden surfaces of the boat. Peter Oxford, volunteer caretaker of Philadelphia II, has just about completed this project and many more to make her ready for visitors during the upcoming season.


As the lake opens up, the sun comes out, and the temperatures rise, we look forward to removing the cover, re-stepping the mast, and returning Philadelphia II to her home dock in North Harbor just in time for thousands of students and visitors to step on board and experience a little slice of life in the Navy, 1776 style.


Watch the full video interview with Peter Oxford on board 
Philadelphia II in her winter quarters!

About Gunboats Philadelphia & Philadelphia II

Benedict Arnold’s wooden fleet, constructed on Lake Champlain in 1776, included 54-foot-long gunboatPhiladelphia. She carried two nine-pound cannon, and one 12-pound bow gun in addition to her swivel guns. She and her crew of 44 men fought at the Battle of Valcour Island in October, where she eventually sank after receiving a 24-pound cannon ball to her starboard bow. In 1935, Colonel Lorenzo Hagglund raised her to the surface to share with others, and today, she is on display at the Smithsonian’s American History Museum.

Lake Champlain Maritime Museum built a replica of this gunboat, and launched her in 1991.  She is boarded each year by thousands of visitors and school children, bringing to life the history of the American Revolution on Lake Champlain. STEP ABOARD: VISIT LCMM, open May – October!  Reenactors crew aboard the vessel, learning how she was sailed, rowed, and maneuvered during battle.  Public and reenactors come together for the annual living history event at LCMM calledRabble in Arms.

More about Philadelphia & Philadelphia II.