Welcome, Allyson Ropp, AmeriCorps Service Member!

My name is Allyson Ropp. I hold a master’s degree from East Carolina University in the Program in Maritime Studies I am so excited to be at LCMM. Not only is the staff amazing and so energetic and excited about what they are doing here at the museum, but the museum itself offers a variety of resources and learning opportunities through traditional museum exhibits to more adventurous outings on to the lake through ecology and rowing programs to the depths of the lake with ROV tours of some of the shipwrecks.
            My degree, and background, is underwater and maritime archaeology. The maritime archaeology field is just so amazing with the number of wreck sites of ships, submarines, planes, and lost cities that scatter the oceans, lakes, and rivers across the globe. Unfortunately, not everyone can see and experience these sites. That’s where I come in! I am interested in making maritime archaeology public, so that everyone can see and experience these sites and the intricacies of finding, documenting, and conserving them. These sites are the heritage of all and relate different periods of human exploration and travel.
            While at LCMM, I am a part of the archaeology research team. I am here to make their research public in innovative ways to share the history of the shipwrecks and site in Lake Champlain with you—the people of Vermont, New York, and the wider world. Another part of this position is finding ways to teach people, youth and adults, the ins and outs of archaeology, more specifically underwater archaeology. These include dive trainings, field schools, afterschool programs throughout the area, LCMM on-campus school groups, and any other means to getting our information and research out to you! I get to work closely with the FUSION Afterschool Program in Vergennes and the numerous school groups that come through the Museum including 1776: The American Revolution in the Champlain Valley and Paddling Ecology field trips.
            I am most excited about helping and expanding the summer opportunities the museum offers through its numerous Lake Adventure Camps and fieldwork opportunities. This summer we will be hosting a field school on a Lake Champlain shipwreck and hopefully other diving and training opportunities for youth and adults alike. We hope to not only spark an interest by the community to preserve and protect these sites, but also to create a dive community interested in helping LCMM document and protect these sites so that future generations may learn about the exciting and dynamic historical role the lake played in American history!
LCMM is very grateful to have Allyson serving with us this year.  She has added new knowledge and great energy to our team.  We congratulate her on completing her MA this winter!”  ~ Erick Tichonuk, Co-Executive Director and AmeriCorps SIte Supervisor.

Watershed Science Apprenticeship for Young Women

Matthew Witten and Elizabeth Lee, LCMM, 2017

In mid-December Aaron Moore greeted us, brought us into the lab, and gave us each a seat in front of a wide, flat pan with dead insect larvae covering the bottom. Not your normal field trip. Everyone was very curious.

WSA Apprentices and Matt Harrison (AmeriCorps member) sorting benthic macroinvertebrates at VT Fish and Wildlife, December 2016.

Aaron is a field scientist at Vermont Department of Environmental who does biological assessments of rivers. He explained to three of our Watershed Science Apprentices and one AmeriCorps member that benthic macroinvertebrates – organisms that frequent the bottom of water bodies – indicate the water quality and general health of aquatic habitats. We were there as

volunteers to help sort the bugs into different types (or “taxa”), so that the experts could spend less time on sorting them and more time identifying them to genus and sometimes species. The pans in front of us were full of insect larvae from water samples taken in Addison County streams including Lewis Creek and the New Haven River.

Lexi K., Mt. Abe Union High School student: Identifying insect larvae using a stereoscope, December 2016

Olivia B., one of our apprentices, said later, “That was a cool experience. I never realized people could actually do something like that as a job. I found it surprisingly relaxing. I had the Lewis Creek and there were a lot of bugs! There were a ton of stoneflies and a huge Dobsonfly larvae. This is definitely something you should do with future groups. Personally I would 10/10 do it again, and I bet others would be just as interested.”

This was just one of the many real-world experiences that our Watershed Science Apprentices are having. The Watershed Science Apprenticeship for Young Women (WSA), funded largely by the Vermont Women’s Fund, is one program in LCMM’s array of Skill-Builds that engage students from area schools in water- and maritime-related activities. These activities are designed to stimulate and fulfill students’ interests in personalized learning, independent study, and marketable skills.

Olivia B., Middlebury Union High School student: Collecting water samples in the New Haven River with Addison County River Watch volunteer stream monitors. September 2016

The WSA is open to girls in grades 7-12 at Mt Abe, Middlebury, Vergennes, and Champlain Valley middle/high schools. It is a water quality assessment training course that spends a lot of time with professionals in the water quality field, and helps participating girls to take on aquatic field studies of their own choosing, and ideally get school credit for their projects.

Apprentices come for different reasons. They can supplement their science or math credits, participate in service work or gain experience in professional-level scientific endeavors involving wetlands, streams, and lakes.

Sawyer F., Mt Abe Union High School student: Trying on SCUBA equipment used by underwater archaeologists at LCMM. January 2016

In January the Watershed Science Apprentices met with the nautical archaeologists at LCMM. Allyson Ropp and Jenny Craig explained their career paths to becoming professional archaeologists. WSA girls got to try on SCUBA equipment! Allyson earned an MA from East Carolina University in Nautical Archaeology in December, after presenting her research on pirate shipwrecks. Jenny is earning a PhD from McGill University and has studied shipwrecks around the world. Her doctorate focuses on the analysis of beads found on shipwrecks as a means of tracking the history of commerce in Southeast Asia.

Coming in March and April, the Watershed Apprentices will visit Jenna Calvi, the Stormwater Program Manager for the City of Burlington, Paula Jackson, Water Operator for the City of Burlington’s Water Treatment Plant, and Lindsay Dreiss, Middlebury College professor of geographic information systems (GIS).

Enrollment in the WSA is ongoing.
For more information, contact Elizabeth Lee, elizabethl@lcmm.org



Photo Credits: Elizabeth Lee and Matthew Witten

Lake Champlain Maritime Museum Announces New Leadership Team

Lake Champlain Maritime Museum Announces New Leadership Team

Mike Smiles has resigned as Executive Director of LCMM effective December 31 to pursue new opportunities.  “Mike has made valuable contributions to the museum during his tenure,” said Bob Beach, President of the LCMM Board of Directors.  “Through his innovative approaches to enhancing and expanding our educational programs and partnering with AmeriCorps, Mike has positioned LCMM as a vital Expanded Learning Opportunity Provider.  We wish Mike the best in his future endeavors.”

Joyce Cameron, who joined LCMM in 2016 as Director of Development and Community Relations, and Deputy Director Erick Tichonuk have been appointed as Co-Executive Directors. Joyce will oversee Administrative Operations and Erick will oversee Museum Operations and Schooner Lois McClure. “We look forward to an outstanding program year in 2017,” Erick Tichonuk commented. “Our educational partnerships are going strong this winter, and we are getting ready to head to Syracuse for the World Canal Conference to celebrate the bicentennial of the Erie Canal.”

“The museum is kicking off its holiday Annual Appeal with a matching gift from two loyal donors totaling $50,000,” Joyce Cameron announced.  “All donations to the museum will be matched dollar for dollar up until December 31.”

2016 has been a fruitful year at LCMM. With your help, we will continue to shape lives through valuable education programs, irreplaceable collections, and environmental stewardship. Together we can make a significant impact on the future of Lake Champlain!

Rowing in the Icebreaker

Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s Champlain Longboats Program traveled to the Northeast Regional Youth Open-Water Championships in Boston Harbor this weekend. Over 90 students from Vergennes Middle and High School, Champlain Valley Union High School, Burlington High School, and South Burlington High School traveled to compete in this annual gathering of over 200 youth rowers from around the Northeast.

The weather was amazing and our Vermont kids were extraordinary.

Vergennes won first, second and third place in the Novice middle school six-oared division, first place and second place in the intermediate six-oar division and third place in the Experienced six-oar division. South Burlington came in third place in the Intermediate six-oared division and eighth in the intermediate six-oar division. Champlain Valley Union High School came in third and fourth place in the intermediate six-oar division and Burlington High School came in first in the experienced six-oar division and ninth in the intermediate six –oar division.

In the Novice Middle School distance challenge Vergennes Middle school six-oar boats came in first, second and third. In the Novice High School Distance Challenge South Burlington High school came in first and third place and Burlington High School came in second place.

In the Nautical Mile Race Intermediate Division Champlain Valley Union High School came in fourth and sixth place, Vergennes came in first and fifth place, South Burlington High School came in third and Burlington High School came in first place and eighth place.

It was an amazing day on the Boston waterfront and all of the Vermont rowers no matter how they placed  made us proud to have them be part of the Champlain Longboats rowing community.

New AmeriCorps Members Begin Service at LCMM

Today we will meet Roz, one of LCMM’s three new AmeriCorps Members beginning a year of service with LCMM.

Hello, my name is Roz Wilcox, I am from rural Washington state, surrounded by mountains and ocean. The community I grew up in was equal parts farmers and sailors. When I was in high school, I began volunteering at a place called The Community Boat Project, where kids could get high school credit by learning to build boats and everything else. I began working professionally on boats when I was sixteen.

I work with youth because of my own experiences growing up in poverty. Getting involved with the Community Boat Project changed my life. The skills I learned there became my key to success. The people that I met changed my life, and I always knew I wanted to be one of those people.

This year at the Maritime Museum, we’re going to be building a 34′ pilot gig with students from the Diversified Occupations program. I can’t wait to see the students go from shy to knowledgeable and excited, all in four or five months. I also get to support the on-the-water rowing programs- where high school kids in Addison County form sports teams and get on the water as part of racing teams from Vermont all the way to Maine and Massachusetts.

My position at the host site is fast-paced and full of variety, but I can serve assured knowing that whatever I do is making a difference for Vermont’s youth.

Headwaters to Lake, Part I

by Matthew Witten, LCMM

HTL student examines burr reed at CGC Sept 2016 LCMM’s Headwaters to Lake program started with a big splash in late September. Eight eager students from Champlain Valley Union High School (CVU) in Hinesburg showed up, ready to get their feet wet, at Common Ground Center in Starksboro, our base camp for studying upper Lewis Creek and some of its associated wetlands.

Headwaters to Lake is a brand-new freshwater science training funded through conservation license plate donations, awarded by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. The program gives students exposure to professional-level water quality assessment methods from higher elevations in the watershed down to the bottom, where Lewis Creek meets Lake Champlain. Participating students undertake an independent study through their CVU Environmental Studies class and will be eligible to receive academic credit for learning and conducting various stream, wetland, and lake studies.

We started by driving up a winding dirt road into the hills of Starksboro. Parking on land owned by a Lewis Creek Association board member, we hiked down a steep bank into a ravine where the narrow tributary is almost entirely shaded by a dense forest of hemlock and mixed hardwoods. LCMM Ecology Programs Director Elizabeth Lee and School Liaison Matt Witten co-taught methods to assess the health of the stream: first, a set of observations about forest cover, streambank stability and the riparian corridor; then, chemical tests including measurements of nitrogen, phosphorus, pH and dissolved oxygen; and, finally, to get an indication of the biological integrity of the stream, collecting macroinvertebrates that were rubbed off rocks and captured in a “kick-net.” The little insect nymphs were plucked and sucked out of the net with tweezers and pipets. The abundance and diversity of taxa was rather low, probably due to siltation caused by a recent violent flash flood. Nevertheless, the students were fascinated with the mayflies as well as a couple of very small newts they caught.

In the afternoon after lunch, we did the same observations and tests back at Common Ground Center. The center is located below some agricultural activity and a greater density of houses, roads, and cleared land. The differences in the water were obvious: a greater abundance of invertebrates, plus the lucky catch of a “slimy sculpin,” a fish that, despite its name, has beautiful feathery pectoral fins and is an indicator of relatively clean water. Temperature was slightly higher, and dissolved oxygen levels were slightly lower. Elizabeth deployed a drift net for about 10 minutes. This rectangular, fine-mesh net passively accepts whatever is floating down the stream. When she dumped out the contents, it was amazing how much filamentous algae was waterborne. The algae, along with the many falling late September leaves are organic “inputs” to the stream that help feed the invertebrates that fish feed on. The inputs can also carry nutrients to the lake, which can contribute to eutrophication.

Chemical, physical, and biological assessment methods now well entrenched in students’ minds, we all took some free time, and dinner all together. In the evening, Matt gave an overview of the federal and Vermont Clean Water Acts so that students gained further insight into how society attempts to protect the eater bodies that the students had just dabbled in. This was followed by “Dam Nation,” an award-winning movie about the ecological and political implications of building and then, in some cases, removing large dams on rivers in the western U.S.

After sleeping in the cabins at Common Ground, some with sleeping bags not quite up to the task of a chilly night, the students were more or less ready to do wetland work on day 2 of their water quality intensive training. The day began with a plant study in a wetland on the property. After learning how various plants have evolved to surviving in water, a guest came on the scene: Matt Montgomery, an environmental compliance consultant and wetland delineator by trade. Matt pulled out his box of tricks that he uses to determine where boundaries of wetlands are: shovel, flagging tape, auger, and soil references, among other things.

It took no time for Matt to have the willing students digging 2 pits: one in an obviously wet, mucky area, and one in a drier upland hayfield nearby. Looking carefully at the “horizons” – or layers – of soil in the pits, Matt explained how the color, texture, and smell of a soil could indicate whether the sample occurs in what is scientifically determined to be a wetland or upland. The students seemed very engaged in Matt’s real-world perspective, and asked him a number of questions about his work.

Finally, the students did a sampling of the macroinvertebrates in the wetland, which proved to be much different from the stream, most notably turning up a leech. Also present were a dragonfly nymph as well as a dragonfly adult caught in an insect net. Diversity of dragonflies in a wetland can be a mark of ecosystem health.

We are confident that the exposure to maps, concepts of water conservation, water quality assessment protocols, and investigating the natural history of plants and animals occurring in wet places made for a rich experience for students. We’ll see soon what study projects result from their training and their passion for clean water!

This project was funded in part by a Vermont Watershed Grant.


Lake Champlain Maritime Museum hosts youth rowing races at Basin Harbor Campus, Saturday October 8

Please Note: Due to wind conditions, the race has been moved to LCMM’s Basin Harbor Campus at 4472 Basin Harbor Rd, Vergennes VT, 05491. The Race will begin at 9 am. 

Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s Champlain Longboats Program will hold its annual youth rowing race, The James Wakefield Rescue Row on Saturday, October 8. The race is named in honor of James Wakefield, who courageously rescued the passengers and crew of canal schooner General Butler on December 9, 1876 when the vessel crashed into the Burlington breakwater during a fierce winter gale.

Over 150 youth in 20 crews will participate in the race, rowing 32- and 25-foot boats in a series of heats along the Burlington Waterfront. Local crews hail from Burlington High School, South Burlington High School, Vergennes Middle and High School, Champlain Valley Union High School, Rice Memorial High School and Mt. Abraham Union Middle and High School, while visiting crews travel from as far as the coast of Maine. Races begin at 9:00.

The colorful boats used in this event were built by Vermont High School and Middle School students at Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s boat shop. The sixteen boats in the Museum’s fleet are used by over 600 students each year, including 175 students at nine area schools in After-School rowing programs that meet two or three times a week through mid-November. Setup to build the next Champlain Longboat at LCMM begins in November, ready for a new crew of boat building students to arrive in January.

This past July, the General Butler story came alive for a very special reunion aboard LCMM’s 1862 canal schooner Lois McClure, a replica inspired by the historic shipwreck. About 40 descendants of James Wakefield toured the schooner and 16 of them went rowing in Champlain Longboats all the way around the breakwater.  The weather was perfect and the waters smooth as they experienced rowing a boat in Burlington harbor at the spot where their ancestors so bravely saved five lives. While the Wakefield family was touring the schooner another family was also aboard –  descendants of Captain William Montgomery!  The two families discovered the connection and exchanged contact information.

To see the Champlain Longboats in action, visit Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s web-site www.lcmm.org, Facebook page, and YouTube channel.

For Information Contact: Nick Patch

Phone: 802-475-2022 x113

Email: nickp@lcmm.org

  • If you wish to photograph the race from a boat contact Nick Patch at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum.
  • To download images of the James Wakefield Rescue Row, visit LCMM’s web pressroom; see images 6, 8 and 10 (double click thumbnail image to access high-res file):


Background: The General Butler Story

In December 1876, canal schooner General Butler left Isle LaMotte with a load of marble destined for the marble works on South Champlain St. in Burlington. During the trip a major storm kicked up on Lake Champlain.  As the Captain, William Montgomery, attempted to make his way into Burlington Harbor, the steering gear broke. Montgomery dropped anchor and made a quick repair by chaining a tiller bar to the broken gear.  He then chopped his anchor line and made a last ditch attempt to steer around the breakwater into the slightly calmer waters of the harbor, but the ship crashed into the breakwater. With 60 tons of marble on board, the Captain knew his boat was doomed.  He ordered his deckhand to jump to the breakwater, then his daughter, her best friend, and his passenger, an injured quarry worker. Finally the captain himself made the leap onto the rocks as the schooner slipped back into the waves and sank.  While the crew was off the boat, they were by no means safe.  Clinging to ice covered rocks and slammed by freezing waves their chances of survival were fading fast. Thankfully James Wakefield, a local sailmaker and ship chandler, and his son Jack grabbed a 14 foot rowboat and rowed out through the winter gale and rescued all five souls from the ice covered breakwater.


Canal schooners, unique hybrid wooden boats, were constructed to sail on the open lake and then lower their masts and rigging to transit the Champlain canal to ports on the Hudson River. In the decades after the Civil War, they vanished from Lake Champlain and were largely forgotten. The discovery of an unusual shipwreck in Burlington Bay in 1980 brought the story of the General Butler to light, inspiring LCMM’s construction of replica 1862 canal schooner Lois McClure and the commemorative event hosted by Champlain Longboats each fall. General Butler is now one of Lake Champlain’s Underwater Historic Preserves, open for visits by SCUBA divers. Non-divers can view the site by Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) on LCMM’s popular Shipwreck! Tours.

LCMM Rowers at World Championships

Eleven rowers and two coxswains representing the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum (LCMM) recently competed in the world championship regatta for St. Ayle’s skiffs (“Skiffie Worlds”)  at Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland. The LCMM team competed with 41 other clubs totaling over 800 participants from Scotland, Northern Ireland, Great Britain, Netherlands, Canada, and Australia.

The regatta, sanctioned by the Scottish Coastal Rowing Association, unfolded over six days July 25-30 and featured age-grouped and open-age heats and finals over a 2000 meter course marked 15 lanes wide in a tidal estuary between the Quoille River and Strangford Lough (pronounced “lock”) near the scenic villages of Killyleagh and Strangford and the small city of Downpatrick, final resting place of St. Patrick.

In order to field a full roster, LCMM drew from two other coastal rowing groups from lining-upMassachusetts: four oarswomen from the Gloucester Gig Rowers and five rowers from the Hull Lifesaving Museum. For one race two oarswomen were “borrowed” from clubs in Scotland and Great Britain.

Being the only participants from the U.S., the LCMM team received special attention from the locals, other clubs and the press. Several LCMM rowers were interviewed by TV crews and photos of them appeared in local newspapers.  LCMM rowers were quickly “adopted” by two more experienced Scottish clubs:  taking shelter in the large tent of the Ullapool Coastal Rowing Club, and utilizing a skiff loaned to them by the Cockenzie & Port Seton Rowing Club.

last-raceThrough the week of the regatta, LCMM raced in a total of ten races. Their best single race result was a 7th place in the Finals of the 60+ Women’s division. In the points-based club competition, LCMM finished 25th of 42 clubs.

The St. Ayle’s Skiff is a traditionally-styled wooden open-water rowing boat, powered by four oars and steered by a coxswain. Most of the boats are hand-built by community rowing clubs in the United Kingdom who use them both for “social” rowing and weekend racing against their neighboring villages or clubs. Lake Champlain Maritime Museum (Ferrisburgh) boasts two of these craft, which are rowed weekly by a variety of rowers, young and old, in the museum’s “Community Rowing” programs.

Historic Abenaki Clothing and Accessories on View at Lake Champlain Maritime Museum Through October 13, 2016


The special exhibit “Wearing Our Heritage” offers rare opportunity to see clothing worn by Abenaki men and women of earlier generations. Abenaki scholar and activist Frederick M. Wiseman has gathered original garments and accessories to assemble representative outfits like those worn by Abenaki men and women before 1850 as well as outfits for a man and a woman during in the 1900s through 1920s. The exhibit also includes examples of accessories such as moccasin tops, collars, head bands, needle cases and pouches.

The items in this exhibition were brought together through a decades-long process of research and discovery, and reveal a fascinating combination of local and international origins. For example, a necklace from a Central Vermont estate has a beaver pendant with the hallmark of Montreal silversmith Robert Cruickshank, suspended from a necklace of early nineteenth century trade beads that probably came from Africa.

Very few examples of work clothes are found in collections because they were worn out in heavy use, then handed down, and even the rags were re-used. Little remained even to be discarded, much less preserved. The man’s outfit from 1780-1850 includes a long, tunic-like linen shirt from Central New Hampshire with brass buttons dating from the War of 1812 era; eighteenth century moose hide leggings converted into trousers ca. 1810 at a farm in Lamoille County, Vermont; a wool trade blanket from Stowe; and an Assumption sash of finger-woven linen in an “arrow sash” pattern popular in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. The woman’s outfit of this early era includes a hand stitched linen chemise; an “arrow sash” of finger-woven wool from Machias, ME; an early/mid 19th century mirror case of deer hide with porcupine quill and bead decoration; and an 18th/early 19th century “Montreal Cross” pendant necklace.

The second pair of outfits date from the late nineteenth century up to 1920. On garments of this era, fringes of cut cloth recall earlier clothing styles. A beautiful woman’s dress of cotton cloth from White River Junction, Vermont includes banded panels and yoke with geometric designs that echo mid-19th century Wabanaki applique work. The early 20th century man’s cut-cloth-fringe coat, headdress and leggings was used by Abenaki basket makers who lived in Essex Junction, Vermont and sold their wares on the Lake Champlain Islands.

The exhibit also includes examples of accessories from the late eighteenth century to mid-twentieth century. Early accessories include a brass bracelet probably fashioned from the rim of a cooking kettle in the eighteenth century; and a deer hide pouch, ca. 1780, decorated with porcupine quill embroidery, tin cones, beads, and dyed hair which served as a “pocket” for the wearer. A silver nose-ring and a trade brass hair ornament date to the early nineteenth century.  Later pieces in the exhibit reflect the growing market for American Indian beadwork among tourists. Beadwork styles from the Midwest and Niagara area spread into the Northeast, appealing to some people as souvenirs and to others as markers of Native identity. A mid-nineteenth century velvet reticule and an early twentieth century “Princess Crown” with Niagara style beadwork represent this era.

Orwell Glass at Lake Champlain Maritime Museum

Each July something very exciting happens at LCMM – the glassblowers arrive! From the beginning of July to the end of August, the fine folks at Orwell Glass set up shop on our campus in order to teach glassblowing to our visitors. For a small fee, anyone can learn to make ornaments & suncatchers that they can keep themselves! More advanced learners can try their hand at a glass tumbler.

Camille, one of the glassblowers with Orwell Glass, was kind enough to let our Video Production Camp film part of the process.

Eileen, one of our AmeriCorps members, also got to try their hand at glassblowing with Camille, and with a bit of help was able to make the ornament and suncatcher pictured below.

Orwell Glass will only be here for another week, so don’t miss out – book a session with them today! Visit  www.orwellglass.com to book a class.