The ‘Lois McClure’
With the completion of the Champlain Canal in 1823, connecting Lake Champlain to the Hudson River traffic in trade along Lake Champlain virtually exploded. Along with the traditionally designed sloops, schooners and the recently invented steamboats the lake now saw the birth of the new sailing-canal boat.
The Lake Champlain sailing-canal boat was designed to be able to sail from distant lake ports to the canal on the power of the wind. Upon reaching the canal, the masts were lowered and centerboard raised and the now transformed vessel could directly enter the canal. The first versions were characterized by the randomness of their design. By 1841 the design had been standardized and the vessels were just under 80 feet in length and roughly 13 feet in beam, so that they could fit the locks and canals. By 1862, the expansion of the canal allowed for an expansion of design, and the new “1862” class was developed – at roughly 88 feet in length and 14 feet in beam, with a slightly deeper depth of hold.
Two shipwrecks in particular were studied for the creation of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s replica, Lois McClure, both are located in Burlington Harbor, Vermont. For a detailed story on these wrecks, follow the links to the OJ Walker, and General Butler. Now these shipwrecks are part of the Lake Champlain Underwater Historic Preserve System, accessible by any SCUBA diver.
The schooner is named in honor of Lois McClure, who, along with her husband Mac, has been a major contributor to the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum (LCMM) in Ferrisburgh, Vermont and many other worthy community projects in the greater Burlington area. Lois McClure was honored as the ‘2013 Vermonter of the Year’ by the Burlington Free Press.
Construction of Lois McClure began in earnest in 2002 at the Lake Champlain Transportation Company’s Burlington Shipyard, shortly after the building of her tender, Mac. Since no plans exist for these sailing canal boats, LCMM turned to a talented group of naval architects, historians, and archaeologists. Both the General Butler and O.J. Walker have been studied and documented. These reports were handed over to naval architect Ron A. Smith to create the plans necessary to build Lois McClure.
Lois McClure was launched July 3, 2004, attended by thousands of people on the Burlington waterfront. After some work on her rigging, she was ready for her first voyage around the lake. The Inaugural Tour brought Lois McClure to many ports of call around Lake Champlain, including Whitehall, Westport, Essex, Port Henry, and Plattsburgh, NY, and St. Albans, Grand Isle, Vergennes, Basin Harbor, and Shoreham, VT.
The Schooner Lois McClure
Length: 88 feet
Beam: 14 1/2 feet
Cargo Capacity: 4400 cubic feet
Cargo Weight: 60 – 120 tons
Sail Plan: Mainsail 1309 square feet; Foresail 768 sq.ft; Jib 196 sq.ft
Following are a number of articles about the Lois McClure and its travels around Lake Champlain, the St. Lawrence River, the Great Lakes, the Hudson River and the Champlain and Erie Canals.
- Vermont-based schooner, Lois McClure heading to New York for hull repairs
- Maritime Burlington: New Waterfront Exhibit Highlights Burlington’s Nautical History
- Mike Smiles appointed new Executive Director at LCMM
- The Lois McClure
Be sure to check back for additional posts about the travels of the Lois McClure.