On Saturday, July 28, I was enjoying lunch with family and friends on the sun soaked outer deck of the Old Dock Restaurant… Suddenly the most unusual music began to drift across the bay, gaspy but playful tunes, only a few notes long that reminded me of a calliope or maybe even a distant ice cream truck. Soon all of the diners on the deck were looking out onto Lake Champlain where a flotilla of miniature steamboats were releasing storybook white puffs into the bluebird skies.
As the steamboats chugged along, playfully dodging whitecaps and chasing each other from Beggs Point toward the Old Dock, and then past the ferry dock toward Rosslyn boathouse where they anchored en masse. (Essex on Lake Champlain)
I’ve learned over the years that blogs (and social media) are the optimal sleuthing machines, perfect platforms for crowdsourcing niche detective work. No surprise then that our Essex steamboat mystery has been resolved somewhat in the days since it was first featured on the blog and on our Essex Facebook page, Essex Twitter stream, etc.
Facebook Helps Solve Steamboat Mystery
Westport resident and longtime Essex habitue Kevin Cooper reported seeing the Lake Champlain steamboat “armada” passing through the narrows – between Essex and Westport – while sailing. He passed along the handsome photograph above. And that red dory style steamboat was indeed one of the vessels that visited us in Essex last weekend. Thanks, Coop!
Other thoughts shared on Facebook:
Does it have anything to do with the wedding at Normandie? I’d seen a number of boats anchored there for the past few days- this has been a discussion with my wife and mother in law for the past few days and the knowledge of the boats and wedding comes from them. ~ Stites McDaniel
they looked beautiful…. ~ Sylvia Margo
elegant launches ~ Sarah Prince
We seen these boats on the lake yesterday also, they headed down from the ferry into a bay on the Vermont side. ~ Tina Hanchett-Gardner
Lake Champlain Steamboats Gather on Otter Creek
Perhaps the most helpful lead came from our good friends at the Greater Adirondack Ghost and Tour Company who always seem to have the inside scoop when it comes to backstory. In this case they handed off the storytelling to the Burlington Free Press who published this evocative video on their website, capturing a few of the familiar Lake Champlain steamboats (including the red dory) gathered on Otter Creek two days prior to our Essex sighting. This makes perfect sense, especially in conjunction with Kevin’s report Lake Champlain steamboats spotted in the narrows, necessary passage for vessels arriving at, or departing, Vermont’s Otter Creek.
The caption for the video fills in the gaps:
About 17 steamboat owners from The North American Steamboat Association met up at River’s Edge Campground on Otter Creek in Vergennes for the weekend on July 26. (Burlington Free Press)
More Lake Champlain Steamboat Leads?
I’m feeling like we’re closer to understanding the enchanting steamboat visit on July 28, but there are still plenty of missing details. Kevin Cooper, Dee Carroll and the Greater Adirondack Ghost and Tour Company have moved the mystery forward. For example, we can probably conclude that:
- the steamboats were owned by members of the The North American Steamboat Association;
- many/all of them had recently participated in the 13th annual steamboat rally on Waterford Canal;
- they were spending the weekend at River’s Edge Campground on Otter Creek;
- they chugged north through the narrows on Saturday for lunch in Essex.
Perhaps you can help answer some of the still unanswered questions. Where are these steamboats from? Who are their owners? Have the handsome steam launches departed Lake Champlain or are they still tooting around? Will the Lake Champlain steamboats return next year? If not, where can readers go to see them again?
If you have any information to pass along, please contact us to help fill in the gaps. Thanks in advance!
- Lake Champlain Maritime Festival August 16-18, 2013 (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- VIDEO: Lois McClure among attractions at this year’s Steamboat Meet in Waterford (troyrecord.com)