Small Boat Festival this weekend

The Small Boat Festival on July 21-22 is a summer favorite at Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. With boat restoration experts, on-water opportunities, an exhibit unveiling, and live music by Rick Norcross, it’s fun for all ages. Bring your boat project questions all weekend, your non-motorized boat to row or paddle in Saturday’s Challenge Race, a kid’s duct tape creation for Sunday’s regatta, or just come to watch the fun and enjoy some delicious treats from food vendor Euro Restaurant.  Be sure to explore the museum’s 14 exhibit buildings and Museum Store, too. Lake Champlain Maritime Museum is open from 10 am-5 pm and Festival activities are included with Museum admission (Challenge Race fee includes Museum admission for two).

Come and see how Snake Mountain Boatworks restored three Vermont boats from “as-found” condition to finished, fully-restored, magnificent antiques, ready for romping in the water. These boats span the transition from canvas to wood plank and then wood plank to fiberglass. They include:

1930s vintage 16’ Old Town Dinghy, cedar-strip and canvas, was found lying upside-down in the mud in Owl’s Head Harbor.

“Little Chief,” a 1948 18’ Chris Craft Deluxe Utility with its original Chris Craft Model K, six-cylinder engine, was discovered via Craig’s List in a hanger at the East Middlebury Airport.

1959 Cutter Jet De Ville, a 15’ “Fiberglassic” with her original Model Mark 55 Thunderbolt Four Mercury outboard engine was found in the woods along a dirt road in Chittenden County. She will be at the Festival fully restored, with the trailer now resplendent in bold red and white paint and sporting baby moon hubcaps.

“We will be demonstrating restoration techniques, using our extensive video collection, together with hands-on exhibits,” said Michael Claudon, founder of Snake Mountain Boatworks, “and we hope people will come with photos, questions and lots of interest.”

If you’re fascinated by vintage engines, come and spend some time with Rod Scott. This expert loves to get old engines gleaming and back into action. Bring your motor photos and questions, or sign up for his Saturday afternoon workshop.

What’s ten feet tall, eight feet wide, 144 years old, and just traveled across Lake Champlain to the Maritime Museum? It’s the rudder from steamboat Champlain II, which for many years was installed at the Rudder Club in Essex, N.Y. While it’s not exactly from a small boat, the massive wood and iron rudder, recently donated to the Maritime Museum by Bob and Pat Burley, will be “unveiled” in its new home on Saturday afternoon at 1 pm. “We are delighted that our visitors will be able to see this relic of the steamboat Champlain II,” commented Erick Tichonuk, Co-Director of Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. “Our on-water tours bring people to view the shipwreck underwater, and now by standing next to the rudder they can experience the size and workmanship of these historic vessels.”

Rick Norcross, an acclaimed veteran of Vermont’s music scene with special ties to Lake Champlain, will be performing at the Small Boat Festival, at 12:15 pm and 3:15 pm each day. Norcross will also be there in another capacity – with the newly restored 24-foot launch Merritt E. Carpenter, Jr. and Harry Atkinson, Lisa Marchetti, Don Dewees, and Ivor Hughes. This stalwart crew of friends has met weekly in Burlington since 1986, when retired LCT Ferry Captain Merritt Carpenter, Jr. and Harry Atkinson purchased the original steam engine and boiler from the 1893 steam launch Comet.  The restored engine was installed in a new hull and launched in 1994 as Merritt E. Carpenter, Jr. Some years later, however, the vintage steam engine was taken out of operation and donated to the Maritime Museum, and with true Yankee ingenuity, the boat was re-powered – with the electric engine from a Basin Harbor Club golf cart! Meet the crew, see the boat and hear the story at the Small Boat Festival.

Like a good workout? Bring your own canoe, kayak, or non-motorized boat to row or paddle in this three-mile Lake Champlain Challenge Race on Saturday morning. Registration begins at 9:30 am and the race begins at 11 am. Registration fee admits two to the Small Boat Festival. Find more information at  or contact Nick Patch or call (802) 475-2022 ext. 113.

Younger boat lovers and aspiring boat designers can enter the Duct Tape Regatta on Sunday. Using only cardboard and a roll of duct tape, kids and their families design, build, and launch their own boat, big enough to ride in. Or, build your cardboard and duct tape boat at home and bring it to the museum. Spectators welcome!

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