Posts Tagged ‘Boat Racing – Regatta’

Friday, January 29, 2010

Inside the Adirondack Museum’s Boat Collection

“Hall’s Boat Corporation is not just a center for wooden boat conservation, but a center for wooden boat lovers,” says Steve Lamando, the owner of the historic Lake George marina.

Every month, Reuben Smith, who oversees wooden boat building and restoration at Hall’s, offers free wooden boat clinics, and every summer members of the Antique and Classic Boat Society (based in Clayton) gather at the marina for receptions and banquets.

Hall’s staff reaffirmed its commitment to the preservation of wooden boats and to those who prize them in mid-November, when it hosted a tour of the Adirondack Museum’s boat collections with curator Hallie Bond.

“Reuben Smith, Hallie Bond and I were talking about how we could foster a stronger relationship between Lake George and the Adirondack Museum, and we decided this trip would be a good start,” Lamando said.

Hall’s Boat Corporation views the museum as an educational resource, said Reuben Smith, whose father, boat builder and novelist Mason Smith, is married to Hallie Bond.

“It’s a resource for our customers, for our wooden boat builders, and, as we develop into an educational center, for students,” added Lamando.

According to Hallie Bond, the Adirondack Museum owns “one of the largest, finest collections of inland pleasure craft anywhere. It’s a very nice, representative collection, but we specialize in boats made and used in the Adirondacks. In the 19th century, the Adirondack region was where it was at for small rowing pleasure craft.”

In addition to telling the stories of how people lived, worked, relaxed and made art in the Adirondacks, the Adirondack Museum is, Bond said, an “inland maritime museum,” a fact made evident in the lobby itself, whose focal point is an Idem class sloop, built in the early 1900s for racing on the St. Regis Lakes.

Bond’s tour began in the building housing the museum’s boats and boating collection.

Naturally, the collection is dominated by Adirondack guide-boats, those light-weight, portable boats indigenous to the region, which also happen to be one of the region’s greatest contributions to civilization.

But Adirondack boating is not limited to guide-boats, as Bond’s tour made clear.

The collection includes, for instance, the kayaks and canoes whose near-universal popularity began with the American Canoe Association’s gatherings on Lake George in the 1880s, which the museum highlights in one of its exhibits.

Some thirty or forty canoeists attended the first Canoe Congress on Lake George and virtually every type of modern canoe was represented; canvas, wooden, clinker-built and smooth skinned; some were decked and sailed. There were contests for racing, paddling, sailing, and dumping, the latter being a contest in which the canoeist paddles out to and around a stake boat and on the return, at a given signal, dumps his canoe, rights it, and gets back in.

The prize for winning a race open to canoes of all types was a canoe built by St. Lawrence River boat builder John Henry Rushton.

Rushton saw the Lake George congress as an opportunity to attract new business and develop new ideas. One of those ideas came from Judge Nicholas Longworth, who wanted a better sailing version of Rushton’s Rob Roy, the decked wood canoe whose design was derived from the kayak. The result was the Diana, a Princess type of sailing canoe, commonly regarded as one of Rushton’s most beautiful boats.

The Diana is also on exhibit, in a display called the “Poor Man’s Yacht.” On top of the Diana is a striped, cotton canvas canoe tent, also from Rushton’s shop, demonstrating how the canoes were used not simply for cruising, but as portable camps.

At about the same time that he was building boats for the founders of the American Canoe Association, Rushton built the first of several lightweight canoes for George Washington Sears, whose articles in “Forest Stream” published under the name of “Nessmuk” would popularize both wilderness paddling and Rushton’s own canoes.

The most famous of those canoes, the Sairy Gamp, is also on display.

According to Hallie Bond, Rushton said of the 10.5 pound canoe, “if Nessmuck tired of it as a canoe, he could use it as a soup dish.”

Bond was responsible for persuading author Christine Jerome, who retraced Nessmuck’s route through the Adirondacks in 1990, to use a Kevlar replica of the Sairy Gamp made by local boat builder Pete Hornbeck. That boat, too, is on display.

The group then examined George Reis’s El Lagarto, the Lake George speedboat that won Gold Cups in 1934, 1935 and 1936, before entering the museum’s storage facility.

The museum owns more than 200 boats, only a portion of which can be displayed at any one time. The rest are stored in the Collections Storage and Study Center, located near the museum but difficult to find. “We didn’t want it to be too conspicuous,” said Bond.

The facility contains boats too large to be displayed, such as the beautifully restored 1927, 30 ft Fay and Bowen runabout that once belonged to Camp Echo on Raquette Lake, as well as boats that may never be restored but are preserved for research.

Those boats include a Lake George rowboat built by Henry Durrin and the Hornet, a 28 ft ice boat built on Lake Champlain and brought to Lake George in the 1930s, as well as Merle and Elisabeth Smith’s 23 ft long Yankee class ice boat built by John Alden Beals.

Bond also showed the group a boat that I’ve waited years to see, less for its aesthetic qualities than its historical interest: a fiberglass guide-boat built in the Adirondacks in the early 1960s.

By the 1960s, it appeared to many that the only way to ensure the survival of the Adirondack guide-boat was to turn to synthetic material.

John Gardner, in many ways the father of the wooden boat-making revival, wrote in the 1963, “The guide boat might seem to be nearly finished, a thing of nostalgic memory and a museum piece were it not for its recrudescence in plastic.”

At the time Gardner was writing (the piece appeared in the Maine Coast Fisherman) the only wooden guide boat maker still working was Willard Hanmer. A year earlier, Tom Bissell opened the Bissell Manufacturing Company in Long Lake to make what he called Adirondack Fiberglass Boats.

He had grown up with guide boats made by one of the region’s most renowned guides and boatbuilders, Warren Cole. His grandfather opened a Long Lake hotel called Endion in 1888 across the lake from Cole’s boat shop; where his father spent hours as a young boy watching Cole work. He still owns one of Cole’s boats purchased by his grandmother in 1900.

Bissell bought the fiberglass boat company from Fox Connor, whose family owned one of the region’s oldest great camps and was who manufacturing them in Ossining at the family-owned Allcock Company, makers of have-a-heart traps. Their model, which Bissell continued to make, was based on a boat designed by Wallace Emerson for fishermen in Connor’s family.

Bissell, now in his seventies, a retired school teacher and former supervisor of Long Lake, left the guide-boat business early, despite support from Gardner and people like Kenneth Durant, who devoted the second half of his life to researching the history of the guide-boat. At the time, Bissell recalled, working with fiberglass posed health hazards.

But his effort kept the guide-boat alive as a functioning vessel rather than just a museum piece, and helped ensure that people were still rowing them when young craftsmen like Reuben Smith’s father, Mason Smith, and his uncle Everett Smith emerged to revitalize wooden boat building.

The Adirondack Museum’s collection of guide-boats played no small role in that renaissance, and according to Reuben Smith, it remains a source of inspiration for builders – and future owners – of boats of all types.

Photo: George Reis driving El Lagarto. Courtesy of Adirondack Museum

For more news from Lake George, read the Lake George Mirror


Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Late Richard "Dick" Merrill Wins 2009 Hochschild Award

The late Richard “Dick” Merrill of Queensbury has been selected by the Adirondack Museum Board of Trustees to be the recipient of the 2009 Harold K. Hochschild Award. According to a press release issued by the museum:

The Harold K. Hochschild Award is dedicated to the memory of the museum’s founder, whose passion for the Adirondacks, its people, and environment inspired the creation of the Adirondack Museum. Since 1990 the museum has presented the award to a wide range of intellectual and community leaders throughout the Adirondack Park, highlighting their contributions to the region’s culture and quality of life.

Although Dick Merrill made his living as an engineer for the General Electric Company, he lived his life by giving time and talent to his community.

Merrill was President of the Southern Adirondack Library System and President of the Crandall Public Library – successfully completing an $18 million LEED certified expansion project that opened in December 2008 during his tenure.

He was President of the Chapman House Historical Museum and served as a member of the Adirondack Community College Foundation as well as the Warren Country Historical Association.

In addition, Merrill was elected to the Queensbury Town Board and served as deputy chairman. He was a member of the Queensbury Land Use Planning Board, the Indian Lake Association, and President of the Warren County Planning Board.

Dick played bagpipes for Adirondack Pipes and Drums, Inc. and served as the group’s treasurer.

Nicholas K. Burns Publishing published Dick Merrill’s book, Log Marks of the Hudson –a meticulously researched and comprehensive cross-referenced guide to a cornerstone of Adirondack history — in 2008.

In the company of his wife of fifty years Mary Merrill, Dick was also a valued member of the Adirondack Museum family. For many years, they organized a corps of volunteers in support of the No-Octane Regatta. The couple developed lively history-based programs for children and families that enriched the experience of thousands of museum visitors each year. They also originated hands-on classroom programs for students in grades K – 8. With son Dean Merrill, the Merrill’s delighted crowds at the museum’s annual Harvest Festival with their vintage steam-powered cider press.

The Adirondack Museum will formally present the Harold K. Hochschild Award posthumously to Dick Merrill on August 6, 2009. The event will begin at 3:00 p.m.

Photo caption: Dick Merrill with former U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton during her visit to the Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake, NY in 2006.


Friday, May 8, 2009

2009 Adirondack Paddling Calendar

Eager boaters have been on the water since ice-out, but the Adirondack canoe-and-kayak social season really gets cruising this month. We offer a chronological calendar:

The first two get-togethers are really commercial affairs, aimed at selling canoes and kayaks, but hey we enjoy new gear as much as anyone: Adirondack Lakes and Trails Outfitters holds Demo Days this weekend, May 9–10, by the state boat launch on Lake Flower, in Saranac Lake, (518) 891-7450. And Adirondack Paddlefest is May 15–17 at Mountainman Outdoor Supply Co., in Old Forge. The Fest is billed as “America’s largest on-water sale.” $5 admission for adults, (315) 369-6672 » Continue Reading.


Saturday, July 12, 2008

History of Electric Boats at The Adirondack Museum

Although they were popular in the Adirondacks in the 1890s and early 1900s, according to the G. W. Blunt White Library at Mystic Seaport, Connecticut, no one is really sure who founded the Electric Launch Company (“Elco”):

Electric motors that could be used for marine application had been invented by William Woodnut Griscom of Philadelphia in 1879, and in 1880 he started the Electric Dynamic Company. In 1892 Griscom’s electrical company went bankrupt, and Electric Dynamic Company was bought by Isaac Leopold Rice who founded Electric Storage Battery Company (“Exide”). Rice had become interested in Electric Launch Company; they had been buying his storage batteries. He also was interested in Holland Torpedo Boat Company. He purchased the latter and merged it, along with Elco, into the Electric Boat Company in 1899. In 1900, Elco, which had previously acted as middleman by farming out the hull contracts and installing Griscom’s motors and Rice’s batteries, built its own boat-building facility at Bayonne, NJ.

Join Charles Houghton, former president of the Electric Launch Company will present a program entitled “Batteries Included: The History, Present, and Future of Electric Boating” at the Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake that will be presented this Monday, July 14, 2008 in the Auditorium at 7:30 p.m.

The company provided 55 electric launches for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago to ferry sightseers over the fair’s canals and lagoons. Elco shifted to gasoline engines by 1910 and had a long life building military and some of the first widely produced pleasure boats. During World War One, the company built 550 sub chasers for the British navy. In 1921 they introduced the popular and (reasonably) affordable 26-foot Cruisette, a gas engine cabin cruiser. During World War Two Elco developed the the PT Boat, an 80-foot torpedo boat with a Packard aircraft engine.

At the end of the war, the company merged with Electric Boat of Groton, CT to form the nucleus of General Dynamics. By 1949, General Dynamics’ CEO thought he could make more money by building military craft and Elco’s workers were fired, the shipyard in Bayonne, New Jersey and all its equipment was sold.

The company was re-incorporated in 1987 but didn’t shift into electric boats again until 1996 the year Monday’s speaker, Charles Houghton, became company president. Under his direction the company began building electric motor boats and electric drives for boats and sailboats.


Friday, June 13, 2008

Quiet Waters and The No-Octane Regatta

It’s almost perfect timing.

On the heels of the lawsuit against DEC trying to force the state agency to uphold the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan by phasing out floatplane use on Lows Lake, and formation of a DEC and APA sponsored “Quiet Waters Working Group for the Adirondack Park” – comes the Adirondack Museum’s Second Annual No-Octane Regatta (Sat., June 14, Little Wolf Lake in Tupper Lake).

The No-Octane is an emerging annual event that celebrates the ideas behind the Adirondack Quiet Waters Movement to set aside a place for quite, old school paddling in canoes, guideboats, kayaks, and rowboats.

Here are the details from the museum’s press release:

Races, demonstrations, workshops, and family activities will begin at 11:00 a.m. and continue until 5:00 p.m. Food, restrooms, changing areas, and ample parking are all available.

The Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake, N.Y., Traditional Arts in Upstate New York (TAUNY) in Canton, N.Y., the Town of Tupper Lake, and the Adirondack Watershed Alliance have jointly planned the No-Octane Regatta.

No-Octane Regatta races have intriguing names and are as much fun for spectators as participants. Look for the Hurry-Scurry Race, the Bang-and-Go-Back Race, and the Doggy Paddle Race. There will be separate races for kayaks, guideboats, canoes, war canoes and sailing craft. A total of seventeen races are planned for a variety of categories and distances. The on-the-water activities will end with a Grand Parade of Boats.

Demonstrations will include Seat Caning by Pauline Villeneuve of Tupper Lake, Paddle Making by Caleb Davis of Long Lake, N.Y., and Boatbuilding and Restoration by Chris Woodward of Saranac Lake, N.Y. and Rob Frenette, also of Tupper Lake. Guide Boat Realty of Saranac Lake, N.Y. will sponsor the demonstrations.

As part of the No-Octane Regatta, Wooden Canoe Heritage Association will sponsor a Youth Boating Workshop with Adirondack Connections Guide Service, a fully insured guide, trip planning & outdoor education service. The goal of the workshop is to get kids on the water and into canoes, kayaks, and guideboats.

Children ages 8 – 13 are invited to participate. Instruction will include boating safety before the young boaters learn basic paddling and rowing techniques. There will be opportunities for youngsters to try a variety of boats. All participants must wear personal floatation devices at all times during workshop. Three New York State licensed guides will provide boating instruction.

Youth Boating Workshops will be held at 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m., and 2:30 p.m. Each session will be 45 minutes in length and is limited to ten participants per session. Please register on the beach at Little Wolf Lake the day of the No-Octane Regatta. Parental permission and signature are required.

In addition, the Regatta will feature activities just for younger children and “paddling primers” – paddling workshops for adults.

Also on June 14, 2008 – but not on the Little Wolf Lake Beach — the Adirondack Watershed Alliance has organized a “9-miler” race on the Raquette River. A great solo, family, and novice event, the race starts at 10:00 a.m. at the Route 30 fishing access site, “The Crusher.” Paddlers follow the Raquette River to Simond Pond. The finish line is at the Tupper Lake Rod & Gun Club. Paddle, race, finish, and head for the No-Octane Regatta for the rest of the day!

For complete information about the No-Octane Regatta please visit www.adirondackmuseum.org or call (518) 352-7311.



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