Thursday, July 23, 2009

Suprise Quadricentennial Visit at Clermont

Since 2007, Clermont has been celebrating the Hudson, Fulton, Champlain Quadricentennial. A major loan exhibit at Clermont in 2007 brought together artifacts from all across the country and resulted in the publication of a book on the subject by the Friends of Clermont. We also celebrated with fireworks, symposia, a grand ball, and visits from Robert Fulton and Robert Livingston at the museum. And that was all just 2007, the year of the Steamboat Bicentennial.

In 2009 we have been joined by the rest of New York State in celebrating the 400th anniversary of the explorations of Henry Hudson and Samuel Champlain as well as over 200 years of steam travel. The Quadricentennial is a big deal, and organizations all over New York State are finding ways to take part. (If you're not from New York, this summer and fall are great times to visit since there is no shortage of music festivals, parties, and flotillas every weekend) And once again, I've been making sure the steamboat and the "Quad" (as we affectionately refer to it) are front and center in events and tours whenever I can.

But yesterday, we were lucky enough to get a surprise visit from our friends on the Halfmoon. Halfway through the afternoon, we got a call from our friend Dawn at Dutchess County Tourism who got luckier than any of us and has been riding around on the boat for a few weeks. Thankfully, Dawn decided to spread the love and convince the captain to sail through our inner channel, bringing the boat within shouting distance of the shore.

It was a perfect summer day, and Susan, Roberta, and I waited with anticipation out on the grass for several long minutes before the boat appeared through the trees. Even we were surprised by how close it looked. Most of the boats we see on the river every day are way out in the center channel. It was so close that even I, who am painfully near-sighted, could even see all the painted decoration along the side and could fully appreciate the banners and flags and ropes and--I hope those aren't people in the crow's nest?

And then it was spotted by the visitors on the grounds, and people came running from the parking lot and picnic grounds to see it. And here I had felt so secluded out there just a couple minutes ago. I didn't realise there were so many people here...

Even I was pretty caught up in the excitement. It's not every day you get to see a full scale replica of a 1609 sailing vessel going by your yard. Personally, I am forever trying to imagine what the river wouldhave looked like filled with a forest of masts as recently as 175 years ago.

We shouted back and forth a few times, remarking on how easy it is to hear from that distance across the water (it put us in mind of what it must have been like to welcome the landing of a strange boat 400 years ago). There were quite a few little pleasure boats on the water around them, and they were hollering back and forth as well. I could hear the little sailboat by the shore ask them for the for the boat's name, and kyackers and a an inflatable motorboat were doing all they could get as close as was safely possible.

Sadly, the visit was all too short. Pretty soon the boat was passing us by. I chased it down the shore as far as I could, giving up on my highly impractical shoes in the process, and snapped a last few shots of the pretty moon painted on the boat's stern as it worked its way back towards the main channel in the middle of the river.

What a nice surprise to pass a Wednesday afternoon!

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