Village looks to restore historic canal boat as outdoor ‘museum’ piece

old yellow boat docked in a scrap yard
An old Champlain Canal buoy boat the village is considering acquiring from the state and restoring as an outdoor museum piece.

The Village of Stillwater may soon have a new outdoor “museum” piece to help celebrate its long, rich history with the Hudson River and Champlain Canal system.

The New York Canal Corp has offered the village a retired canal buoy boat that can be refurbished and displayed in Stillwater at a location to be determined. The historic boats, similar to what are on display in Waterford and Schuylerville, served the Champlain Canal during its heyday.

The boats were originally used to service and refuel lighted buoys with kerosene back in the days of oil lamps. Later, they helped transport workers to job sites, and were used to look for tree limbs and other floating debris in the river.

The buoy boat is one of many vessels the NYS Canal Corp has operated on canal waters over the years. Most were work boats such as tugs, barges, scows and dredges. Some are now museum pieces such as Tug Urger and others are being refurbished as floating teaching museums like the Freighter Day Peckinpaugh.

The Champlain Canal begins at the junction with the Erie Canal at Waterford, near the Federal Lock at Troy and runs north past Stillwater some 60 miles to Whitehall at Lake Champlain. The lower half follows the Hudson River, and at Fort Edward it branches out to a hand-dug section. There are 11 locks, numbered 1 through 12… there’s no lock 10.

Stillwater Mayor Judith Wood-Shaw and Trustee John Basile met recently with canal officials and viewed some old canal boats no longer in use and lying in a storage yard.

“I think it would be a great attraction here in the village,” Basile said, “and a fun project restoring it to what it once was.”

The majority of the restoration work would require sandblasting the boat and repainting it, and perhaps, updating some of its equipment. The work could be done by the Department of Public Works and local volunteers, Basile said. The original buoy boats are about 28 feet in length and 6-7 feet high.

Where in the village to display the boat permanently is still undetermined. Cannon Park or somewhere along the riverbank have been discussed.

yellow and blue board docked on the water
A fully restored Buoy Boat BB-109 is seen here on the Erie Canal, tied up to a wall.