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Standard Canal Boats: Gourlie Point Wrecks (I4, J4, K4)

The waters adjacent to Gourlie Point, New York contain the remains of three canal boats. These vessels, Wreck I4 (VT-AD-1370), J4 (NYSM 11629) and K4 (NYSM 11630) are all standard canal boats resting in shallow water. These three vessels are within 1000ft (305 meters) of each other and all appear to have been abandoned. All were identified during the 2003 Lake Survey and dive verified in August of 2005. These sites may be related to activities at the historic port of Chipmans Point, Vermont which is located just north of the sites. None of vessels are well-preserved; however, taken as a group they have the potential to yield information important to history.

Wreck I4: Canal Boat (VT-AD-1370)


Preliminary archaeological drawing of Wreck I4.
Drawn by Adam Kane and Joanne DellaSalla.
Wreck I4 is a poorly preserved, largely buried example of a standard canal boat. The exposed remains consist of the sides, stem, and a bitt post. The stern is either missing or completely buried. The extant remains are 81ft 6in (24.8m) long and 14ft (4.2m) in beam; the wreck likely had an original length of 88ft (28.6m) which, based on the known expansions of the Champlain Canal locks, would place its construction between 1858 and 1872.

The hull is built plank-on-frame with approximately 3ft (.9m) of the sides exposed above the bottom sediments. The hull was hand probed in several locations for cargo, however, none was located. The bow is typical for a canal boat with an iron band on the forward face of the stem and rubrails reinforcing the bow. A single bitt post is located just aft of the stem.


Sonar image of Wreck J4 documented
during the 2003 Survey.

Wreck J4: Canal Boat (NYSM 11629)
Wreck J4 is a moderately well-preserved example of a standard canal boat. The exposed remains consist of the sides, deck beams, hatch coaming, rudder, and stem. The vessel is 81ft (24.6m) long and 14ft (4.2m) in beam. The length suggests that the vessel was built between 1823 and 1858, based on the known expansions of the Champlain Canal locks. The beam for vessels of this class should be 13ft to 13ft 6in (4.0 to 4.1m); the slightly larger beam of Wreck J4 may be due to splaying of the sides.


Preliminary archaeological drawing of Wreck J4.
Drawn by Pierre LaRocque and Joanne DellaSalla.

The hull is built plank-on-frame with approximately 3ft (7.6m) of the wreck exposed above the bottom sediments. Most of the structure of the wreck is still present with the exception of the decking and the cabin trunk and roof. The bow is bluff and has typical canal boat features such as an iron band along the forward end of the stem and rubrails. An iron traveler bar is located on the after edge of the stem. The vessel has one large cargo hatch which is 30ft (9.1m) long and 6½ft (2m) wide. The rudder and rudderpost are preserved in the stern, held in place by the transom log.

 

 

Wreck K4: Canal Boat (NYSM 11630)


Preliminary archaeological drawing of Wreck K4.
Drawn by Chris Sabick and Joanne DellaSalla.

Wreck K4 is a poorly preserved standard canal boat. Only a portion of the edge-fastened sides and a few timbers from the stern of the vessel are present and visible above the mud. The bow structure is missing entirely. On the port side 58ft 2in (17.7m) of hull planking is visible while only 49ft 4in (15m) is above the mud on the starboard side. Beam measurements between the two sides ranged from 13ft 2in (4m) to 13ft 10in (4.2m), though due to the lack of deck beams to follow these measurements should be considered approximate.


Sonar image of Wreck K4 documented
during the 2003 Survey.

Only a few vertically oriented timbers of the stern construction are visible above the mud line. While these timbers are closely associated with the port side they appear to have been pulled away from the starboard side approximately 6ft (1.8m). The vessel’s edge fastened sides suggest a building date post 1840, while the vessel’s beam indicates a terminus ante quem of 1858 for its construction.

 

 

Information Source:
Adam I. Kane, A. Peter Barranco, Joanne M. DellaSalla, Sarah E. Lyman and Christopher R. Sabick, Lake Champlain Underwater Cultural Resources Survey, Volume VIII: 2003 Results and Volume IX: 2004 Results. Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, 2007.