Lake Champlain ferries form a temporary link as new bridge takes shape

Bian Gauvin

The ferry Raymond C. Pecor Jr. was designed by John W. Gilbert Associates and built by Eastern Shipbuilding Group, of Panama City, Fla. The vessel is 216 feet long, with a beam of 43 feet 6 inches, and has a speed of 10 knots. It can carry 50 vehicles and 204 passengers.

Like sentinels, the Lake Champlain Transportation vessels Cumberland and Raymond C. Pecor Jr. pass each other port to port, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, on the south side of the Lake Champlain Bridge construction site at the narrows between Crown Point, N.Y., and Chimney Point, Vt.

Lake Champlain Transportation, better known as Lake Champlain Ferries (LCF), contracted with the two states to span the gap created when the old bridge, built in 1929, was demolished in December 2009. Cumberland and Pecor are identical in appearance, but are 10 years apart in age.

Pecor, delivered to LCF in November 2010, is the 12th vessel in the company fleet. The oldest, Adirondack, was built in 1913 and is still operational.

"The Pecor ran on the Grand Isle crossing (at the northern end of Lake Champlain) last winter, but we had so much summer traffic at the temporary crossing we decided to put her with the Cumberland,â" said Heather Stewart, the company's operations manager. She started with the company in June 1981 as a deck hand. She obtained her 500-ton inland master's license before advancing to her present position in June 2006.

Both vessels carry 50 vehicles and 204 passengers, and both vessels will return to crunching ice on the Grand Isle-Cumberland Head crossing this winter, after the bridge is completed.

"The boats were designed to run in ice," said Stewart. Pecor and other vessels in the fleet have reinforced hulls and stainless steel propellers for stress and impact resistance, and they have Reintjes reduction gears.

"We love our Reintjes gears," said Stewart. "They really hold up in ice."

LCF's port engineer, John Paul, said they have had no failures with the Reintjes gears, and they get 120,000 hours before requiring a rebuild. The gears are turned by a pair of Caterpillar 3508C engines at 1,000 hp each.

As with Cumberland, Raymond C. Pecor Jr. was designed by John W. Gilbert Associates, in Hingham, Mass., and built at Eastern Shipbuilding, in Panama City, Fla. Raymond Pecor Jr., the new ferry's namesake, bought LCF in 1976 and sold it to his son, Ray Pecor III, in 2003. The company employs over 200 people, and the average length of employment is 18 years.

Capt. Steve Pond said, "This is the best boat in the fleet. They did a real professional job on the layout."

Pond has been with LCF for 43 years.

Pecor's pilothouse deck and passenger lounge have flanges allowing them to be unbolted, taken down and stored on the main deck in order to clear the bridges on the delivery run up the Champlain Canal north of Albany, N.Y.


By Professional Mariner Staff