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2012 January - Editor's Log

There are lots of interesting and exciting things happening 

There are lots of interesting and exciting things happening for sailors in the Northeast in the upcoming year. As we looked back upon 2011 in the December issue, we are looking ahead to 2012 in this issue. There will be many local, regional, national and international events taking place in our waters throughout the twenty-twelve season, so have your calendar out as you read this issue – surely some of the events and activities that we showcase will end up on your list of what to do when the boat is back in the water and the warm summer breezes blow!

compassAnother feature of this issue focuses on trailer sailing – something that I have yet to do. Having read the feature (beginning on page 24), I am adding trailer sailing to my list of must-do boating adventures. The people who trailer sail run the gamut from newbies to circumnavigators, from picnic sailors to grand prix racers and everyone in between.

There is a photo, taken by Bob Gleason, on page 30 that captured my imagination. The photo was intriguing to me in two ways. It is of several trimarans stern-to the shore in ankle deep, super-calm water with a small beach and lots of green vegetation surrounding them. Is it the South Pacific? The Caribbean? No, it’s Valcour Island in Lake Champlain, New York. I first noticed that the photo showed a splendidly relaxing way to spend a few days, but I was also drawn to it in another way.

For some reason, upon seeing the photo of the boats sitting in formation in the lee of the island, I immediately recalled a drawing I once saw of a battle formation that I thought looked like a raft-up. Thinking that, ironically, this battle formation may have been staged in Lake Champlain, I called my friend and go-to naval historian Dennis Ambruso. As it turns out, Valcour Island is quite a historical place (as are many locales along the shores of Lake Champlain). Dennis described a battle that took place on October 11, 1776 – in fact, right in the lee of Valcour Island.

Benedict Arnold, with his knowledge of sailing, arranged his fleet of small, ragged craft inside Valcour Island, upwind of where the much larger, more heavily armed British Fleet would be when they came upon the Americans. Knowing that there would be an advantage of having the upwind position, Arnold was poised to force the British to beat to windward, splitting up their force and allowing the Americans to fight on more level terms. That evening, the Americans escaped the bay and headed south toward Crown Point and Fort Ticonderoga. Before reaching safety, Arnold was forced to scuttle or burn the boats in his fleet, denying any prize to the British. Although a defeat, this battle was crucial for the Americans. There is a local monument that reads:

“NEAR THIS SPOT ON THE AFTERNOON OF OCTOBER 13, 1776 IN THE FIRST IMPORTANT NAVAL ENGAGEMENT OF THE WAR FOR INDEPENDENCE, BENEDICT ARNOLD AFTER A BATTLE IN WHICH HE HAD DISPLAYED GREAT BOLDNESS, GALLANTRY AND SAGACITY RAN ASHORE AND BURNED THE REMNANTS OF THE AMERICAN SQUADRON UNDER HIS COMMAND AS THE ONLY ALTERNATIVE TO ITS SURRENDER TO A BRITISH FLEET MUCH STRONGER THAN HIS OWN “NEVER HAD ANY FORCE, BIG OR SMALL, LIVED TO BETTER PURPOSE OR DIED MORE GLORIOUSLY”

A. T. Mahan

The battle lasted for two days, with one engagement at Valcour and the other running along the shores of the lake. What an amazing contrast to the activities portrayed in Bob’s photo. More than 230 years have passed since this all-important conflict of the Revolutionary War. It’s amazing to see a modern formation of boats assemble in the lee of Valcour with such a different purpose.

I think the historical aspects of Lake Champlain are just one great reason to venture there by boat – and I look forward to exploring the 125-mile long lake sometime in the near future. Hopefully the only skirmish that arises will be over who will walk the dog in the wee hours of the morning.

See you on the water!

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