“The Big Row — Exploring the 18th Century via Mohawk River bateaux” will travel from Crown Point through Ticonderoga to Bolton June 11-15 using a bateaux — a flat-bottom cargo boat.
It’s difficult to really understand history without actually living it.
That’s the belief of David Manthey — and that’s the reason Manthey and others will make “The Big Row — Exploring the 18th Century via Mohawk River bateaux.”
The group will travel from Crown Point through Ticonderoga to Bolton June 11-15 using a bateaux — a flat-bottom cargo boat — owned by the Mabee Farm Historic Site, which is a property of the Schenectady County Historical Society.
“In the 18th Century the bateaux was the tractor-trailer of its day,” Manthey explained. “It was commonly used to transport materials and goods from one destination to another.
“Having a boat just sitting in a museum really doesn’t tell you much,” he added. “The best way to learn about it is to use it. That’s what we do. This is our 10th year making a trip with the bateaux and we’ve really learned a lot.”
This trip will be different though. Making use of a newly-constructed bateaux wagon, it will will include the group’s first-ever portage.
“Now that we have a period wagon, we are interested in trying to use it in a more routine manner, such as the traditional portage between Lake Champlain and Lake George,” Manthey said. “Ticonderoga is perfect.”
Manthey stressed the entire trek will be accomplished using 18th Century equipment.
“We have been make yearly rowing trips in the bateaux, and this year’s focus is on a portage,” he said. “The trip is roughly 44 miles long, of which 2.5 miles are a portage. It will be done in replica 18th century bateaux owned by the Mabee Farm Historic Site and crewed by period reenactors from Schuyler’s Company of New York Provincials. The crew will stay in 18th-century clothing and use period equipment and gear throughout the entire trip. The portage will be done with a replica 18th-century bateau wagon and be hauled by man power.”
The trip will begin at the Crown Point state campground Monday, June 11, with a day of preparation. Plans are to launch the bateaux Tuesday and row to Ticonderoga, traveling up the LaChute River to Bicentennial Park. There the crew will camp overnight near the boat launch.
Manthey said the distance from Crown Point to Bicentennial Park, via water, is about 17 miles. He expects his crew of seven to cover about 2 miles an hour.
On Wednesday the bateaux will portage to Lake George, being pulled uphill over The Portage to the Mossy Point boat launch.
“This is the portage day,” Manthey said. “We will try to start the portage by 10 a.m. We will use the bateaux wagon to take the boat out of La Chute on the old boat ramp in the park. We will cross above the last falls on the highway bridge. After crossing La Chute, we will ascend on The Portage 2.5 miles to Lake George to the public boat launch.”
Once they reach Lake George, the crew will row to the Rogers Rock Campsite and camp overnight.
Thursday the crew plans to trek from Rogers Rock to Huletts Landing, where they will camp. The trip will conclude Friday with a 9.5-mile row to the Bolton town park.
In Bolton the vessel and crew will take part in the “Crossroads of the French & Indian War” re-enactment June 16 and 17.
Manthey hopes people will see the group and approach.
“We welcome people stopping us and asking us questions,” he said. “We’re happy to talk to everyone. We want to share our experiences.”
The bateaux is a flat-bottomed vessel, allowing it to have a very shallow draft. With a full crew, it only draws five or six inches of water. The principal power is oars. It is generally crewed by a steersman and from two to four rowers. When there is a following or side wind, the bateaux can be sailed.
This will not be the first visit to Ticonderoga by the bateaux. It was in the community in 2008 as part of that year’s “Big Row.”
Other “Big Rows” have included trips to Rogers Island, Livingston, Vergennes, Vt., Oswego, Plattsburgh, Ogdensburg and the Mabee Farm in Rotterdam Junction.