CHARLOTTE-The Charlotte, Vt., to Essex, N.Y., ferry, operated by Lake Champlain Transportation Co., reopened May 26 after being closed for almost a month due to the flooding of Lake Champlain. The ferries were back in service just in time for Memorial Day tourist traffic.
Deck crews welcomed returning commuters aboard the M.V. Gov. Aiken and the M.V. Grand Isle, both 30-vehicle-capacity vessels plying the 2.75-mile-long passage between the shores.
"The volume wasn't too heavy today-seven to nine vehicles per ferry-pretty normal for the start of the season," said veteran ferry deckhand Philip McKenzie. "It's going to take a few days before everyone knows we're back in business. But it's business as usual now."
McKenzie said the lake water was the highest he's ever seen, at least during his 15 years as a ferryman.
"The water is high-very high.
And as you can see we built up the approach ramps in both Charlotte and Essex. But in Essex, we had to build up the ramp at least 5-6 feet. The dock is lower there. It's steep for some cars but they can make it."
On April 28, Lake Champlain Transportation closed the Essex-Charlotte ferry due to flooding. It had reopened on April 7 after the route was free of lake ice, which forced its closure on Feb. 25.
At both ferry docks on May 26, while receding last week, the water is still high.
In the wake of flooding can be seen inundated houses and dockside businesses, including the marina, in Essex.
The Old Dock Restaurant and Marina in Essex is surrounded by water and it's unlikely the popular lakeside dining establishment will open any time soon. There's significant cleanup to be done.
"It's terrible in Essex and Westport," said ferry foot passenger Naomi Rose, a retired Bell Labs psychologist, who spends part of the year on Lake Champlain.
"I have a house in Westport. The water's close to my place, but I am okay for now. But look at Essex's flooded waterfront-it's sad, especially the damage at the restaurant and marina," she said.
Rose was the ferry's first "official" foot passenger on May 26 aboard the M.V. Gov. Aiken, according to McKenzie.
"Iwanted to see how high the lake is and what the damage looks like on both shores," Rose said.
According to another ferry deck hand, Gene Szatawski, reopening day included something for everyone-some sunshine, clouds, and a gusty 8-kt. wind out of the south.
"It is a beautiful day to be back on the lake," Szatawski said. "I love this lake. And despite the flooding and damages to so many folks, we're at least running again and that's got to be assuring to local commuters."