1776 gunboat relaunched

This year, history was made at Vergennes Day when the Lake Champlain Maritime Museums newly restored replica 1776 gunboat Philadelphia II was relaunched at the falls basin in Vergennes, Vt.

Launching ceremonies began Aug. 25 at 11 a.m. although the boat did not enter the water until sometime around noon. The vessel was moored at the park for public boarding until 2:30 p.m. and then departed along Otter Creek enroute to her home port at the maritime museum.

The gunboat was also the focus of the Maritime Museums annual Rabble In Arms event. Crews of costumed reenactors boarded the vessel for maneuvers and gunnery practice on the water.

Eighteenth century mariners used anchors and ropes as well as oars and sails to quickly turn their cumbersome vessels into the best strategic position for firing while avoiding return volleys. Todays reenactors employ the same techniques to navigate the Philadelphia II.

The annual Rabble In Arms encampment on the museum grounds in Ferrisburgh offered museum visitors an opportunity to meet and talk with living history enthusiasts, archaeologists, and educators with experience in building and operating 18th century vessels, ropework and other maritime skills, and open hearth cooking.

Launched in 1991, the Philadelphia II has had a longer working life than any of its ancestors. Museum staff and volunteers, many of whom participated in the construction and operation of the vessel, have worked with visiting shipwrights replacing the majority of the standing rigging, replanking and caulking the hull, and cleaning and oiling the entire boat to ensure preservation of the wood.

Benedict Arnolds original Philadelphia, raised from the murky bottom of Lake Champlain in the 1930s, was on exhibit in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The exhibit is now closed to the public.

The latest information and discoveries of Revolutionary War-related activity on the lake are presented in the museums special exhibit Rediscovering a Moment in History: The Valcour Bay Research Project and the exhibit and video Key to Liberty: The Revolutionary War in the Champlain Valley.

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