The Locks Heritage District Corporation’s new wooden boat has a name: “The Erie Traveler.”
Last week dozens of volunteers from across Western New York continued work on the Traveler, a flat-bottomed, double-ended wooden boat being built at the Buffalo Maritime Center.
The Traveler is a historically accurate Durham-style boat commissioned by the heritage district to demonstrate operation of the Flight of Five canal locks and attract visitors to the Lock City.
”Wood boats are just one of those things, everyone just stops and looks," volunteer and wooden boat enthusiast Phil Cummings said.
Not having a blueprint for the Durham, maritime center personnel designed a version for volunteers to craft. Boats like the Traveler were used to carry freight in the mid 18th and early 19th centuries.
Volunteers have been meeting at the maritime center twice a week since October. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, they have been busy shaping mostly yellow pine into pieces of the 42-foot watercraft.
“I’m amazed at how it's progressing. It looks different every time I come in here,” builder John Clauss observed while he planed wood planks. “This thing is made out lumber. In the 1820s there was no such thing as plywood.”
"Most of this stuff was done with hand tools,” added Cummings as he hammered cotton into gaps in the blanks, while sitting atop an empty paint can.
Volunteers hope to finish construction of the Erie Traveler by May.
"I’ll see the end of it. I’ll be down at the locks when they drop it in,” Cummings promised.
This year marks the 200th anniversary of the start of construction of the Erie Canal. The groundbreaking took place on July 4, 1817, at Rome, N.Y.