After years of effort and fundraising, the canal boat has returned to the canal. It arrived Sunday morning after a trip down the canal from Fletcher’s, where it was lowered into position over the weekend.
The boat cost $1.5 million, which was paid for from government money and private donations. It is the culmination of the major repair work that the canal has undergone since the creation of Georgetown Heritage in 2015. The creation of Georgetown Heritage–a charitable organization to preserve and protect the canal through Georgetown–was itself the product of the Georgetown 2028 project way back in 2013.
The hope at the beginning was that we would get to this point much faster. But it became immediately clear that immediate and extensive repair work was necessary before a boat like this could be returned. Most pressing was the state of lock 4, which was on the verge of total collapse. A huge amount of the funds raised had to be directed towards the complete reconstruction of that lock, which took years to complete. And more recently major work was necessary to temporarily bolster the wall at Grace St.
There’s an old Soviet Joke that Communism was always on the horizon but that the definition of horizon is an imaginary line which recedes away from you as you approach it. (It’s probably funnier in the original Russian). Those endeavoring on this project would be forgiven in believing that this day was forever to be on the horizon. But it’s finally here.
The boat arrived by water, but the canal is already been drained again and the boat left in dry dock. This is to allow for further repairs and work on the canal and the boat.
Mule-powered boat rides should return next year. In the meantime, the new boat has an inboard motor tucked away to allow it to move without the beasts of burden. Motorized rides may return before the mules, but that has not been formally announced yet.
The new boat is meant to recreate the barges that traveled the canal through the 19th century. It weighs 18 tons, but that’s actually light for its size. In fact, it needs extra weight to be added just to keep the motor’s screw below water.
The previous boat, named simply “Georgetown”, was not an original either. It was created in the 1970s and ran until it was decommissioned in 2011. It was finally removed from the canal in 2016 and broken apart.
No name has been selected yet for the new boat.