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Thursday, April 21, 2016
Caption: John VanBenschoten and Marshall Roth (rear) and Pete Stapell (front) apply a fresh coat of paint to the ‘Black Rock’ in readiness for the upcoming season of Locks Demonstrations in the Erie Canal Flight of Five. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS)


Volunteers are preparing the two bateaux loaned from the Buffalo Maritime Center for inclusion in this season’s Locks Demonstrations in the restored Erie Canal Flight of Five.

Both the ‘Black Rock’ and the ‘Robert Irwin’ will be ready to begin the season, which officially opens Memorial Day Weekend, according to John Van Benschoten.

VanBenschoten and a team of volunteers apply a fresh coat of paint to the 
‘Black Rock’ in readiness for the upcoming season.
A team of six volunteers completed sanding, caulking and priming of the wooden, flat-bottom craft during the week of April 4. Another team of five volunteers applied a fresh coat of paint to both boats last week, and a finish coat of paint will be applied this weekend.

“The boats will be an integral part of the Locks Demonstrations for the 2016 season, and will provide the public with a much better appreciation of the operation of the Erie Canal Locks in the mid and late 19th Century,” explained Van Benschoten, a member of the Board of Directors of the Lockport Locks Heritage District Corporation.

The Locks District Corporation, which provides narrated tours of the Flight of Five from the end of May through the first weekend of October in conjunction with the Erie Canal Discovery Center, is seeking additional volunteers to serve as Lock Tenders and Tour Leaders so that it can expand the tours from Saturdays-only to include possibly one or two weekdays.

The ‘Black Rock’ is 27’ long with a 6’ beam, while the ‘Robert Irwin’ is 25’ long with a 6’ beam. “In addition to having a six-person team manually open and close the lock gates, we will deploy two Boat Tenders each shift to manually ‘lock through’ the boats,” explained Van Benschoten. Each boat will carry a simulated load of cargo particular to the time period of the operation of the Flight of Five.

Individuals interested in volunteering as Lock Tenders, Tour Leaders or Boat Tenders may contact Ray Wigle, Director of the Erie Canal Discovery Center, at or 439-0431.

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