Monday, August 12, 2013

Cruising Lake Champlain with Whistling Man Schooner Company, Burlington, Vermont

          Lightening bolts branch across the lake.  A storm is brewing.  I tilt my head to gaze at the canvas sails reaching to the sky.  
“What are the chances this boat could tip?” I ask.  
“Impossible,”  replies the captain.
Captain Mike and first mate Tyler check the radar on their iphones, then assure me the storm is moving to the south and away from us.

Storm clouds building?  Not to worry.
Friendship sloops are built to handle the weather.
         I’m the only passenger this afternoon aboard the Friend Ship— a Friendship Sloop modeled after Maine sailing vessels first built in Friendship, Maine in the late 1800s.  Our craft was built in 1981.  It’s 46 feet long, weighs almost 19,000 pounds and has a 4,800 pound keel—thus the improbability of being tossed into the water.  
On the Atlantic coast these ships were built for fisherman and lobstermen.  In Burlington, Vermont, shipbuilders fashioned the boats for light cargo and recreation.  And recreation is the purpose of my sail today with Whistling Man Schooner Company, which offers daily cruises on Lake Champlain during the summer.  

My own private tour on the comfortable Friend Ship.
Captain Mike invites guests to bring their own food and drink;
wine and cheese are favored on the Sunset Cruise.

         As we sailed the smooth waters Captain Mike told of the history of Lake Champlain.  This waterway was important to the French and British in Canada as a way to transport goods to the Atlantic seacoast; therefore the lake became a critical strategic area during the battle with the British for control of the colonies.  
        George Washington sent men and boats (precursors to the US Navy) to capture the forts along the lake.  If they succeeded the colonial army would gain control of the lake—the most direct invasion route to British Canada.  However, if the British maintained their presence on the lake they would be able to divide and conquer the colonies.  We all know who won this conflict, but the historical significance of Lake Champlain is interesting none-the-less.

Burlington is the largest city in Vermont.  Views of Lake Champlain
abound in this hilly city.

Looking through the rigging toward New York State.

       Captain Mike also relayed his own history.  He worked for IBM for 29 years and was laid off in 2010.  One year later he landed a consulting job with IBM, but in the meantime he added to his lifelong love of sailing by securing his Captain’s license.  A year after that the Whistling Man Schooner Company went up for sale.  
“Should I buy it?” he asked his wife.  “Go for it,” she said.  
And so, Captain Mike quit IBM for good and began taking passengers for cruises on Lake Champlain.  He has no regrets:  “It’s a wonderful life,” he said.  
        I have to agree.  The storm has moved away and, on a warm July afternoon, there’s nothing better than relaxing on the deck of the Friend Ship while sailing Lake Champlain.

Captain Mike and Tyler, enjoying the sailing life.

The Friend Ship in dock and waiting for the
popular 6:30 p.m. Sunset Cruise.

To learn more about the Whistling Man Schooner Company visit their website:


  1. Hey reading your posts is almost there being in the body, not without an envious tinge :)

    Keep it up Rita

  2. Your blog introduces me to the wonders of India, Soumyendu.

    Likewise, I'm pleased to be able to transport you—and other readers—to places all over North America.

    Thanks so much for your kind words of encouragement. Your comments are always appreciated!

  3. Wow! Your own private tour aboard the Friend Ship! What a treat!

    Lake Champlain and the City of Burlington, VT are such a winning combination.

    Burlington is less than a 2-hour drive from our home in Bethlehem, NH. Cheri and I drive over there a couple of times each year to bicycle along the Island Line Trail.

    When travelling between VT and NY to visit the Adirondacks, we sometime take a ferry across Lake Champlain, and so we have some frame of reference as to the topic of your Blog. I must say that your report has piqued our interest in taking a guided tour of the lake via the Friend Ship, rather than merely crossing the lake by ferry.


  4. It was very nice having a private tour on the day I chose to take this cruise. I think the threatening weather may have had something to do with that. Captain Mike will arrange for private party excursions, in addition to his daily cruises. I don't know what the charge is or whether or not he specifies a minimum number of passengers for those tours.

    I envy you and Cheri being so close to Burlington and being able to cycle the Island Line Trail. It's certainly a beautiful locale.

    The ferry ride sounds like fun, and I'm sure that Captain Mike would be happy to take you out on the lake too!

    Thanks for your comments John, and enjoy your next trip to Burlington!

  5. Hi Rita,

    What a terrific opportunity - to have a private sloop and personal access to all of the captain's knowledge of the lake and New England history! I'm glad you came back minus the dunking. Those clouds look a bit ominous (but, sounds like they stayed true to the fast-moving storms in New England; stormy one minute, sunny the next).

    You really found some great options during your time in Vermont. Wish I could have been in NH this summer and driven over to meet you!