NEWPORT CITY — Next spring, a second tour boat on Lake Memphremagog will provide a unique experience for those in treatment for cancer and their families.
Starting just after Memorial Day, Floating Grace, a 100 percent electric-powered picnic boat, will join the Northern Star on this international lake.
Floating Grace is a 22-foot Duffy which will be available for a peaceful and memorable reprieve and very quiet tour of the lake.
The new boat has the blessing of the community group that owns the Northern Star, Memphremagog Community Maritime, says MCM executive director Rick Desrochers.
“It’s another avenue to come out and enjoy this beautiful lake and this area,” Desrochers said.
The new boat and the free tours are supported by a range of sources, including Vermont Electric Co-op’s Community Fund. VEC announced the plans for Floating Grace on Thursday.
“Our goal is to provide a respite from the daily struggles of dealing with this disease that touches far too many of us,” says Chris Johansen of Newport City, who is spearheading the effort.
“We are grateful for all the help we’ve received, including the support from the VEC fund,” he said.
Johansen, who was the original captain/owner of the Northern Star which he brought to Lake Memphremagog, will captain the Floating Grace.
Desrochers said he and MCM have supported the work by Johansen and VEC to make the new electric boat a reality.
The tours on the Floating Grace will be by appointment - morning, afternoon or evening depending on availability and roughly two hours long. Just where the cruise leads would be up to the family taking the trip. The tours will always be at no charge because of volunteers and generous donations from the community.
Johansen, who was formerly the captain of Lake Champlain’s Spirit of Ethan Allen and now works at the North Country Hospital in community relations, says the boat would be available for a couple or can safely accommodate a family up to 12 passengers.
Floating Grace is powered by 16 six-volt batteries, similar to batteries used in golf carts. At top speed of six knots, the boat can run for approximately six hours. Running at three knots, the boat can go for 10 hours and is easily recharged overnight.
“An electric boat is an entirely different experience than a conventional gasoline or diesel-powered boat – it’s silent. No sounds, no vibrations, no exhaust,” Johansen said.
“The only thing you hear is the lapping of the water as the hull moves through the water. I have trouble explaining it – all I can say is it’s just different. You have to experience it.”
In some of Floating Grace’s test runs last spring, Johansen noticed that birds on the lake didn’t fly away from the boat as it approached because it’s so quiet. And people on the boat did not have to raise their voices to have a simple conversation.
Desrochers can attest to that. He was on the water with Johansen to photograph the Floating Grace, and said he could hear every word said from 100 yards away even while the small boat was running.
Johansen is still helping MCM with the Northern Star, and just finished winterizing that boat for the season.
The addition of a second boat offering specialized tours is going to be an important part of the lake, Desrochers said.
“How great is it to take someone out on the lake for free, to take some time to chill out and reflect on life,” he said.
“During COVID we have to look out for each other. This is about community and building a better place for all of us and our future.”
Organizers of the Floating Grace project have started a campaign to raise money for a second or third partially paid skipper, general boat care expenditures, and expanded guest offerings such as gift baskets filled with cozy blankets, tasty fresh food, inspiring books and more.
For more information about Floating Grace or to support the project, visit https://www.floatinggrace.org/ or call 802-323-8424.