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Historic Boat 'The Georgetown' In Its Final Days

Mule-drawn boat to be scrapped by end of year

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The Georgetown is pulled by horses led by volunteers in late 1800s period dress.
Brennan Somers
The Georgetown is pulled by horses led by volunteers in late 1800s period dress.

For decades, The Georgetown carried tourists up and down the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, but now the boat is dry-docked at the fourth lock, and  the beloved Georgetown icon is scheduled to be destroyed later this year.

The mule-drawn boat replicated travel on the canal during the late 1800s and early 1900s, and it's that authenticity that many residents say they will miss the most.

"When the boat goes by, and the mules come by with the click-click-click and then the boat comes at the same time... it looks like and impressionist painting floating away and every time the painting is different," says Arlette Cahen-Coppock, whose salon is right next to where the boat is docked.

Brian Carlstrom of the National Park Service says the boat burned to the water line about 20 years ago and was refurbished.

"Anytime a boat is damaged that severely, it's never going to be the same as it was originally," says Carlstrom.

Carlstrom says that about a year ago, a crack in the boat began to accelerate. Then a marine architect inspection found other problems that were previously unnoticed.

"Well, we managed to keep it going another 15 years or so, and last year we finally had to say enough is enough, we can't afford to maintain it any longer," says Carlstrom.

Carlstrom says all is not lost for those looking to travel on the canal. He says one or two new electric powered boats will begin servicing Georgetown next spring as part of the Canal Launch Boat Interpretive Program.

The "Launches," as they've come to be known, are much smaller, but they were developed from historic photographs of craft that were actually on the canal that was the inspiration for them.

Cahen-Coppock gathered more than 250 signatures petitioning to save the mule-drawn boat and paid tribute to The Georgetown with a farewell party a few weeks ago.

"The boat is an icon for Georgetown," says Cahen-Coppock. "For me just having the boat gone is like removing the Eiffel Tower of Georgetown."

Carlstrom says The Georgetown will be towed to Fletcher's Cove where it will be demolished sometime around Thanksgiving.

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