LCMM launches boat center

FERRISBURGH — The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum on July 17 will officially unveil its new Hazelett Watercraft Center, a structure that will permanently house the LCMM’s growing collection of boats, including the 35-foot-long ice yacht “Storm King.”

The Storm King and the new center in which it is located are both gifts of longtime LCMM supporters Bill and Dawn Hazelett. Bill Hazelett — the founder of Hazelett Strip-Casting of Colchester — was an avid sailor and longtime owner of the Storm King. He died late last month at the age of 91.

David Hazelett, Bill Hazelett’s son, recalled how his dad had acquired the Storm King more than a half-century ago, enjoyed sailing it on Lake Champlain, and wanted the public to be able to appreciate it.

“My dad always had the idea of ultimately donating the Storm King to the maritime museum,” David Hazelett said during a phone interview.

LCMM officials were receptive to the idea of receiving the sleek, 108-year-old craft, but there was no structure on the museum campus that could accommodate it. So the Hazeletts generously put up the funds for the new watercraft center, which will not only protect the ice yacht but the dozens of dugout and bark canoes, kayaks, rowing skiffs, and sail boats from the LCMM collection, as well as digital displays of vintage postcards and film footage of ice boats in action. Prior to the construction of the new center, the LCMM’s boat collection was housed under a combination of tents, sheds and temporary structures, according to LCMM Director Art Cohn.

“We can’t find enough words to thank Bill and Dawn Hazelett and their family for their generosity,” Cohn said through a press release. “What a great way to celebrate the museum’s 25th season. The Hazelett Watercraft Center fulfills a long-cherished vision of a facility at the maritime museum that celebrates the lake’s legacy of wooden watercraft and their makers, and the sport of iceboating.”

During a phone interview, Cohn noted that the Storm King donation and watercraft center had been in the works for “more than a decade.” Work crews broke ground on the three-story, wood-framed center last fall.

While Bill Hazelett died only a few weeks before last Thursday’s family inauguration of the facility, he was able to visit the almost-completed center back on June 22, according to Cohn.

“I gleaned from his look, demeanor and comments that this was extremely satisfying to him,” Cohn said.

David Hazelett delivered some remarks on behalf of his family. He recounted how his dad was always fascinated by boats and especially sailing.

“Flying across the ice surface under a full moon on this beautiful and powerful iceboat, blasting through snow drifts with the spray hanging in the air; passing, sometimes too close, the fishing shanties dotting the bay — seeing Storm King preserved and displayed this way brings back those memories,” Hazelett said.

The new center will be publicly dedicated on Saturday, July 17, at 10:30 a.m. to kick off LCMM’s annual Small Watercraft Festival.

Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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