Photo by Rick Desrochers.

Electric-powered boat to offer cruises on Memphremagog for Vermonters affected by cancer

in Newport/News/Northeast Kingdom

NEWPORT — Next spring there will be a new vessel on Lake Memphremagog ready for easy, peaceful, and healing excursions on the water.

Starting just after Memorial Day, Floating Grace, a 22 ft Duffy, 100 percent electric-powered picnic boat recently shipped to Newport, will be available to take people and their families from around the region who are undergoing cancer treatments for a peaceful and memorable reprieve as they tour the lake.

The effort has been supported by a range of sources, including Vermont Electric Co-op’s Community Fund.

“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, who is spearheading the effort. “We are grateful for all the help we’ve received, including the support from the VEC fund,” he said.

The tours 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 a 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.

Organizers 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, and how you can support the effort, visit https://www.floatinggrace.org/ or call 802-323-8424.

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