Lee Ann spent the next two years going through the stringent in-house training checklist for new ferry captains, including serving under the supervision of other captains. The entire program is geared toward preparing them for anything that might happen on a lake where anything can happen. Fortunately, Lee Ann found help and guidance along the way. “The company as a whole has a mentoring and supportive culture,” she says. “We’re lucky.” Today, Captain Barrows drives ferries at the Charlotte–Essex crossing in the winter. In summer, she captains the Northern Lights, a 115-foot cruise boat built to look like steamships of another era but outfitted with the most updated technology. “She’s a Cadillac,” says Lee Ann. “Everyone comments on the beauty of the boat with its oak and mahogany and its parlor feel,” she adds. “Other than its appearance, though, everything about it is modern; you see the mahogany wheel and you think old-fashioned. But it has modern hydraulic steering, and I monitor everything from the pilothouse.”
Getting Across While the main purpose of Lake Champlain Transportation is to connect Vermont and upstate New York at three ferry crossings (two of which, Grand Isle–Plattsburgh and Charlotte–Essex, remain open year-round), the business has diversified. The Northern Lights is one example; the boat makes regular tours and can be booked for private parties or weddings. Lee Ann enjoys captaining the Northern Lights because it allows her to “get off the cables” and venture around the lake more. She has picked people up in Basin Harbor in Vergennes and circled Valcour Island in New York. The company partners with Gobeille Hospitality to cater these cruises. Gobeille also runs the Breakwater Café and Grill in a building owned by LCT on the Burlington waterfront. “Everyone loves the Burlington crossing,” says Heather Stewart, from tourists who like to approach the Queen City over water to the ferry captains who want to work this rotation for its scenery and its one-hour duration (compared to 30 minutes at Charlotte and 15 minutes at Grand Isle). Simply getting across is what concerns most people, as it has for almost two centuries. When Bryan Higgins started commuting 68
Published on Jun 19, 2014
Read about the Burlington Coast Guard Station, the South Village, Lake Champlain and more in the Summer 2014 edition of Best of Burlington.