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Coosa Panels Help Bring Modern Canal Boat to Life in Georgetown

on Tuesday, 04 August 2020.

The Lady Washington was the very first regularly formed boat on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal in 1835. The local newspaper at the time said that it was a “handsomely decorated and ‘trim built’ craft” with a cabin roof painted red and white. The boat was most likely made of white oak and yellow pine, with its name displayed prominently on both sides, and a cargo hold that could carry 800 barrels of flour all the way to Georgetown. 


Now, 185 years after the Lady Washington made headlines, some impressive craftspeople are building a new one for the legendary Chesapeake and Ohio Canal that helped define an era. 


The replica in progress was designed by Tridentis, a naval architecture firm for Georgetown Heritage—the nonprofit working to revitalize historical Georgetown and the one-mile stretch of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park. 


Using Coosa Panels for a Longer-Lasting Boat


The main difference between the replica and the original? Instead of oak and pine, the replica is being built out of Coosa panels—lightweight panels of high-density polyurethane foam reinforced with layers of fiberglass. These panels make it so lightweight that it needs ballasts of about 12,000 pounds of lead ingots to keep the battery-powered motors under water. 


There had been a replica before this one that had been on the canal for almost 30 years. But, after undergoing extensive damage over time, it was decommissioned in 2011. It sat in the canal growing mold until Georgetown Heritage and the National Park Service removed it in 2016. Because it was made of wood, it became waterlogged and damaged over time. To reduce maintenance as much as possible, the naval architecture firm went with Coosa panels. 


“They wanted it to last fifty years, with as little updating and overhauling as we can get,” Chris Addington, the project’s program manager, said. “It’s not going to rot, get waterlogged, or deform. It’s going to last for a really long time.” 


Final assembly and water trials are scheduled for this fall, and the boat is meant to make it’s canal debut on March 20, 2021. It will be pulled by mules, just like boats were in 1835. 


For more information and more history, read the full Washington Post article here.

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