News & Politics

A Boat Was Spotted Yesterday on the C&O Canal in Georgetown

After years of canal restoration, mule-drawn passenger rides on the boat aren't that far off.

Traveling on the C&O Canal. Photo courtesy of Georgetown Heritage.

After a weekend-long journey, an 80-foot-long, 12-foot-wide, $1.5-million boat was spotted for the first time yesterday in the newly flowing Chesapeake & Ohio Canal in Georgetown. After three years of engineering and construction, this contemporary take on a historic packet boat is ready for the canal. 

The vessel left its Baltimore boatyard in two pieces on Saturday at 2 a.m. and arrived at the canal three hours later. During the day, boat builders joined the pieces together and applied fiberglass to the hull. Sunday morning, the boat was lowered into the water by crane and began floating to a dry dock near the 31st Street Bridge, to the delight of a small, but enthusiastic, crowd. The boat’s permanent location is set to be near the National Park Service Visitor Center near Thomas Jefferson Street, Northwest, and visitors can see the boat during normal park hours, sunrise to sunset. 

“We have heard a lot of excitement about the boat’s return,” said Christiana Hanson, C & O Canal National Historical Park’s chief of interpretation, education, and volunteers. 

Georgetown Heritage, the National Park Service, and the District of Columbia Office of Planning are working in conjunction on “The Georgetown Canal Plan,” a project set to restore and enhance the one-mile section of the C&O Canal National Historic Park. The boat—which is currently unnamed—is an integral part of this plan. “The boat will be a vital resource to educate and engage residents and visitors to the District of Columbia,” Hanson said. 

Starting in 2022, passengers will be able to climb aboard and take a trip up the roughly one-mile canal. Although the boat, which will accommodate 65 passengers, is modeled on designs for an old packet boat, modern materials and amenities were added, such as an onboard restroom and the fiberglass hull.

The 18-ton boat will glide along the flowing canal locks via the traditional method of canal-boat propulsion—mules. The boat is also equipped with two electric motors, for when the mules aren’t available. 

Instagrammers took note of the boat’s arrival. 


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Editorial Fellow

Anne Tate, originally from Annapolis, MD, joined Washingtonian in July 2021. She is a graduate of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she studied journalism and psychology.