FAQ – Volunteering on the Erie Canal Boat Project

The Buffalo Maritime Center is undertaking the construction of a traditionally built, full sized reproduction of the 1825 Inaugural Erie Canal Boat, Seneca Chief

This vessel officially opened the historic Erie Canal and marked the beginning of a water route connecting the Great lakes to the Atlantic seaboard. The canal forever changed and shaped the social, economic, and environmental development of North America.

Our project has two main goals. One is to provide the community with a traditional boat building project, and the other is to tell the complete story of the Erie Canal. Through this project we will preserve and teach traditional skills and physically recreate a significant symbol of the completion of the Erie Canal. In the construction phase, our boat will be a vehicle for sharing the practice and the mentality of craftsmanship. We will also host exhibits throughout the project that will explore the history of the Erie Canal with our partners.

Once complete, the boat will provide the people of New York and the communities along the route of the Erie Canal with an historically authentic, travelling, floating, venue. The Erie Canal Boat will be vehicle for learning about and discussing the impact, legacy, and future of the Erie Canal.

We’re asking you to join us by contributing to this tangible work of craftsmanship, community, and history.

We are asking everyone who is interested in the Erie Canal Boat project to read through the questions and answers below. After reading the FAQ, if you have a question not addressed below, please feel free to email us at info@buffalomaritimecenter.org.

How do I sign up to work on the Erie Canal Boat?

The best way to sign up to be a volunteer is to CLICK HERE and fill out our Volunteer Questionnaire. There you will find a short questionnaire so that we can understand your interests, your skill-level, and your availability. It will be automatically sent to us and your information will be placed on our list of volunteers. Once you’ve signed up we’ll contact you about scheduling a time to attend one of our free safety training/carpentry courses. If you have expressed interest in this project before, we kindly ask that you still fill out this updated form.

When can I start volunteering?

This is a three year project concluding in September of 2023, so we will be accepting and training volunteers in batches over the entire timespan. We are currently organizing our volunteer work crews. We’ll continue volunteer introduction and training on a rolling basis as our needs expand.

What skills or training will I need?

One of the benefits of joining our Erie Canal Boat project as a volunteer is that we will teach you the skills you’ll need! You can be a member of the volunteer crew regardless of your level of experience. We are asking all volunteers to take a basic skills and safety training which we will provide.

How long after signing up will I be asked to start working on the boat?

In the initial phase of the project the number of volunteers we need will be somewhat small. As time goes on and the project ramps up, our volunteer needs will continue to grow. We ask for your patience as the project develops. Although it may take time, we seek to include everyone that wants to be involved.

Can I choose what part of the boat I want to work on?

The boatbuilding process is a sequence of steps, so most volunteers will be asked to join a small group that specializes in one phase of the construction.  If you are interested in a specific task, let us know.

If I want to volunteer with a group, can we be assigned to work together?

There may be some opportunities for groups to request to work together but we’ll know more as the project progresses. Basically, let us know your situation, and we’ll go from there.

Will all the work be taking place at the Longshed?

Much of the initial work will take place at the BMC’s Arthur St. shop. As the project proceeds, most of the activity will shift to the Longshed.

Is parking available at the Longshed?

The Longshed is located in a busy area at Canalside and does not have its own dedicated parking. Paid parking and some free parking is available in several nearby lots and parking ramps.

Are there other transportation options?

Metro Rail stops a short distance away, and, during the summer months, ferry service from the Outer Harbor is available on the Buffalo Bike Ferry. Carpooling between the BMC and Longshed may also be arranged.

Are there opportunities to volunteer on evenings or weekends?

Yes, some work sessions will be on evenings and weekends. Informing us of your availability in our volunteer questionnaire will help us determine our schedule

How long are the work sessions?

Generally, we will schedule work sessions to be about 4 hours.

Are there ways to get involved other than building the boat?

There are several ways to get involved! Our volunteer needs include working as a greeter to engage the public, guiding tours, and answer questions that people may have. We always need volunteers to help keep the place shipshape as well. We also have other opportunities for community projects at our facility at 90 Arthur Street.

If I want to be a part of a work crew, will I have to attend every session?

No, but volunteers will be expected to commit to attending work sessions as regularly as possible.

 Are there opportunities for me to volunteer with my children?

Yes, depending on the age of the child. Due to the hazards of a working boat shop, children under the age of 12 are generally discouraged from being on the shop floor during work sessions. We are hoping to eventually offer more programming for young people and families.

What are the BMC’s policies regarding COVID-19?

We are currently following the CDC guidelines. If you have been vaccinated for COVID-19, and it has been two weeks since your last vaccine, you are not required to wear a mask in the Longshed. If you have not been vaccinated for COVID-19, or it has been less than two weeks since your last vaccine, we ask that you please continue to wear a mask and social distance inside the Longshed.

Is there a shop safety policy?

Yes, everyone that works in the shop will be given safety training.

Do I need to be a BMC member to work on the Packet Boat project?

To join a work crew and to enroll in our free carpentry skills and safety training, it is required that you become a BMC member. You can become a member for $5 a month! (Click HERE to become a member today). However, there are going to be special opportunities for non-members who would like to try out working on this project.

Can I be involved if I have physical limitations?

Of course! There are a number of tasks for people with physical limitations. Please inquire about opportunities.