Madisonville Wooden Boat Festival 2009

By Ken Abrahams - Lake Charles, Louisana - USA

The Lake Charles Sail and Power Squadron chartered a bus to go this year’s festival on Saturday, October11, 2009. The Festival is held in the fall of each year but has been hard hit by Hurricanes in the past few years. Madisonville, La. is located on the Tchefuncte River at Lake Pontchartrain, above New Orleans. A new Museum has been built in Madisonville and this was my first to visit it. It is very nice but it is some distance away from the festival boats. They did provide transportation.

The Festival lasts for two days – Saturday and Sunday. The Quick N Dirty Boat Building contest has boats being built on Saturday and they are raced on Sunday. There were 22 or 23 entries this year. Boat displays are going on all the time at the river. Bands play at the Museum on a regular schedule.

I took a lot of pictures but I don’t have good descriptions of what they represent. I have divided the pictures into groups and will give impressions of each group.

I’ll start with the bus trip getting there and the bus trip return to Lake Charles, La.

The pictures above shows the group boarding the bus. Parking in Madisonville was on an unimproved grass field. It was/had been raining. You can figure out what happened to a 55 passenger bus on soft ground! We tried to push it out without success and went on to the festival. We heard later that it cost $1200 to get the bus unstuck.

Above shows some of the group at the Acme Oyster House in Baton Rouge, HOME OF THE LSU TIGERS. It was a game night and we watched LSU get beaten. There is a picture of Policemen eating and killing time at Acme. They were waiting for the game to end so they could assist with traffic control.

I am restoring a 1937 – 17’ Old Town Canoe and found this 1905 – 18’ Old Town Canoe on display.

Ray Henderson of Shreveport owns this boat and I spent a lot of time talking to him. He did a nice job on his canoe. I’ll do a report on my Old Town Canoe in the future.

One of the local Civic Clubs has a boat building booth for children. There is a tank for floating the boats.

There were many small boats on display and most were VERY NICE. There were a lot of Skiffs of about 18 to 20 feet length. They were generally outfitted with 50 HP, or so, motors. The Museum has a regular building class for these boats. I’ll show more in the Museum section. Some of these boats were for sale in the $17,000 range.

The highlight of the festival was this steam powered launch. Really beautiful! The steam engine was owner built and made almost no sound when running. This boat really drew a crowd. I understand this boat can make something like 12 mph.

Most of the boats displayed were along the waterfront, maybe a half-mile. There were all types of boats - power, sail and other. My favorite was the Steam Launch but there were many noteworthy boats. I particularly liked the ‘6-Water’ canal cruiser replica. The ‘ESCARGOT’ is by Philip Thiel.

This is a typical boat of this part of Louisiana in times past. It is powered by a single or double cylinder gasoline engine that is direct connected to the propeller shaft. The engine is reversed by changing the spark timing.

This was the building day for these boats. The teams are allowed a certain list of materials and come up with a boat of their choosing. There is a race on Sunday that requires traveling both upstream and downstream in the river. So, the boats have sails and oars/paddles. Some of the boats were crude but some were beautiful. Normally a parade is held from the building area to the race start. The teams pull/carry their boats to the river and usually decorate them and themselves. One time there was a Dixieland Band leading the parade. Great fun!

This shows some of the booths, etc., along the street.

The museum is new and has a lot of exhibits. Downstairs is what attracted me, though. There is an old dug-out pirogue on display and the Museum’s boat building area. They have boat-building classes (for a fee) for various boats. The 18-20 foot skiffs were everywhere. Also, there were some bateaus and pirogues under construction.

On display in the museum were various lighthouses on the Louisiana coast. Two were from my area. The Calcasieu River Lighthouse existed from 1876-1940. The other lighthouse (Not very Clear) is the Sabine River Lighthouse. It is still existing and located on the Louisiana side of the Sabine River near the gulf.

That’s it. I really enjoyed the festival this year. A bus trip really makes it EASY to enjoy.



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