Bet on it. There will be a new boat in the C&O Canal by Great Falls Tavern before the month of August is over.
Matt Jillings disputes the notion that controversy sells. He and his wife Lee Anne Jillings, both trustees of Friends of the Historic Great Falls Tavern, believe a new canal boat is something everybody can support.
"It's one of those projects you really can't oppose," Matt Jillings said. "How can that be controversial?"
Along with dozens of other locals, the Jillings attended the gala casino night and charity auction fundraiser for the canal boat, hosted by the Toll Brothers and the Potomac Chamber of Commerce at Potomac View on Thursday, July 27.
The event was held in the Toll Brothers’ new development called Potomac View, a neighborhood of luxury homes off River Road’s intersection with Piney Meetinghouse Road.
Last year, Friends of the Tavern organized a drive to replace the Canal Clipper, the replica cargo boat that was taken out of service three years ago after 30 years of service in the canal. By mid-July, they'd raised $530,000 of the $545,000 needed to pay for a double-decker boat, which is under construction by Scarano Boat Builders in Albany, N.Y. The new boat will be 58 feet long, and modeled after the "packet" boats that ferried passengers between Georgetown and Great Falls in the canal's commercial days.
The likely delivery date of the new boat is Aug. 20, with the boat providing living history exhibits and rides by September or October. Mules will haul the boat through the canal between Great Falls Tavern and Swains Lock, and through a lock by the tavern. "It will be great to have this piece of living history back on the canal," Lee Anne Jillings said.
Andrew Ross, president of the Potomac Chamber of Commerce, thanked the Toll Brothers and the dozens of supporters who played blackjack, roulette, poker and craps at Potomac View on Thursday, adding that "We are here tonight not just to play games."
Among the items for bid were flower delivery for a year ("A get out of jail free card," Ross said.)
Final totals weren’t in by the beginning of this week, but Ross said the silent auction raised $3,300, and guests’ donations exceeded $1,300. Business owners were especially generous and helpful, Ross said.
The canal boat is due to be delivered at the end of August, and Friends of the Tavern still hope to raise the remainder of their $545,000 goal. “Anyone who wants to step up and help them out, we’d appreciate it,” Ross said.