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Riding the Wind

By Dan Ladue | Photos by Ty Kretser

Imagine the day. Flying over water. Blue summer sky. The majestic Adirondacks and Green Mountains on either side of you. A steady wind at your back. You’re sailing down the sapphire blue ribbon of Lake Champlain, gliding around the numerous northern islands of this magnificent lake. Deep breath. This could be paradise.

For Captain Dave Northrup, boating has been an important part of his entire life. Summers were spent in a mahogany 18 foot Chris-Craft Utility that cruised the waters of Lake Ontario, near Rochester, where he grew up. His parents successfully passed their passion for sailing on to him.

His sloop, the 38 foot S/V Blu North, has a fine pedigree. The vessel, a C&C Landfall 38 cruising sail boat, was built by C&C Yachts in Niagara on the Lake, Ontario in 1982. C&C yachts had a sterling record of success. Between 1969 and 1978, every Canada Cup contender was a C&C product. At its peak, the company supplied 50% of the Canadian market. Another 20% was exported to the United States.

The play on words with the name of his business was intentional. Sea to See plays tribute to the manufacturer of the boat Captain Dave sails. Christened the Oasis in 1982, the sloop was considered the best in its class. For fifteen years it sailed Caribbean waters and traveled as far away as the coast of Venezuela before returning to US waters and then to Plattsburgh in the mid-1990s. Dave renamed it S/V Blu North when he took ownership of it in 2016.

When the Northrups were raising their family, boating was a big part of their summers. As the family grew, so did the size of their boats. Hobie Cats, Power Boats — they were all part of their summers at the vacation home they owned along the St. Lawrence River.

The family relocated to the Lake Placid region in 2000. After that, summers meant hauling their 25’ Sportsman powerboat to Lake Champlain. When Northrup retired from his life’s work in construction, he was eager to maintain an active lifestyle. He may have “retired,” that didn’t mean he’d be idle. His new life finally gave him the time to pursue his life-long passion. The idea of chartering first emerged during the pandemic year of 2020 and came to fruition in 2022.

Northrup will proudly tell you that a qualified sailor can reach any destination in the world from Lake Champlain. Sail down as far as Whitehall. Maneuver your way into the Champlain Canal until it brings you to New York City. From there, it’s a slow sail down the Intra Coastal Waterway, and then into open Atlantic waters.

For Skipper Northrup, his primary goal is to introduce people to Lake Champlain. While it’s easy to think that all of us who live near this extraordinary body of water have an intimate relationship with it, that is not the case. Aside from crossing from Cumberland Head to Grand Isle, Vermont, the majority of people have never seen the perspective of the Adirondacks and Greens while sailing down the center of the lake. The S/V Blu North has entertained visitors from as far away as Florida, Texas, Western Canada, and India. These people are often vacationing or on business in the Lake Placid region or elsewhere in the Champlain Valley, and they’re looking for something special to do. They’re generally unaware of the size of the lake and its geography, and are stunned at what they experience.

Another of Northrup’s passion is passing his love of the water and of sailing on to others. He’s even been known to let eager teens take the helm under his guidance. His knowledge of the lake is both geological and historic. After sailing beyond Cumberland Head, the next 2.5 hours will be spent sailing anywhere the wind takes him and his guests. He’ll weave stories of the Battle of Plattsburgh and Crab Island, and show you the monument that honors the 150 American and British casualties who were buried there in September, 1814.

If the wind is right, he’ll glide around Gunboat Island. He will tell you the long-ago tale of the Battle of Valcour Bay, that took place on October 11, 1776—a battle that is regarded as one of the first naval battles of the American Revolutionary War, and one of the first fought by the United States Navy. “Astounding,” “Stunning,” “…In awe,” are words returnees offer Captain David. The sheer size of Lake Champlain often stuns people who are unfamiliar with New York State geography.

Skipper Northrup is flexible. He takes no down payment. If the weather is bad, as much of June 2023 has been, he’ll notify the customer to reschedule. Despite the tough start to this summer, he is optimistic. A year ago, he did two charters in the month of June. This year he’s had six, although some have been rescheduled to sunnier and brighter days. Whether it’s word of mouth or social media, Northrup sees a notable increase in interest from a year ago.

Unlike many forms of recreation that require something from the participant, no skills are needed to enjoy a ride on the lake. Just come aboard, grab refreshments, let the wind tousle your hair, and enjoy the adventure.

Captain Dave and the sloop—S/V Blu North—can be found at the Plattsburgh Boat Basin. He sets sail four times a day.

The S/V Blu North is US Coast Guard documented, No. 1272334, with a coastwide endorsement. Christopher Cross had it right when his song “Sailing,” rode the pop rock charts in 1980. “Well, it’s not far down to paradise At least it’s not for me. And if the wind is right, you can sail away And find tranquility.”

Paradise isn’t always a tropical island. We have our own chunk of heaven right here in the Champlain Valley, and Captain Dave Northrup will be happy to show it to anyone.

Sailing Sea to See 1 Dock Street Plattsburgh, NY 12901 518 637-2750

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