Plattsburgh State employees did their best last week to secure the R/V Monitor, the university's star research vessel, which was swamped by Lake Champlain.

But winds and waves from the Oct. 15 Nor'easter overwhelmed the boat and caused it to sink.

The university stabilized the boat Friday afternoon and should have it out of the water Monday to begin assessing damage.

"We've had it since 1996, when the (Lake Champlain Research) institute began," said Timothy Mihuc, director of the institute. "It survived Hurricane Floyd."

Yet the Oct. 15 storm proved too much, with winds surpassing 50 miles per hour slamming the 32-foot, 6-ton boat from the northeast.

"Last Friday's Nor'easter had very atypical winds for the lake," Mihuc said at Friday's press conference at Valcour Educational Center, where the boats are docked.

"We are very well protected from the south wind but not so much from the northeast."

University employees checked on the R/V Monitor and other boats last Friday night, tying off extra lines in other places, but they found the top of it sticking out of the water sideways the next day.

On Friday, Lake Champlain Marine Salvage worked with Plattsburgh State to level the R/V Monitor.

"Divers are working under it to get it stabilized," said Michelle Marasch Ouellette, Plattsburgh State director of public relations and publications.

Workers plan to return Monday to retrieve the boat from the water, clean it up and dry it out to so they can perform diagnostics.

"It is out of service until we can access the engine and electronics," Mihuc said. "We probably lost the electronics ($20,000 to $40,000 in estimated damage)."

Before the ship sank, the R/V Monitor was expected to be out of the water for the winter season next week.

"This will affect next year's projects," Mihuc said. "But we do have smaller boats we can use for most things."

Students and researchers have access to Lake Champlain research aboard the R/V Monitor and other vessels docked at Valcour Educational Center.

Research includes studying blue-green algae, environmental hydrology and water quality. The college's research boats logged more than 50 days on Lake Champlain this year.

Mihuc will know more about the R/V Monitor's future over the next several months.

"That boat sat in the same position for 15 years. Mother Nature did us in."

E-mail Stephen Bartlett at: sbartlett@pressrepublican.com

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