Despite the efforts of a group of boat-savvy Philadelphia students, Mother Nature kept "George Washington" and his "troops" on land this Christmas.
The annual Christmas Day trip across the Delaware River from Pennsylvania to New Jersey didn't happen due to strong winds. The rest of the reenactment went on as planned in front of hundreds of bundled up people.
"We were advised by the (marine patrol) out in the boats that they didn't think it was safe to cross," Friends of Washington Crossing Park spokesman Andy Smith said.
The National Weather Service said winds had been gusting to 45 or 50 mph or even a bit more in southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The winds could have been even stronger on the water with a lack of trees and a channeling effect, meteorologist Chad Shafer said.
"Reenactors are always disappointed when they can't cross, but safety is always the most important thing," Smith said by phone as a fife and drum played in the background. "We don't want to put anyone in danger out on the water."
Organizers had feared shallow water, rather than wind, would prevent Monday's crossing. The low water levels in the river between Pennsylvania and New Jersey would have made it impossible for reenactors to navigate their wooden Durham boats.
Philadelphia Waterborne, a nonprofit that teaches boat-building skills to middle- and high-school students, let the organizers borrow six handmade, 12-foot rowboats for the crossing. The boats only draw about 6 inches of water, meaning they could get across the river under current conditions.
The crossing is usually the highlight of the annual, free event.
Boats ferried 2,400 soldiers, 200 horses and 18 cannons across the river from what is now Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania, to Titusville, New Jersey, during the original crossing in 1776. Washington's troops marched about eight miles downriver before battling Hessian mercenaries in the streets of Trenton, considered a turning point in the Revolutionary War.