The Bucks County police chief who plays Gen. George Washington in the annual crossing over the Delaware River is dreaming of precipitation for Christmas.
"I'll take snow, sure. Snow or rain," John Godzieba, chief of the Langhorne police department, said Friday.
Washington Crossing Historic Park has canceled a crossing scheduled for Sunday due to low water levels. Unless there's significant rainfall or snow melt north of the historic spot in coming weeks, Godzieba and his troops may be landlocked on Christmas, too.
"There's just not enough water for us to float these boats," said Joseph Capone, executive director of the Friends of Washington Crossing Park.
Historians say Washington's decision to cross the icy river to the Delaware's eastern shore on the night of Dec. 25-26, 1776, turned the tide of Revolutionary War. All told, more than 2,400 soldiers crossed the river and marched south, where they surprised and captured most of the Hessian forces in the Battle of Trenton.
Capone said water-level gauges from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at the Calhoun Street bridge in Trenton are showing the Delaware with 8.3 feet of depth. To lay out the docks needed to moor and float the boats, Capone said the river needs to be at least 9 feet.
"An inch of rain in the water basin usually translates into about a foot of water across the entire river," Capone said.
The replica Durham boats used for the crossing are "expensive, handmade works of art," Capone said, valued at about $150,000 each.
"It's a 42-foot rowboat that weighs two tons, empty," he said.
This weekend's expected snowfall could help, but not in time enough for Sunday's dress rehearsal. The park will still host an event Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. that will include drills, demonstrations, tours, and speeches given by Washington.
Godzieba has played Washington since 2009 after auditioning for the part. Though Washington nearly called off the Christmas night crossing himself because of bad weather, Godzieba said he's never had to miss one.
"It's a disappointment, not just for me, but for all the reenactors," he said.
This year's Christmas Day crossing would be the 65th at the park. That day's event is from noon to 3 p.m., with a 1 p.m. crossing.
Godzieba, who's been a reenactor for two decades, said he believes the Christmas crossing has been canceled in the past, due to weather. Too much rain and the river runs too fast; too much ice makes it impassable. He recalled a Washington reenactor who crossed via bridge one year, but that's not something he's eager to do.
"There's always hope," he said.