Shaking out the cobwebs
The Mount debuts new engines during annual Shakedown Cruise
|INVITED GUESTS AND DIGNITARIES wave to the camera during the Mount Washington’s annual Shakedown Cruise on Monday. Matthew Fassett - Courtesy Photo. (click for larger version)|
May 05, 2010CENTER HARBOR — In the wake of this year's earlier-than-ever "Ice-out" on the Big Lake, the M/S Mount Washington's return to the waters of Winnipesaukee during its annual Shakedown Cruise Monday morning had hopes running high among all those aboard for a successful summer tourist season.
Widely seen among lakeshore communities as the unofficial start of tourist season, the invitation-only Shakedown Cruise (during which the Mount and its crew dust off the winter cobwebs and receive the go-ahead from state officials to begin another season of operations) has become a major annual event in the Lakes Region, attracting local selectmen, police and fire/rescue personnel, business owners, state legislators, and the governor himself.
This year's cruise provided the crew with an opportunity to show off the ship's new environmentally-friendly Caterpillar engines, which were installed over the winter with the help of a grant from the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
According to Jim Morash, Captain of the Mount and General Manager of Mount Washington Cruises, the Enterprise diesel engines that had powered the Mount for the past 64 years were nearing the end of their lifespan as the 2009 season drew to a close, with the engine blocks showing signs of increasing wear and tear.
An excerpt from Morash's online blog that was handed out to local media representatives during the cruise explained that with the Enterprise company no longer in existence, making replacement parts very expensive and hard to find, the decision was made last year to dismantle the old engines and replace them with the Caterpillars.
Morash explained in his blog that the process of re-fitting the Mount with new engines was an extensive one, involving three phases.
Phase One, he wrote, entailed cutting a small hole in the side of the ship; extracting the old engines; re-vamping the engine foundations; dismantling the old exhaust system and preparing the existing shaft couplings for the new engines.
Phase Two involved exhaust work, rigging, piping, wiring controls, and ballast work, while Phase Three saw the new engines being tested out on the lake.
During Monday's Shakedown Cruise, Morash publicly thanked the contractors who assisted with the project, and presented each of them with a piece of the old Enterprise engines as a keepsake.
The re-powering of the Mount, he said, was one of only nine projects throughout the Northeast to receive grant funding from the EPA, and the only project in New Hampshire.
According to EPA estimates, the Caterpillar engines could reduce the ship's emissions by as much as 90 percent.
Along with the installation of the new engines, this winter also saw the forward portion of the Mount's second deck remodeled to create a new Captain's Lounge, which will provide passengers with a 270-degree view of Lake Winnipesaukee and the surrounding mountains.
The décor of the new lounge was designed to honor those who have captained the Mount over the past 15 years.
With its new source of power below deck, and a re-modeled interior, the Mount will be plying the waters of Lake Winnipesaukee for its 138th season this year — a fact that Alton Selectman Peter Bolster said is emblematic of the ship's deep connection to the history of the area.
"I think it's a real tie to the heritage and history of the lake," Bolster said, explaining that the Mount and its predecessors made it possible for earlier generations to turn the lake into a "commercial highway" before roads or rail service arrived in the region.
The Mount, he said, is a vital link to both the economic and recreational heritage of the Lakes Region.
"I think it's the one thing that ties us back to earlier times on the lake," he added. "There's nothing else that really ties all the way back to that early period of settlement."
For Gov. John Lynch, the Mount serves as a symbol of what the Lakes Region means to New Hampshire.
"I see it as a symbol of what's so special about the region," Lynch said before disembarking from the Shakedown Cruise at Weirs Beach.
The appearance of the Mount on the lake each spring, he said, has historically signaled the start of tourist season, and provides high visibility for everything the area has to offer.
For those reasons, he added, "it's always been special to me."
The Mount Washington's 138th season officially gets under way Sunday, May 9, with the 2010 Mother's Day Champagne Brunch Cruise, during which passengers will be treated to live entertainment as they cruise the Big Lake, departing from Weirs Beach at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Another special cruise lined for this season will be the Mount's Salute to Service Men and Women on Saturday, May 29, during which firefighters, policemen, and U.S. Military personnel (both active and retired) can enjoy a night of dinner and dancing on the lake at a discounted price.
During Memorial Day weekend (May 29-31), any passenger with a valid military ID (either active or retired) will be able to cruise the lake at a discounted price of $10 per person, with cruises departing from Weirs Beach, Alton Bay and Wolfeboro.
Children under 13 will cruise for free that same weekend (Saturday through Monday) from all ports.
The M/S Mount Washington features four levels, three dance floors and several outside areas for enjoying the cruise during the daytime or evening. The family-owned ship operates from May through October, offering daytime scenic, evening dinner and dance, and special themed cruises.
With a capacity of 1,250 passengers, the Mount serves as the largest restaurant in the state, and is a popular gathering for school proms, college reunions, large corporate celebrations, and weddings. Nearly 700 couples have been joined in marriage aboard the ship.
To order tickets, book an event, or check out other special cruises scheduled this season, call 366-5531 or visit www.cruisenh.com.
Brendan Berube can be reached at 569-3126 or firstname.lastname@example.org