Guests on the M/S Mount Washington annual Shakedown Cruse gather on the bow, enjoying their first cruise of the season on Lake Winnipesaukee. (Matthew Fassett — Courtesy Photo) (click for larger version)
May 02, 2012REGION — The crew of the M/S Mount Washington kicked off the 140th season of cruising Lake Winnipesaukee Monday, April 30 with their annual Shakedown Cruise.
State and local officials and members of the Lakes Region tourism industry climbed aboard as the Mount set off for its first cruise across The Big Lake this season, with high hopes that the early warm weather would make for a busy summer season.
For many around the lake, the Shakedown cruise is seen as the unofficial start of the summer tourism season.
According to Captain Jim Morash, the Shakedown cruise really serves as the annual state safety inspection. Morash explained that some time in the early 1990's, the annual inspection became more of a ceremonial and social occasion, beyond counting life jackets and making sure the engines were sound.
Joining the crew and invited guests was Gov. John Lynch, whom Captain Morash said was the only New Hampshire Governor to attend the Shakedown cruises.
"As Governor, I always look forward to the Shakedown Cruise," said Lynch. "It's the start of the summer season."
Executive Director Karmen Gifford of the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce said it was her first time attending the Shakedown Cruise, and members of the Laconia City Council who came aboard along with her said they were enjoying the warm spring weather on the lake.
The storied 140-year history of the boat began with original steam-powered Mount Washington, which cruised the lake from 1872 until 1939, when it was decommissioned because of fire damage. The Winnipesaukee Steamship Company purchased the current vessel from a company on Lake Champlain. Since 1940, the Mount Washington II, with a capacity of 1,250 passengers has cruised the Big Lake along with the US Mail Boat Sophie C. and M/V Doris E.
In 2010, the Mount was fitted with new low emission Cat diesel engines with funding from the Environmental Protection Agency.
This year also marks the 120th season of the Sophie C, the oldest floating post office in the US, which has been providing mail service on Lake Winnipesaukee since 1892, and continues to deliver mail to five islands.
For 2012, the Doris E. was also fitted with new modern engines as the Winnipesaukee Flagship Corporation continues to make steps to preserve the air and water around the Lakes Region.
The first public M/S Mount Washington cruise of the 2012 season is Sunday, May 13 for the Mother's Day Champagne Brunch. The Mount will again be cruising to Wolfeboro five days a week; Tuesday through Saturday.
The Mount operates from May through October, offering daytime scenic, evening dinner and dance and special themed cruises. For more information contact the ticket office at 366-5531, toll-free at (888) 843-6686 or on the Web at www.cruisenh.com.
"We're looking forward to another great season," said Captain Morash. "With the state of the ship, we will be around for another 140 years."
After receiving the inspection and registration from State safety officials, Morash announced, to the joy of all, that it was time to go cruising.