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Steamboats sail the Queen of Lakes
June 2, 2014 - Greg Hitchcock
Robert Fulton steamed up the Hudson River from New York to Albany in 1807, proving the commercial success of boats powered not by sail, but by steam.
A decade later, Lake George, considered the Queen of American Lakes, had steam passenger service from the founding of the Lake George Steamboat Company.
It has operated on the lake since the company’s first launch of the James Caldwell.
Today, the company operates three vessels – the Minni Ha Ha, Mohican, and Lac Du San Sacrament – piloted by experienced and licensed captains.
Adam Bombard has worked as a deck hand since 1996 before rising to become a captain, or licensed Master of Public Passenger Vessels, working to pilot, maintain, and schedule other captains of the steamboats.
“The first thing to do in an emergency is to keep calm because I am in charge and must make fast decisions in the shortest amount of time,” Bombard said.
He said since the company maintains the boats year-round, the only emergencies to be had are from seasick – or lakesick – passengers.
Transportation hazards do exist and from time to time, fatalities are not unheard of, families grieve loss, and fires that once burned brightly are dimmed.
For example, a boating accident on the lake caused by the vessel Ethan Allen as it capsized resulted in the deaths of 21 passengers in 2005.
According to the steamboat company, every vessel has two trained, licensed, and experienced captains on each of their three steamboats, not a navigational regulation, but for safety precautions.
“It’s easier to have another set of eyes as a lookout if we have any issues down below, there is always one of us to take care of that,” Bombard said.
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The paddlewheeler Minne-Ha-Ha is seen steaming over the open waters of Lake George. Photo/Greg Hitchcock.