Thursday, October 26, 2017

Cruising on Lake Winnie

We took a cruise last weekend and sailed onboard the M/V Mount Washington without leaving the state. This post is lengthy as the history of places we've visited is always interesting to me, usually learned after the fact. (It has many photos as I took quite a few way too many images with my cell phone and digital camera. Vintage images are from internet sources.)

This vessel and its predecessor have a storied history all of which I learned afterwards and have included in this post. But, first some information about the cruise including some of the sights long on the trip.

We cruised on Lake Winnipesaukee, the largest lake in the state of New Hampshire. It's located at the foothills of the White Mountains.
It's the third-largest lake in New England after Lake Champlain and Moosehead Lake. 
The Native American name Winnipesaukee (spelled Winnipiseogee earlier) means either "smile of the Great Spirit" or "beautiful water in a high place.
Lake "Winnie" as it's affectionally known has been a popular tourist destination for over 100 years. Back then, vacationers who were seeking relief from the summer heat of Boston and NYC traveled by train to board a ship in Weirs Beach. (We traveled 90 minutes by car from Nashua, NH.)

Lake Winnipesaukee is about 21 miles long and from 1 to 9 miles wide, covering 69 square miles with a maximum depth of 212 feet. 
The driving distance around the lake is 63 miles. It includes about 300 islands, half of which are less than a quarter-acre in size. Some islands have homes on them. 
Mount Washington Cruise Line offers various cruises in-season from May to October. Our Sunday brunch cruise started at Weirs Beach in Meredith, NH with a second stop at Alton Bay and was the final one this year. Total cruise time was 2-1/2 hours. Brunch was served and included breakfast and lunch entrees, desserts and beverages (no photos to make you hungry).
The M/V Mount Washington picks up and drops off passengers at five different ports around the lake. It cruises from its home port of Weirs Beach to Wolfeboro, Alton Bay, Center Harbor and Meredith. Formerly,  a summer attraction, it has a capacity of 1250 and operates seasonally with daytime, evening and special themed cruises. 
Internet source: Postcard image of S.S. Mount Washington

Since 1872, only two Mount Washington vessels have cruised the lake. The first was a 178-feet long wooden side-wheeler, the S.S. Mount Washington, launched in 1872 at Alton Bay, NH. 

It was built by the Boston & Maine RR company to transport travelers and cargo from one side of lake to the other. In the late 1880s, the steamship was one of many operating on the lake. 

The S.S. Mount Washington was the fastest of the major steamers and dominated the lake transportation business, transporting over 60,000 travelers per season. The NH White Mountains was a popular vacation destination. Many people bought property and built summer homes around the lake. Perhaps not as grand as these that we saw on our cruise. These are by no means "summer cottages."

To some people, their home is their castle and here's a perfect example.
As railroad travel declined and auto travel prevailed, the "Old Mount" was sold. It
became  a tourist attraction, stopping at many ports around the lake. The B&M Railroad continued bringing tourists from the Boston area. 
The ship's home port of Weirs Beach had become a resort area with a railroad station, large dance pavilion and grand New Hotel Weirs overlooking Weirs Bay and the mountains. Four trains left Boston's Union Station daily for the Weirs.
The hotel, built in 1880, was known as the best lodgings in the area. It was open from June to September with accommodations for 300. Four trains left Boston's Union Station for the Weirs. A fire destroyed the hotel in November 1924. It was never rebuilt; the site was redeveloped in later years to include an arcade. The train line is operated by the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad, which offers excursion trains along the shore of the lake. 
Fifteen years later in December 1939, a fire in the railroad station spread down the ramp to the dock where the S.S. Mount Washington was winter-berthed. Attempts to free the ship, which was stuck in the mud due to low water levels failed. It was destroyed along with the railroad station and boardwalk.
Because of pre-World War II munitions build up, large quantities of steel were unattainable and a new ship couldn't be built. The Chateaugay, a former steamboat, was  purchased for $20,000. Built in 1888, it was made of iron mined from Mt. Chateaugay in upstate NY. It was the first iron-hulled steamboat on Lake Champlain in Vermont where it served as a passenger excursion boat for 50 years.
In the fall of 1940, the hull was dismantled, cut into 20 pieces and shipped by flatbed railroad car to NH where it was reassembled. Only the hull was used; everything else, including the superstructure and the propulsion system was replaced. 
The new vessel was launched in August 1940 and christened the S.S. Mount Washington II and in the years since has undergone more updates. Twin diesel engines were added in 1946 and in 1982, the ship was cut in half and expanded by 25 feet.
Once again, it was rechristened, this time as the M/V Mount Washington (motor vessel) and today, it's popularly called the "Mount." 

We enjoyed this weekend cruise and are already planning to return for a repeat outing outing next year. 
(All vintage photos of the S.S. Mount Washington, Chateaugay, M/V Mount Washington, Weirs Beach, New Hotel Weirs in this post were taken from internet sources. Most did not have copyright information provided; however, I want to acknowledge that these images are not my own. They were included in this post only to provide historical and pictorial reference. My thanks to all who posted online.)


diane b said...

That would be a fabulous outing. The colours of the trees and the lake are breathtaking. The houses are beautiful too.

Sandra said...

stunning views from that boat. the colors are wonderful, but it is the homes that catch my eyes.. I love the two shots of the smaller home on the island. what a super place to take a boat tour

mamasmercantile said...

What a lovely post, I certainly learnt a lot. The seasonal change of colours on the trees were a delight and the Island homes were stunning, a great tour.

possum said...

Beautiful leaves!
Looks like a fun way to spend the day!

Felicia said...

Beautiful lake, colors, skies. Everything is just perfect autumn scenery.

Emma Springfield said...

I would love to stay at the hotel and to take the cruise. My kind of excursion.

William Kendall said...

Beautiful autumn colours!

Sandi said...


Erika N said...

Your photos are fantastic and your history is fascinating. I live 15 minutes away and it was good to learn something new. :) And if you really want to sound local, you just call it the Big lake. Aren't some of those houses amazing? Hugs-Erika

Valerie said...

Loved this. Oh how I would love to wander through such magnificent scenery.

Anvilcloud said...

Looks like a grand trip. Excellent photos. I'm in a bit of a rush this morning, and I eventually bogged down on the history, but I enjoyed what I enjoyed. :)

likeschocolate said...

Seriously so gorgeous! I really need to spend more time in maine! You usually just run up there for some lobster, but it has gotten so expensive.

Ida said...

Wow that is quite the cruise. The colors of the trees were spectacular. I would love to go on that cruise.

Lynn said...

Thanks for posting these lovely photos of your excursion! I love seeing the fall color - there is a dearth of it here in north Georgia.

I would rather live in one of those island homes, rather that one of those great big ones. :)