The in-laws came up this weekend to see the new place, and we showed them around our new home. With Lake George not half an hour from us, we spent a day there, doing the kinds of toursty things that no self-respecting local resident would ever do, and the highlight for me was the one hour boat tour of the lake.
Normally an hour-long cruise along Lake George, while picturesque, really isn’t anything to get your panties in a bunch over. The thing is that we booked passage on Minne Ha Ha, a fully steam-powered paddle-driven cruise boat. The engine bay is actually open to the public, and I went down there to check out the operation:
The only thing missing from this picture was a bunch of burly immigrants, sweating their balls off as they shoveled coal into the ship’s boiler. Alas, Minne Ha Ha was built in 1969 and features a diesel-fired steam boiler. Interesting to consider that the ship was an anachronism even back when it was constructed!
Regardless of what’s running the fires down in the boiler, steam is steam. It was pushing the pistons for the entire hour-long trip, and Minne Ha Ha’s twin smokestacks puffed along quite steadily for the entire way, as you can see here:
These are actually not the original smokestacks for the ship. It was dry-docked in 1997 for a complete re-fit, and there were 34 feet added to its overall length – from the middle. That’s right, they cut the girl in half and built some new decking in the hole to update the amenities, and the old smokestacks are now featured as the gateway arch to Minne Ha Ha‘s berth down at Lake George’s steel pier.
There is one thing that was completely unchanged from the early days of the ship: its calliope. If you’ve never heard one, it’s a pipe organ that uses the kind of steam whistles you’d typically find on a locomotive, and they were made famous by their inclusion on Mississippi riverboats. Since Minne Ha Ha was patterned on the same design, she has her own calliope – and it’s got a unique sound that defies description:
The whole experience was slightly surreal but enjoyable. Lake George is absolutely beautiful, and getting even a small glimpse of it from the top deck of a steamboat was a treat, even if I felt like a tourist doing it. It was worth the trip!