Posts Tagged ‘boating’

Friday, March 4, 2011

Lake George, Once Home to World’s Fastest Boat

In August, 1914, following the victory of Baby Speed Demon over Ankle Deep in the first Gold Cup race to be held on Lake George, the Lake George Mirror reported that “C.C. Smith Company has been commissioned to build a hydroplane for a prominent member of the summer colony who is located at the far end of the lake. This boat is very similar to the winner of the Gold Cup.” The Lake George Mirror itself offered the Mirror Cup for hydroplanes in the Lake George Regatta Association’s races later that summer. The winner was a young George Reis, who would bring the Gold Cup races back to Lake George in the 1930s.

The summer of 1914 was Lake George’s first introduction to boats that plane above the water, rather than moving through it. The inventor of the planing hull was Chris Smith, the founder of Chris Craft and the designer of Baby Speed Demon, who, in response to someone’s remark that his boats were not long enough to displace enough water to travel at top speed, said, “Displacement? I don’t care about displacement. All I need is enough water to cool the engines, that’s all.”

From that date forward, all Gold Cup raceboats were constructed with planing hulls.

But before 1914, the fastest boat in the world was a Lake George steamboat, the Ellide; 80 ft long, and eight feet wide in the beam, she was built of mahogany and cost $30,000.

The Ellide was owned by E. Burgess Warren, a Green Island cottager and an investor in the Sagamore. In June, 1897, the Ellide made a trial run on the Hudson River, where she covered a measured mile in forty two and one half seconds. The trial was a preliminary one, and although she achieved a speed of thirty five miles per hour, she was capable of going even faster, and later reached speeds of 40 miles per hour. The engine, boiler, screw and hull of the Ellide were designed by Charles Mosher, one of the foremost designers of the day, and built in Nyack, New York by Samuel Ayres & Son. (Mosher built a number of fast yachts, among them the Arrow, which was 130 ft long.) Warren reportedly paid Mosher a bonus of $6,000 if he could make the Ellide exceed thirty miles per hour. Other reports claim that the Warren’s contract with Mosher specified that the Ellide would cost $15,000 plus $1,000 for every mile-per-hour speed that the boat was able to maintain. If the boat could travel at speeds of 40 miles per hour, the cost would have been $55,000, a remarkable sum for those days.

In July, 1897, the Lake George Mirror published a first-hand account of the Ellide‘s speed:

“If you have ever ridden on the tail of a comet, or fallen from a balloon, you may have thought you knew something about speed; but the effects produced by the above are slow and commonplace in comparison with the sensations experienced by a reporter last week in a trip on E. Burgess Warren’s fast launch Ellide, when she covered a mile in one minute and thirty -five seconds on her trial trip on the Hudson, or at the marvelous rate of thirty-eight miles an hour.

“On the dock looking down at the little flyer, one saw a highly polished hull that rode lightly on the water and the powerful engine ( Mosher’s masterpiece) was covered with a tarpaulin. It did not look formidable, so when the covering was removed, and the engineers and stokers began to get up steam the crowd of spectators , who gazed curiously down at the yacht from the string-piece, were greatly disappointed in the appearance of this highly polished mass of steel and shining brass. It resembled the average marine engine about as much as the finest Waltham watch movement does the old-time Waterbury.

“It took but a few minutes to generate sufficient steam to turn the engine over, and,at the command the mooring lines were cast off and Ellide slipped out into the stream, traveling at what was considered a very slow pace – about twenty-five miles an hour. She was traveling under natural draught, and carrying but sixty pounds of steam: she nevertheless skipped through the water at this remarkable pace without any apparent wave, and leaving a wake scarcely larger than that thrown by a good-sized naptha launch. Making a wide sweep, Captain Packard, who was at the wheel, sounded the signal to increase the speed.

“Designer Mosher, who crouched on the engine room floor, gave the word to his assistant and the throttle was pulled wide open. The second quarter was covered in twenty three seconds, making the time for the first half of the journey just forty eight seconds, a history unprecedented in the history of steam craft. When within one hundred yards of the finish line the sound of the rushing waters was drowned by the roar of hissing steam from the two safety valves, and the the midship section of the boat was hidden in a white cloud. The brass jacket of the reversing gear had become jammed, and an instant before had blown off. The accident was trifling, but the designer thought best to stop the engine to prevent more serious complications. The craft drifted over the last one hundred yards under the momentum she had gained.

During the Spanish-American War, rumors circulated that the Ellide would be sold to the U.S. government for use as a torpedo boat. Plans called for furnishing the vessel with a steel deck and with armor plates for her sides. When refitted, she would have carried a torpedo tube in her bow and a rapid fire gun.

As late as 1904, the Ellide still held world speed records, and Warren was still exhibiting her at local regattas. After Warren’s death, she was sold to a local garage owner for $1500, who operated her as a tour boat. At a much later date she was shipped to Florida where she was also used an excursion boat until she was finally lost on some rocks.

Photo: Ellide, Lake George Mirror files.

For more news from Lake George, read the Lake George Mirror or visit Lake George Mirror Magazine.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Six Charged in ‘Ethan Allen’ Insurance Fraud Case

A federal prosecutor in Houston, Texas, has charged the owners of an insurance company with committing the fraud that left Shoreline Cruises unprotected when its 40 ft tour boat, the Ethan Allen, capsized on Lake George in 2005, leaving 20 people dead.

United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced on February 18 that Christopher Purser, 49, of Houston, and five other defendants have been charged with wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to launder money.

Jim Quirk, the president of Shoreline Cruises, said he had provided information to the Internal Revenue Service and the US Attorney’s office and had offered to travel to Houston to testify against the defendants.

According to Quirk, he paid premiums on a $2 million policy for approximately two years before the Ethan Allen capsized. Two weeks after the accident, he was told the policy he had purchased did not exist.

The indictment alleges that Purser backdated documents after the Ethan Allen accident to make it appear that Shoreline Cruises had not purchased coverage while the vessel was operating on Lake George when, in fact, Shoreline had purchased exactly that type insurance policy. The indictment also alleges that none of the insurance companies involved in Ethan Allen’s insurance policy had the financial ability to pay the claims.

Quirk said that he was provided documents that purported to show that the insurer had the means to pay any claims. Those documents were false, the indictment alleges.

One of the defendants, Malchus Irvin Boncamper, a Chartered Certified Accountant, allegedly prepared fraudulent financial statements and audit reports that were transmitted to Shoreline Cruises to create the false appearance that its insurers had financial strength.

In 2008, Shoreline Cruises, Quirk’s Marine Rentals and boat captain Richard Paris settled lawsuits filed by the families of those who who died in the accident. The terms of the settlement remain confidential.

The conspiracy, wire fraud and obstruction of justice charges each carry a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years imprisonment and a fine of not more than $250,000.

According to US Attorney Moreno, the charges are the result of an intensive, four year investigation conducted by the Internal Revenue Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Homeland Security Investigations, the Texas Dept. of Insurance, the New York State Dept. of Insurance, the California Dept. of Insurance and several foreign governments.

Photo: Lake George Mirror files.

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror
or visit Lake George Mirror Magazine.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Lake George Park Commission Supports NYS Invasives Law

The Lake George Park Commission has approved a resolution supporting legislation drafted by the state’s Invasive Species Council that would make it illegal to transport an invasive species from one water body to another.

The proposed law would create regulations stronger than any currently in place on Lake George, said Mike White, executive director of the Lake George Park Commission. » Continue Reading.


Friday, December 31, 2010

Early Lake George Traveler’s Birch Bark Canoe Discovered

Lt. John Enys, a British officer who visited Lake George in the 1780s and whose travel journals were published by the Adirondack Museum in 1976, returned to England with an unusual souvenir: a birch bark canoe made by Native Americans.

The 250-year-old canoe not only remained stored in a barn on the family’s ancestral estate and survived; it is to be restored and ultimately returned to North America, the National Maritime Museum in Cornwall has announced

“There is a strong family story that this canoe was brought back to England by Lt. Enys,” said Captain George Hogg, an archivist at the National Maritime Museum. “Once artifacts such as this are collected by a wealthy landed family, they remain on the estate where there is plenty of space to store them and there is no pressure to dispose of them. We believe this is one of the world’s oldest Birch Bark Canoes, a unique survival from the 18th century.”

According to Hogg, the museum was contacted by a descendant of Lt. Enys, Wendy Fowler, who asked the staff to look at a canoe lying in the Estate’s barn.

“The Estate is very special to us and holds many secrets, but I believe this is the most interesting to date. I’m most grateful that my great, great, great, great, great Uncle’s travels have led to such a major chapter of boating history being discovered in Cornwall,” said Fowler.

After receiving little attention for a number of years (it may have been restored in the Victorian era, archivists say), the canoe saw daylight for the first time in decades when it was moved from its shed to its new temporary resting place at the National Maritime Museum in Cornwall.

Andy Wyke, Boat Collections Manager said, “Moving the canoe is the beginning of a whole new journey back to Canada for this incredible find.”

Lt. Enys sailed from Falmouth in a Packet Ship to join his regiment in Canada to relieve the city of Quebec, which was under siege from the Americans. He fought in the Battle of Valcour, on Lake Champlain, in 1776 and in raids against the frontiers of Vermont in 1778 and New York in 1780. Instead of returning to England in 1787, he traveled through Canada and the United States. In 1788, he sailed back to Canada, taking with him the canoe.

“It’s incredible to think its legacy has been resting in a barn in Cornwall all this time,” said Wyke.

The archivist, Captain George Hogg, said, “When we received the call from the Enys family to identify their ‘canoe in a shed’ we had no idea of the importance of the find. But we knew we had something special.”

Prior to her arrival at the Museum, the canoe was digitally recorded by the curatorial team and during the canoe’s time at the Museum, teams will be researching her history, conserving the remaining wood and preserving what’s left as well as preparing her for the trip back home and representing what she might have looked like over 250 years ago.

In September, 2011 the Native American canoe will be repatriated to Canada where the Canadian Canoe Museum will conduct further research to see where the boat may have been built and by which tribe. The canoe will be displayed in Cornwall, England from January through September.

Enys visited Lake George in 1787. According to his journals, Enys set sail for Fort George, at the head of the lake, from Ticonderoga on November 10.

He spent the night in a “House or Rather Hovel” at Sabbath Day Point, where his sleep was disturbed by hunters who were arguing about the best method of collecting honey from the hives of wild bees.

“So very insignificant was their information that altho deprived of my rest I could learn nothing by it,” he wrote.

On November 11, Enys passed through the Narrows, rowing rather than sailing. “Tho the wind was fair it was not in our power to make use of it, the Lake being here very Narrow and enclosed between two high ridges of mountains; the wind striking against them forms so many eddy winds that unless the wind is either in a direct line up or down it never blows five minutes in the same direction,” he wrote.

Near Fourteen Mile Island, the boat’s sails were hoisted and Enys sailed on to Fort George, arriving in time for dinner.
He then left for Albany and proceeded to New York, Philadelphia and Mount Vernon, where he visited George Washington.

The American Journals of Lt. John Enys, edited by Elizabeth Cometti and published by the Adirondack Museum and Syracuse University Press in 1976, is out of print but available through rare and used book dealers.

Photos: Lt John Enys; Removing the canoe from a storage shed in Cornwall, England

For more news and commentary from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Anthony Hall: Another Side of Kenneth Durant

Last week, I posted an article here on the Almanack about Kenneth Durant, best known today for his authoritative history of the Adirondack guide-boat.

But for people with more than a casual interest in things Adirondack, one of the most fascinating things about Durant is his biography. A member of Harvard’s class of 1910, which also included John Reed and T.S. Eliot, he attended the Versailles peace conference as an aide to Woodrow Wilson’s envoy, Colonel House. And before retiring to Jamaica, Vermont, and devoting himself to researching the evolution of the guide-boat, he was the US bureau chief for TASS, the Soviet news agency.

I don’t know whether that was common knowledge before Durant’s death in 1972. I once asked my mother whether it would be a violation of trust to write about that aspect of his career. She advised against publishing anything locally about Kenneth’s time with TASS, on the grounds that it was not something he would have wished discussed in public.

In 2003, however, Amy Godine wrote a meticulously researched article for Adirondack Life titled “The Red Woods,” about leftists with Adirondack associations, Kenneth Durant included.

Godine also wrote about my father, Rob Hall, a Daily Worker editor who left the Communist party in 1956 and moved to the Adirondacks. In last week’s post, I was somewhat disingenuous when implying that my family’s friendship with Kenneth and his wife Helen was based on a shared interest in the history of wood boats.

To be sure, my father was interested in Kenneth’s work on guide-boats, and published excerpts from the work in progress in his weekly newspapers and later in the Conservationist magazine.

Kenneth also solicited my father’s help in publicizing Tom Bissell’s fiberglass guide-boats, which Bissell manufactured in Long Lake in the early 1960s.

But my parents’ relationship with the Durants began well before they moved to the Adirondacks, and it was much more complex than most of their Adirondack friendships.

Genevieve Taggard, a poet and biographer of Emily Dickinson, was a teacher of my mother’s at Sarah Lawrence College in the late 1940s; Taggard was also Kenneth’s second wife.

After my mother graduated from Sarah Lawrence, she went to work for TASS, presumably upon the advice or at least with the consent of Kenneth, who had retired from TASS in 1944.

Kenneth, in fact, became something of a paternal figure in my mother’s life, a substitute, perhaps, for her own father, who publicly disavowed her in the early 1950s.

A Cleveland manufacturer, my grandfather was serving as an assistant to Averell Harriman, Harry Truman’s Secretary of Commerce, when a midwestern Congressman revealed that the daughter of an administration official was working for TASS. My grandfather resigned and returned to Cleveland.

When my parents were married in 1950, they drove to the Durants’ home in southern Vermont for their honeymoon, listening to the Weavers’ ‘Good Night Irene’ on the car radio all the way from Washington. (Reds at the top of the pop charts! Perhaps they were on the right side of history after all.)

Thereafter, my parents spent most, if not all their holidays at the Durants’ house in Vermont, called Gilfeather after the farmer who once owned it, or in a nearby farmhouse called Potter Place, which the Durants also owned.

When, for instance, my father was covering the trial of Emmett Till’s killers in Mississippi for the Communist newspapers, my mother stayed behind at Potter Place.

By then, Genevieve Taggard had died and Kenneth had married Helen Van Dongen, celebrated in her own right as the editor of Joris Ivens’ 1936 Spanish Civil War film, The Spanish Earth.

Written and narrated by Ernest Hemingway, the film remains highly valued as a documentary about war as well as for its innovative technique.

A few years ago, in a book about American writers and the Spanish Civil War (The Breaking Point: Hemingway, Dos Passos and the Murder of Jose Robles), writer Stephen Koch claimed that Joris Ivens and Helen were not independent film makers with leftist sympathies, as they represented themselves, but, rather, Soviet agents. According to Koch, their assignment was to persuade Hemingway, Dos Passos, Archibald MacLeish and others to work, however inadvertently or unknowingly, for the Soviet cause.

I once asked Craig Gilborn, the former director of the Adirondack Museum who had come to know Helen well in her final years (she died in Vermont at the age of 97 in 2006), what he thought of Koch’s claims; fanciful at best, scurrilous at worst, he replied.

Why do I write about these things? In part, because I’ve always been struck by the words of a character in Russell Banks’ Adirondack novel, The Sweet Hereafter: “To love a place, you have to know it.”

Our appreciation of the Adirondacks only deepens the better we come to know the characters who have populated the region, and Kenneth Durant was a true Adirondack character.

As I noted in last week’s post, Kenneth had a legitimate claim upon the Adirondacks.

His father, Frederick C. Durant, was the developer of the Prospect House on Blue Mountain Lake, the first luxury hotel in the Adirondacks. To accommodate his own family, Durant built a camp on Forked Lake, a tributary of Racquette Lake, in the style made popular by his father’s cousin, William West Durant, which they called “Camp Cedars.”

Browsing through a Vermont antique shop a few years ago, I saw hanging near the rafters a large photo, badly framed, which the dealer had labeled, “Fisherman in rowboat on Vermont Lake.”

It was, in fact, none of those things. It was a photo of Kenneth, taken by Helen, rowing his guide-boat in Blue Mountain Lake. The photo was taken to commemorate Kenneth’s last row in the boat before donating it to the Adirondack Museum. I recognized it from the book on the guide-boat, and, needless to say, I bought it.

We’ve also had hanging in the house a large embroidered tapestry of a richly imagined Dutch village, which Helen made for us.

These things remind me how profoundly people from the past shaped us, our assumptions, our choices, our aspirations. For me, connections with those long gone are ties that bind me to the Adirondacks today.

Photos: Kenneth Durant in Vermont; Helen Van Dongen with documentary film maker Robert Flaherty, whose Louisiana Story and The Land she edited.

For more news and commentary from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Boating Before Gasoline: Kenneth Durant and the Naphtha Launch

In the 1880s Frank Ofeldt invented a small engine powered by a petroleum by-product called naphtha, which proved to be a very useful means of water transport when attached to 16 or 18-foot launches. For a while, these naphtha launches flourished on the Adirondack lakes, transporting passengers and freight between camps, hotels and settlements.

By the turn of the century, naphtha launches were common on Lake George. Some were excursion boats, such as those owned and operated by the father os onetime Lake George Supervisor Alden Shaw. The majority, however, belonged to summer residents. Dr. Abraham Jacobi of Bolton Landing owned one. Harry Watrous, the perpetrator of the Hague Monster Hoax, owned two, as did Colonel Mann, the New York magazine editor who was the butt of the hoax. (Mann’s own magazine, by the way, poked fun at the rich for taking the accoutrements of soft living into the Adirondack wilderness, naphtha launches included.)

The Eva B, the launch portrayed here, was owned by Charles Barker, a gentleman who spent one summer on Lake George in 1892. Barker sailed the craft from New York City to Troy and then came up the Champlain Canal through the locks. The launch was brought overland from Glens Falls to Lake George, where it was paraded in the Water Carnival. When Barked departed Lake George at the end of the season, he announced that he would sill down Lake Champlain to the St. Lawrence River, then on to Alexandria Bay and the Thousand Islands.

The naphtha launch, unlike the steamboat which it replaced, was light and easy to handle. No special license was required to operate it. Thus, the naphtha launch became popular very quickly. Just as quickly, however, it disappeared, supplanted by the gasoline-powered motorboat, which was much faster than the naphtha launch and, or so it was said, much safer.

“It is eighty years or more since the naphtha launch came into the woods. They are gone and the steamboats with them. Handled with good manners, the launch was no threat to anyone and a pleasing service to many,” Kenneth Durant wrote in his monograph on the naphtha launch, published by the Adirondack Museum in 1976. Durant’s monograph remains the single best source of information on the naphtha launch.

Durant himself is best known for his pioneering studies of the Adirondack guide-boat. He had originally intended to incorporate the material which he had gathered on the naphtha launch into his book on the guide-boat, but then decided that it would be too much of a digression. After his death in 1972, his widow, Helen Durant, edited the manuscript and produced the pamphlet that is still available through the museum.

Durant’s knowledge of the naphtha launch, like his knowledge of the guide-boat, was rooted in his own experience. His father, Frederick C. Durant, was the developer of the Prospect House on Blue Mountain Lake, the first luxury hotel in the Adirondacks. To accommodate his own family, Durant built a camp on Forked Lake, a tributary of Racquette Lake, in the style made popular by his relative, William West Durant, which they called “Camp Cedars.” Warren Cole, the Long Lake guide-boat builder, was the family’s guide, and Durant spent much of his youth in the guide-boat that Cole built for him.

The family also maintained a naphtha launch, called the Mugwump. For sport and pleasure, there was always the guide-boat, Durant said. The naphtha launch was essentially a service boat. “It transported busts who might have been timid or clumsy in a guidebook. It towed the scow with loads of lumber from the mill or stone cut from the quarry at the head of the lake. It towed the freight boat with a load of fresh balsam for the open camp, or a string of guide-boats for a fishing party to the far end of the lake. Now and then one might make a leisurely cruise along the evening shore, with engine muted.”

Durant’s interest in the evolution of the guide-boat brought him to Lake George in 1960 to study the bateaux that had just been discovered at the bottom of the lake, and he and Helen visited my family often in Warrensburg, usually when traveling from their home in Vermont to Hamilton County, which Durant always called “the woods” and which he believed was the true Adirondacks.

(He once wrote to his friend, canoe authority Paul Jamieson: “When I was half as old as I am now we could say unctuously, ‘There are no venomous snakes in the Adirondacks,’ reciting a bit of nature lore: ‘Rattlesnakes do not advance beyond the oaks.’ Then, when I was not looking, someone moved the Blue Line around Lake George and took in oaks and rattlesnakes–and worse.”)

While he may have been harsh on Lake George, I remember Kenneth as the gentlest of men. And he managed to impart to many, through his books, his conversation and his example, something of his passionate interest in wooden boats and their history on the lakes of the Adirondacks. Those of us who have learned from him had had richer lives as a consequence.

Photos: The Eva B; Kenneth Durant.

For more news and commentary from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror


Friday, December 17, 2010

Bolton High School Speedboat Racer Makes History

Johnny Saris, a Bolton Central School Senior, became the youngest speed boat driver in history to win a sanctioned World Championship race when he and Jason Saris competed in the Offshore Powerboat Association’s Orange Beach, Alabama meet in October.

“Johnny raced against the best drivers in the country and he held his own, as the results show,” said Jason Saris, the team’s throttle man and Johnny’s father.

Johnny Saris has been driving powerful offshore boats for years, but usually for recreation or in local poker runs. “There’s nothing like racing; once the green flag is waved, your mind is entirely focused,” said Johnny Saris. “And you never slow down for a wave.”

Racing a new boat custom-built by Performance Marine, the team placed first in their class in the first race, held on Friday, October 15.

To be named the 2010 Offshore Powerboat Association’s World Champions, the Sarises needed only to place third in Sunday’s races, but mechanical problems prevented the team from entering the boat in the second race, said Johnny Saris.

The races, held on an oval course about 150 yards off shore from beachfront hotels, attracted thousands of spectators. 40 boats, including a 50’ boat capable of 200 mile per hour speeds and a Lamborghini-powered 43’ catamaran owned by Sheikh Hassan Bin Jabor Al‐Thani, took part in the event.

Known as “Thunder on the Gulf,” the event was not expected to take place; the Offshore Powerboat Association removed the race from its schedule after last summer’s oil spill.

But according to Jason Saris, Alabama officials, anxious to revitalize tourism along the Gulf coast, persuaded the OPA to re-instate the event. “We didn’t see any ill-effects of the oil spill, and they put on quite a show for us,” said Jason. “Bon Jovi and Brad Paisley played concerts on the beach, there were good crowds and the weather was perfect.” “We had as much fun spending time with the other racers as we did racing,” said Johnny.

As one of the youngest racers on the OPA circuit, Johnny Saris attracted some of the limelight, said Jason . “When an event is covered as widely as this was, some extra attention is expected,” said Jason. “There’s another racer close in age to Johnny, and people like to play up a rivalry.”

The Sarises began racing as a team in May, 2009, when they converted a recreational powerboat and competed in the first in a series of off shore races throughout the country. “Until 2008, no one under 18 was eligible to compete,” said Jason, himself a national offshore champion racer not so many years ago. “But fortunately for us, the OPA Racing Organization, changed the rules so that someone as young as 14 can compete as long as he’s accompanied by a parent or guardian. ”

Johnny Saris’s skills as a driver have increased exponentially during his first two seasons as a professional racer, said Jason. “He has a confidence that he’s earned through experience; that makes him a smoother, better racer; he’s not apprehensive, he knows what to expect,” said Jason. And he’s won the respect of the other racers.

“They take racing very seriously, and initially they were apprehensive about racing 80 miles per hour with someone who, for all they knew, was an inexperienced amateur,” said Jason. “Now, they treat him like a colleague.”

“The racing circuit is like family; once you’re in, you’re in,” said Johnny.

For Jason Saris, the pleasure in returning to the racing circuit lies largely in the fact that’s now able to race with his son. “We’re both enthusiasts and we’ve always wanted to do this together. A father and son who enjoy the same thing, getting to do it together: it doesn’t get any better than that. By the time most kids are sixteen, they’re out of their families’ lives. Even the time spent in the truck trailering the boat to races is quality time, as far as I’m concerned,” said Jason.

Racing may be a father and son activity for the Sarises, but it’s also good for Performance Marine, the business Jason established twenty years ago with his partner, Rick Gage. Tucked between the lake and Bolton Landing’s Main Street, Performance Marine is the place where racers from all over the country come to have custom built engines and drive systems made.

“If nothing else, the race circuit is a venue where we can demonstrate our competence, ” Jason says. “Customers are confident that we know our business.” Performance Marine also builds power systems for recreational boats and maintains boats for local customers. It’s a business that Johnny Saris hopes to run himself one day. “I’ll be going to college next year, and that may cut into racing. But a good education will allow me to continue what my father started. That would be even better than racing,” he said.

Photos courtesy of Saris Racing.

For more news and commentary from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror.


Friday, December 10, 2010

Ankle Deep: Lake George’s First Gold Cup Race Boat

After the Gold Cup races of 1914, the Ankle Deep was loaded onto a horse-drawn farm wagon and taken up the road to a corner of Count Casimir Mankowski’s estate on Northwest Bay – a humiliating end for a splendid boat, but then again, she had just suffered a humiliating defeat.

On the final day of the races, her propeller shaft had snapped. Mankowski let go of the wheel, and was sent overboard, right in front of the Sagamore. Her rival, the Baby Speed Demon II owned by Paula Brackton of New York City, went on to establish a world’s record. The Count, apparently, was too depressed to even remove the boat from the wagon. “Just leave the wagon where it is,” he told the drover. “Send me a bill for it.”

And that, more or less, was the end of both the Ankle Deep and Count Mankowski himself. The Ankle Deep caught fire and burned in a race held later that summer in Buffalo. The Count left Bolton Landing and never returned.

Nevertheless, the Gold Cup races of 1914 were a critical moment in the history of boating on Lake George. Gasoline powered boats had come to Lake George only a few years earlier. Competitive motorboating began in 1906, when the Lake George Regatta sponsored a race between boats owned by LeGrand C.Cramer, W.K.Bixby and Herman Broesel. Flat bottomed, sloping gradually toward the stern, the boats traveled at speeds of 20 miles per hour or more.

The 1914 race was the largest power boating event ever to be held in the United States; the field of starters was the largest, the boats were faster than any that had competed in previous races. The crowds too were the largest that had ever assembled in one place to watch speedboat races. Some of the spectators came by a special train from Albany. The Horicon met them at the station and took them to Bolton Landing. There, the Horicon anchored inside the race course, a 6 nautical mile ellipse that stretched from Montcalm Point to a point south of Dome Island. Throughout the races, cars lined the road from Glens Falls to the Sagamore.

The Ankle Deep was the first long distance speed boat ever built. Thirty-two feet long, she had two 150 horsepower engines, and was capable of a speed of 50 miles or more per hour. After winning the Gold Cup races on the St. Lawrence River in 1913, Mankowski brought the cup – which was made by Louis Comfort Tiffany and displayed at the Sagamore – and the races to Lake George.

The first race was scheduled for July 29th, but a northwest gale forced it to be postponed until the following day. On Thursday ,at 5:00 PM, the races began. The Ankle Deep was late getting to the starting line, and finished behind the Baby Speed Demon and two other boats.

The Count made certain that he would not repeat that mistake. Here’s how the Lake George Mirror reported the Ankle Deep’s start on the second day of the races: “But a few feet back of the line and going at almost full speed she jumped like a thing of life as the Count yanked the throttle wide open, and crossed the line a shimmering streak of mahogany, soon distancing all her rivals.” By the end of the second day of racing, however, it must have been obvious that the Ankle Deep was no longer the fastest boat in the field. The Baby Speed Demon II passed her on the second lap, retaining the lead that she had established the previous day.

The Ankle Deep now had no chance of victory unless the leaders were removed from the competition by some accident or by mechanical failures. Frank Schneider, the retired industrial arts teacher who restored boats at the Pilot Knob boat shop, wrote an account of the third day of the races for the Lake George Mirror in 1964.

“I saw this race from a small motor launch. Beecher Howe of Glens Falls and I, from Pilot Knob, proceeded to go diagonally across the lake to where we could see. As we got past Dome Island, going at a speed of approximately five miles per hour, our engine stopped and we found ourselves plumb on the regatta course, stalled, while two of the contestants, Baby Speed Demon II, and the Buffalo Enquirer were bearing down on us. One of those speedsters passed us on one side and the other on the other side, and after they had long gone by us, a patrol boat approached us and hollered, ‘Get off the course!’ We finally got the engine started again, and headed for the Sagamore dock, to watch the rest of the race. We did not see the Ankle Deep in action as it had broken down at the beginning of the third heat.”

When the scores of each boat were calculated after three days of racing, the Ankle Deep was in third place, behind Baby Speed Demon II and Buffalo Enquirer.

Gold Cup boats did not disappear from Lake George, of course. Albert Judson of Bolton Landing, a president of the American Power Boat Association, which sponsored the Gold Cup Races, owned the Whipporwhill Jr. That boat raced in Minneapolis, the Thousand Islands, Detroit, Lake Ontario, and in 1920, in England, where it competed for the Harmsworth Trophy. The driver in that race was George Reis. Reis himself brought the Gold Cup races to Lake George in 1934 ,35 and 36. Melvin Crook had the Betty IV built as a Gold Cup boat, but did not race her, although she achieved a speed of 111 miles per hour in a qualifying trial for the Hundred Mile Per Hour Club.

The Ankle Deep, however, retains pride of place as our first Gold Cup boat. As the editor of the Lake George Mirror noted after it was learned that she had been destroyed by fire on the Niagra River, “To Count Mankowski and the Ankle Deep belongs the honor of creating a new epoch in motor boatdom, and no matter how fast the boats may go in the years to come,Lake George will always remember with pride the name of the beautiful queen that carried her flag to victory on the St. Lawrence.”

Photo: Count Casimir Mankowski, center, on Lake George in 1914.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Fee Hikes to Pay for LG Island Trash Collection

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation appears willing to give way on its plan to discontinue the collection of campers’ garbage from the islands of Lake George.

After meeting on September 17 in Bolton Landing with state legislators, county supervisors, the Lake George Park Commission and the heads of lake protection organizations, DEC staff agreed to seek an increase in camping fees large enough to cover the costs of collecting garbage from three locations and transporting it to Glen Island.

State Senator Betty Little and Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, who proposed the alternative to the state’s planned “Carry in/Carry Out” policy at the meeting in Bolton, said they would sponsor an item in next year’s state budget designating the new revenues as fees for removing garbage from the Lake George islands.

The agreement, however, must win the endorsement of DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis.
According to Doug Bernhard, DEC”s general manager of Forest Parks, approximately $50,000 would need to be raised every year to maintain the policy of picking up garbage and recycleables from three locations in the Lake George Narrows, Glen Island and Long Island campsite groups.

Last year, DEC issued 6,680 permits for 387 campsites on 44 islands, said Gary West of DEC’s Warrensburg office. By raising the fee for a daily camping permit by as much as $5, Senator Little said, enough funds would be raised to pay for garbage collection. “It will be understood that it is an increase in fees to keep the lake beautiful,” said Little.

If the fee hike is approved, the cost of a permit could rise to $30 for New York State residents and $35 for non-residents. “These campers have expensive boats; they won’t object to a few extra dollars for a permit, and it’s still an incredible deal,” said Bill Van Ness, a Warren County supervisor and a Lake George Park Commission marine patrol officer.

“There’s broad support from business owners, environmentalists and local governments for this fee hike,” said Peter Bauer, the excutive director of the Fund for Lake George.

The decision to abandon the policy of collecting garbage and to rely instead upon campers to carry their garbage with them when they leave was made after the DEC’s budget for non-personnel expenses was cut by 40%, said Bernhard.

“Asking campers to take their garbage to the recycling centers was a highly successful program, winning 90% compliance, but we no longer have the resources to support it,” said Bernhard, who added that other popular campground programs, such as nature education activities, had also been abolished.

Opposition to the plan to terminate garbage collection services, however, surfaced almost as soon as it was announced. The Towns of Bolton, Hague and Lake George, as well as the Warren County Board of Supervisors, adopted resolutions opposing the plan. “The end result will be garbage in the roadway and in the lake,” said Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover, who organized the meeting. “If we fail the lake, we fail ourselves.”

Members of the Lake George Park Commission also opposed the plan, said chairman Bruce Young, who argued that discontinuing the collection service would diminish the experience of camping on the islands, thus costing the state in revenues and harming the local economy. “This is the goose that lays the golden egg,” said Young. “The Lake George Island campsites generate $700,000 a year in revenues to DEC. I hate to see you shortchange this asset in order to take care of others.”

While a carry in/carry out policy is used at other island campsites in the Adirondack Forest Preserve, Young and others argued that it could not be successfully applied to Lake George. “Not picking it up is not an option, it won’t work,” said Young. “Lake George island campers are not backpackers.”

The Lake George Association’s executive director, Walt Lender, said, “While we agree the campers should be responsible for their own garbage, we know that island camping is not wilderness camping; these boats are floating Winnebagos.”

“Their coolers, their children, their barbecues, they boat it in as though they were going to a land-based campsite,” said Ron Conover. According to DEC officials, 231 tons of garbage was removed from the islands last year.

The Lake George Island Campers Association supports the recommendation, with some reservations, said Cindy Baxter, a New Hampshire resident who helped establish the advocacy group. “We would prefer to see all the funds generated by the Lake George islands be returned to Lake George for the care and maintenance of the campsites. But if that’s not possible, a fee increase is a price we’re willing to bear if that’s what it takes to protect Lake George,” said Baxter.

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Spiny Water Flea Confirmed in Sacandaga Lake

Spiny water fleas, an aquatic invasive species, have been found in Sacandaga Lake in the southern region of the Adirondack Park near Speculator, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced today. It was previously confirmed in the Great Sacandaga in 2008, Peck Lake in 2009 and Stewarts Bridge Reservoir earlier this year.

Native to Eurasia, the spiny water flea feeds on tiny crustaceans and other zooplankton that are foods for fish and other native aquatic organisms, putting them in direct competition for this important food source. The tail spines of the spiny water flea hook on fishing lines and foul fishing gear. » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 6, 2010

APA Revised Boathouse and Dock Regulations

The Adirondack Park Agency’s (APA) revised regulatory definitions for “boathouse” and “dock” will become effective on September 21, 2010. The agency board approved the dock regulation at its May 2010 board meeting and the boathouse regulation at the June 2010 meeting.

In response to public comment, the board delayed implementation of the revised regulations until after the 2010 summer construction season. Therefore this definition change does not apply to new boathouses with in-water components such as support piers substantially underway pursuant to a Department of Environmental Conservation permit or docks lawfully in place on the effective date of September 21, 2010. In addition, the board modified the proposed regulations applying Lake George Park Commission dimensional requirements for boathouses and docks built within the Lake George basin.

The regulatory change is prospective only. Lawfully existing boathouse structures may be repaired or replaced pursuant to Section 811 of the APA Act within the existing building envelope. An APA variance is required, however, to exceed the size parameters or expand a larger existing boathouse. Standard shoreline cutting and wetland jurisdictional thresholds still apply in all cases.

The revisions were undertaken as part of a statutorily required, five-year review and clarification of APA regulations following the 2002 promulgation of the current definitions. Additional changes were made as a result of public comment received during the rulemaking process.

The new regulatory definitions are:

Boathouse means a covered structure with direct access to a navigable body of water which (1) is used only for the storage of boats and associated equipment; (2) does not contain bathroom facilities, sanitary plumbing, or sanitary drains of any kind; (3) does not contain kitchen facilities of any kind; (4) does not contain a heating system of any kind; (5) does not contain beds or sleeping quarters of any kind; (6) does not exceed a single story in that the roof rafters rest on the top plate of the first floor wall, and all rigid roof surfaces have a minimum pitch of four on twelve, or, alternatively, one flat roof covers the entire structure; and (7) has a footprint of 1200 square feet or less measured at the exterior walls (or in the absence of exterior walls, at the perimeter of the roof), and a height of fifteen feet or less. For the purpose of this definition, the height of a boathouse shall be measured from the surface of the floor serving the boat berths to the highest point of the structure. The dimensional requirements specified herein shall not apply to a covered structure for berthing boats located within the Lake George Park, provided the structure is built or modified in accordance with a permit from the Lake George Park Commission and is located fully lake-ward of the mean high-water mark of Lake George.

Dock means a floating or fixed structure that: (1) extends horizontally (parallel with the water surface) into or over a lake, pond or navigable river or stream from only that portion of the immediate shoreline or boathouse necessary to attach the floating or fixed structure to the shoreline or boathouse; (2) is no more than eight feet in width, or, in the case of interconnected structures, intended to accommodate multiple watercraft or other authorized use, each element of which is no more than eight feet in width; and (3) is built or used for the purposes of securing and/or loading or unloading water craft and/or for swimming or water recreation. A permanent supporting structure located within the applicable setback area which is used to suspend a dock above water level for storage by means of a hoist or other mechanical device is limited to not more than 100 square feet, measured in the aggregate if more than one such supporting structure is used. A dock must remain parallel with the water when suspended for storage, unless the size of the total structure does not exceed 100 square feet. Mechanisms necessary to hoist or suspend the dock must be temporary and must be removed during the boating season.

Contact APA’s jurisdictional office at (518) 891-4050, or email aparule@gw.dec.state.ny.us with any questions about the new definitions.

The APA statutes and regulations are meant to protect water quality and the scenic appeal of Adirondack shorelines by establishing structure setbacks, lot widths and cutting restrictions. Boathouses, docks and other structures less than 100 square feet are exempt from the shoreline setback requirements.

Shorelines are important to the Adirondack Park’s communities and environment. The dynamic ecosystems that edge Adirondack Park lakes, wetlands, rivers, and streams are critical to both terrestrial and aquatic species. Well-vegetated shorelines serve as buffer strips, protecting banks from erosion, safeguarding water quality, cooling streams, and providing some of the Park’s most productive wildlife habitat.

Large structures and intensive use at the shoreline cause unnecessary erosion and adverse impacts to these critical areas.


Friday, August 27, 2010

A Lake George Comeback For A Once Famed Sailboat

Led by Lake George’s John Kelly and Reuben Smith of Hall’s Boat Corp., the Mystic Seaport maritime museum in Mystic, Connecticut, is documenting a once-famous class of sail boat that has slipped into obscurity.

The boats, Sound Interclubs, were sailed on Lake George from the 1930s through the 1950s, when the Lake George Club replaced its racing fleet with Stars and Rainbows.

Two of the surviving sail boats have been acquired by John Kelly, the Assembly Point resident whose 1936 Lake George Gar Wood was restored by Reuben Smith and the crew at Hall’s earlier this year. Hall’s is now restoring Kelly’s Sound Interclubs.

Of Kelly’s two boats, one was in relatively good condition, but even that one had been disfigured by the force of the 42 foot mast and the weight of the lead keel, said Smith. So before he could begin the work of restoring the boats, he needed an accurate set of plans.

Smith said he called Mystic Seaport in search of plans, photos and any additional information that might be in the museum’s extensive archives, and while dozens of classic photos had been taken of the boats racing in Long Island Sound in the 1920s and 30s, no plans survived.

That inquiry led Mystic Seaport’s staff to start researching the Sound Interclub, said Luisa Watrous, the museum’s Intellectual Property Manager.

“Mystic Seaport is delighted that Reuben Smith and John Kelly are doing this work, because the museum maintains a representative collection of American sailboats, and there’s too little information about the Sound Interclubs,” said Watrous. “The Museum doesn’t have a boat of this type in the collection, and the restoration at Hall’s offers us an opportunity to clarify and update the photographic and vessel records.”

In the absence of the designer’s original plans (believed to have been lost in a fire), Smith is drafting a new set of plans as he restores Kelly’s first Sound Interclub; his plans, notes and photos of the restoration will guide the restoration of the other four Sound Interclubs.

Mystic Seaport will be one of the beneficiaries of Smith’s work, says Luisa Watrous,

Watrous, however, is not merely collecting the information gathered by Smith and Kelly; she’s heavily involved in co-ordinating research on the boats, enlisting the aid of people like Rik Alexanderson, whose grandfather, E.F. Alexanderson, was among those who brought one-design racing to Lake George.

Alexanderson is conducting oral interviews about the boats’ history on Lake George, said Watrous. Others, like David Warren, have contributed photos of the boats being sailed on Lake George. “I tend to feel that stories preserve themselves; they’re waiting to be told and will be told when the time is right,” said Watrous. The oral histories and photos are not only valuable additions to Mystic Seaport’s archives, but can assist Reuben Smith and John Kelly in their work, he said.

For Watrous, researching the Sound Interclubs is not merely a professional obligation; it’s a way for her to rediscover her links to the lake. “I have personal ties to the lake through my family, and I even sailed on Sound Interclubs in the 1970s,” he said. “After the Lake George Club switched to racing Stars and Rainbows, two Sound Interclubs were sold to Canoe Island Lodge, where I worked as a college student in the 1970s.”

John Kelly says he hopes to take his first sail in his Sound Interclub sometime this fall. “I became interested in the boats when I was researching the history of my Gar Wood, which was owned by a Lake George summer resident, Dan Winchester. A member of his family showed me an album that included some photos of a sailboat I’d never seen before. I showed them to Reuben, who immediately identified them as Sound Interclubs,” he said.

Designed by Charles Mower in 1926, the boats were famous in the 1930s as the fastest boats in the Westchester and Connecticut waters of Long Island Sound. “The whole idea behind one-design racing is that it’s a test of skills; it has nothing to do with who has the most money or the best technology,” said Reuben Smith.

By 1935, however, the boats began to feel dated to the Long Island skippers, many of whom were America’s Cup yachtsmen, and they replaced the boats with International One Designs, said Michael Kelly. Once the boats were no longer used for racing in Long Island Sound, they were brought to Lake George.

Reuben Smith says he knows of at least three other Sound Interclubs: one on Lake George, another in Texas and one on City Island in New York. He hopes they’ll be brought to Hall’s or to another Lake George boat shop and restored.

As does John Kelly. At the very least, he’ll get some competition. What’s the fun of owning a fast sail boat if there’s no one to compete with?

Photos: Above, Sound Interclubs racing on Lake George from the files of Lake George Mirror. Below, Sound Interclubs racing off Long Island. Photo by Morris Rosenfeld, courtesy of Mystic Seaport.

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror


Saturday, August 14, 2010

12 Tips for Adirondack Boating Safety

In light of recent tragic boating accidents on Lake George, the Lake George Association has compiled a list of 12 key tips for boating safety. In recent years, local lakes like Lake George have seen a dramatic increase in the use of small craft – canoes, kayaks, small sailboats and personal watercraft. When boating on any large body of water with multi-use traffic, boaters are advised to follow these tips to protect their safety, and the safety of others. Marinas and boating equipment stores are encouraged to post and photocopy these tips for their patrons.

The top four causes of boating accidents in New York State are: submerged objects, wakes, weather, and operator inattention. Follow these tips to avoid an accident.

GET A PROPER EDUCATION.
Before operating a motorboat, everyone should take a boating safety course. These 8-hour courses are offered regularly throughout the boating season by the Lake George Power Squadron, the Eastern NY Marine Trades Association, and the Lake George Park Commission and are packed with professional instruction on how to keep everyone safe while boating.

KNOW THE LOCATION OF SUBMERGED OBJECTS.

Watch for and understand navigational markers. Carry a chart or map of the water body you are on.

PAY ATTENTION TO WAKES.
Know how to navigate them, and be responsible for those you create.

BE WEATHER WISE.

Always check the weather first. Due to the high mountains surrounding local lakes, boaters cannot always see storms coming. Before setting out, check the radar. Don’t go out in fog, thunderstorms, or anytime when the waves are rolling and the wind is whipping, as visibility is at a minimum during those times.

VISION IS KEY.

Motorboat operators should look over the top of the windshield (not through it). Know what is in front of you, on your sides, and behind you at all times. Keep the bow of the boat low – you should always be able to see clearly ahead. Assign a designated lookout to keep an eye out for other boaters, objects, especially small craft and swimmers.

NO DRUGS OR ALCOHOL.

Never use drugs or alcohol before or during boat operation. Alcohol’s effects are greatly exaggerated by exposure to sun, glare, wind, noise, and vibration. Boating Under the Influence is dangerous and illegal.

BUY A COMFORTABLE LIGHTWEIGHT PFD AND WEAR IT.

Too often PFDs are left behind or not worn because they are uncomfortable, especially by paddlers. Lightweight, comfortable, high-waisted and affordable life jackets are available; designed especially for kayakers, they allow full freedom of movement.

MOTORBOATS: THINK CENTER. PADDLERS: THINK EDGES.

Motorboats can enjoy considerably more elbow-room when they travel in the center of local lakes. Paddlers should cruise close to shore whenever possible.

BRIGHT COLORS FOR PADDLERS.

Place a kayak safety flag (similar to a bike flag) on your vessel. Purchase a hat and PFD with contrasting day-glow colors. Use reflective tape on your paddles.

KEEP A HANDHELD HORN HANDY.

Paddlers and small sailboats can carry an electronic handheld signaling device or a horn with compressed air.

COMMUNICATE.

Always let someone on shore know where you are going and when you’ll be back. Keep an old, discarded cell phone on board your boat that can still be used to call 911.

KNOW AND FOLLOW THE ‘RULES OF THE ROAD.’

Motorized craft must give right of way to non-motorized craft, and boats being passed have the right of way. Know local speed limits. For example, the speed limit on Lake George is 45 mph from 6 am – 9 pm, 25 mph from 9 pm – 6 am, and 5 mph in no wake zones and within 100 feet of docks, moorings, anchored vessels and shore (500 feet for PWCs).


Friday, August 6, 2010

Garbage Collection on Lake George Islands to End

New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation will stop collecting garbage and recycleables from the state-owned islands on Lake George, a DEC spokesman said.

Starting in 2011, the DEC will maintain a “carry in – carry out” policy, said David Winchell.

“This is the system that is used in the rest of the forest preserve,” he said.

The decision to discontinue garbage collection was made to save money, said Winchell: “Due to funding reductions to the Department of Environmental Conservation from the state’s historic budget shortfall, all DEC programs are seeking ways to reduce operating costs while still providing the basic services.”

According to Winchell, the island campsites are more expensive to operate than other camp grounds, and garbage collection increases those costs.

“The DEC recognizes that this is somewhat of an inconvenience for some campers, however, the costs for operating the campgrounds must be reduced to avoid other steps that campers are less receptive to, such as raising rates or reducing the number of campsites,” said Winchell.

Erich Neuffer, a Bolton Landing deli owner who operates the Glen Island commissary as a concession, said his contract with the state requires the DEC to collect garbage and recyclables from the store.

But his contract expires at the end of 2010 and he said he had no definite plans to renew it.

New York State began collecting garbage from the islands in 1955, a service that provided summer employment to hundreds of local youths.

“People told us we were the hardest working state employees they had ever seen, said Kam Hoopes, who worked on the barges in the 1970s

A petition has been circulated among the island campers calling upon the state to maintain the service

Approximately 700 signatures have been collected at the Glen Island store and sent to DEC, said Marie Marallo of Rutland, Vermont.

“This decision will be devastating to Lake George and the beautiful land and water,” said Marallo.

Marallo said she fears people will ignore the “carry in- carry out” policy and leave their garbage on the islands, or throw it into the lake.

“I was told that people have made the comments that they will just bring burlap bags, put the trash in them, weight them and then throw these into the lake,” said Marallo.

Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky said he would urge the DEC to reconsider adopting the new policy.

“The new policy is not lake-friendly,” he said. “It will lead to a lot of rubbish problems.”

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Wilderness on the Raquette River:Should Motorboats Be Banned?

Ah, the ideal Adirondack day: sunny, mild, few people, no bugs. These circumstances aligned the other day when I paddled from Axton Landing to Raquette Falls.

The six-mile trip up the Raquette River is one of the more popular flatwater paddles in the Adirondacks. (Click here for a description and photos.) Meandering upriver, you see lovely silver maples overhanging grassy banks, kingfishers darting across the water, common mergansers with their young in train, inlets that lead to hidden marshes. » Continue Reading.


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