MS Mount Washington

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MS Mount Washington at dock along with her smaller sister ship the MV Sophie C

The MS Mount Washington is the flagship vessel of the Winnipesaukee Flagship Corporation. Its home port is on Lake Winnipesaukee in Laconia, New Hampshire, in the United States. The ship makes several ports of call around the lake during her scenic cruises in the spring, summer and fall months. Ice-Out is declared when the Mount Washington can get to all of its ports of call.


Paddle steamer Mount Washington (the "Old Mount")

Original Mount Washington in c. 1920

The history of the MS Mount Washington dates back to 1872 when the original paddle steamer Mount Washington was launched from Alton Bay. The Mount was the largest of all the steamers on the lake at 187 feet (57 m) in length, with a beam of 49 feet (15 m). She was driven by a single cylinder steam engine of 450 HP (336 kW) that operated at approximately 26 RPM. Power was transferred from the vertical cylinder to the paddle wheel shaft by the walking beam, high above the upper deck, oscillating at the frequency of the paddle wheels.

She was built by the Boston and Maine Railroad Company with the intent of transporting cargo and passengers around the lake. By the late 1800s it was not uncommon for her to transport over 60,000 passengers in a single season. In the 1920s, with the rise of the automobile and declining train usage, the Boston and Maine Railroad Co. made the decision to sell the steamer to Captain Leander Lavallee. Captain Lavallee operated the Mount as a tourist attraction, still drawing crowds of over 60,000 a season.

The "Old Mount" graced Winnipesaukee for a total of 67 years before being destroyed on December 23, 1939, by fire. She was tied up at dock when a fire started at a nearby railway station. The fire spread down the dock and engulfed her at her home port. Efforts to cut the Mount loose were to no avail as it was a time of extremely low water and the hull was stuck fast in the mud of the lake bottom.

SS, MV and MS Mount Washington

Soon after, a local company was formed to build a new ship. Since Europe was already at war, obtaining steel was impossible. Instead, they purchased an old sidewheel vessel on Lake Champlain: the Chateaugay, a 203-foot (62 m), iron-hulled sidewheeler that was being used as a clubhouse for the Burlington yacht club. It was cut into sections and transported to Lake Winnipesaukee on rail cars. A new twin-screw vessel was designed for the hull being welded back together at Lakeport. Powered by two steam engines taken from another ocean-going yacht, the new Mount Washington made her maiden voyage on August 15, 1940.

Two years after her launch, the new Mount's engines were removed for use in a navy vessel during World War II. After the war, the Mount Washington returned to the water but with diesel engines, hence the "M/V" prefix designating "motor vessel." The ship was a success in the post-war tourist boom although she became a money-maker in the 1980s under the ownership of Scott Brackett.

In 1982, the Mount was cut open and extended with an additional 20-foot (6 m) hull section to add larger lounge and food service facilities. The larger size upped the ship's designation to M/S or "motor ship." More popular, the Mount makes one or two round-trips on the lake per day during the summer season, as well as numerous dinner dance cruises in the evenings.

In the first days of March 2010, the Mount was cut open, the unserviceable circa 1946 motors were removed (Enterprise DMG18 motors: 8cyl 615hp), and the ship was repowered with two 'green' Caterpillar motors, giving more power and economy to the ship.[1][2]

Notable crew over the years


Original Mount Washington leaving The Weirs in c. 1920
  • Augustus Wiggins was the first captain of the original steamer Mount Washington, in 1872. He was followed by Harry Wentworth. In 1908, Herbert A. Blackstone took command and remained in charge until 1921.
  • Captain Leander Lavallee (deceased): Captain Lavallee was the captain of the steamer Mount Washington from 1921-1932 and again from 1935-1939. He oversaw the creation of the new SS Mount Washington.
  • Captain Bryan Avery (deceased)
  • Captain John Pettengill (deceased); worked from 1964-2005
  • Captain Harry Welch, Sr. (retired)
  • Captain James Morash: Captain Morash is the current general manager of the Winnipesaukee Flagship Corporation (WFC) as well as a captain.
  • Captain Bruce Campbell: Behind Dr. Heald (see below), Captain Campbell is the longest-running crew member of the Mount. Captain Campbell has been with the Mount since 1969 when he started as a deckhand aboard the MV Sophie C.
  • Captain Paul Smith: Paul joined the Mount crew in 1986. He was a deckhand, deck officer, skipper and pilot before becoming a captain.
  • Captain Leo O'Connell: Captain O'Connell was promoted to captain in 2004 and is also safety director for WFC. Prior to that he held many positions, including skipper, deck officer and pilot. He is also a justice of the peace and performs many weddings on the lake.


  • Dr. Bruce Heald is the most senior crew member of the MV Mount Washington. Dr. Heald has been a purser aboard the Mount since 1964. He is the official historian for the Winnipesaukee Flagship Cooperation (WFC) fleet. In his years with WFC he has written several books on the history of the fleet as well as many others about Lake Winnipesaukee and New Hampshire. In 1994 the purser's office aboard the Mount was dedicated in his name for his 30 years of service and countless contributions to recording the history of the WFC fleet and Lake Winnipesaukee.
  • Monty the Mallard is the official cruise mascot.

Current operation

Seasonal cruises

The Mount cruises the waters of Winnipesaukee from late May through late October. At the height of summer she will embark on up to four cruises a day. The Mount has five ports of call: Meredith Bay, Center Harbor, Wolfeboro, Alton Bay, and her home port of Weirs Beach. At night the boat travels the lake with no stops at ports for a scenic dinner dance cruise.

Winter harbor

In the winter the Mount stays at its winter home at the port in Center Harbor. Bubblers in the water around the Mount keep the water from freezing and protect the boat from ice damage. There is also a marine railway at Center Harbor that can be used to pull the massive ship entirely from the water. The task of pulling the Mount from the lake is a large one and only undertaken when a major maintenance job requires it.

Sister ships

The MS Mount Washington has two smaller sister ships in the fleet. Both were constructed from spare boat parts from the US Navy following World War II.

MV Doris E

The Doris E makes daily scenic island cruises and stops in the port of Meredith. The Doris is 68 feet in length and has its own snack bar, drinks, and bathroom.

MV Sophie C

The Sophie C is 76 feet in length and began her career as a ship's tender for the United States Navy during the Second World War. Launched on V-J Day, she wasn't needed for the war effort, and was likewise sold to a private owner, who named her the "Sophie C" after his mother. The Sophie is the only floating post office in the continental United States, and is the fifth boat to deliver mail on the lake. It cruises daily except for Sunday, delivering the mail to island residents.


External links