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Minne Ha Ha History

The steam calliope on her top deck plays merrily, powered by steam from the MINNE-HA-HA's own boiler. Built in 1969 on Lake George, the MINNE-HA-HA is an authentic steamboat whose engine room is glass-enclosed so passengers can actually see the engine working. The whistle blows. The bright red paddle wheel dips into the crystal clear waters of Lake George. All aboard!

In 1968, the American public was moving at a quicker tempo than ever before. Vacationers, especially those with children, expressed interest in shorter trips, but the Steamboat Company's existing boats, the Mohican and Ticonderoga, could not be diverted to hourly runs. A third ship was needed. Company President Wilbur Dow believed that the new vessel should be an attraction in itself and should employ steam propulsion. Logically, a steamer might follow the side-wheel tradition of the old lake boats. But the proposed boat was to be roughly 100-feet in length, and a side wheeler so short would appear ungainly. Thus plans were set in motion to construct a sternwheel steamer in the mold of the Mississippi Riverboats. Due to the difficulty of bringing a ship overland into the lake, it was decided that the Company would undertake the construction using its own men and facilities.

Great care went into the planning of the new ship. The hull was designed by the H.M. Tiedemann Co. of New York City, after considerable discussion with Captain Frederick Way, the famous riverboat authority of Swinkley, PA. The first hull plates were laid on the dry dock at Baldwin on October 2, 1968 and construction proceeded during the fall under the supervision of James A. Marvel, the marine superintendent. On December 6, 1968the hull was launched and towed to Lake George Village by the Mohican. Work on the superstructure continued into the spring of 1969.

The Minne's hull being prepared to be launched on December 6, 1968

 

Diligent search and extensive advertising in marine periodicals throughout the Untied States failed to turn up any existing horizontal engines that would be suitable to propel a sternwheeler in the traditional way in which these vehicles were driven, It became necessary to engage the services of Frederick H. Semple of Saint Louis, MO, who designed and constructed both the engines and the 12-foot diameter paddlewheel. Specifications called for a boiler producing 6,000 pounds of steam per hour, which in turn would produce a little more than over 200 horsepower, ample for the main engines and auxiliaries. The boiler was manufactured by the international Boiler Works of East Stroudsburg, PA. Before shipment, the entire boiler was sheathed in stainless steel. The engine room, with auxiliaries, is in a sunken area three feet below the main deck aft. The area is surrounded by glass through which passengers may watch the equipment operate and the engineer respond to bell signals from the pilot house. These bells were removed from an old Hudson River sidewheeler built about 1910.

On July 30 1969, to the harmonies of a riverboat jazz band, Mrs. Ruth Dow swung a bottle of champagne against the ship’s jackstaff and christened her the Minne-Ha-Ha in keeping with the tradition of perpetuating the old steamer names. Minne-Ha-Ha means "laughing waters" and was the name given to the wife of the famous Indian chief, Hiawatha. On August 1, the Minne began daily service with seven popular hourly trips each day.

The maiden voyage celebration for the Minne Ha Ha on July 30, 1969

The Minne sailing around the lake in 1970

The Minne Ha Ha carried people along the southern basin of Lake George faithfully for 26 years before a change was needed to be made. In the later 1990's it was apparent that the Minne Ha Ha needed to be changed, her hour long trip was really gaining in popularity and the numbers riding her reflected that. Something would have to be done in order to accommodate the growing number of people wanting to ride her trip. In 1996 it was decided that the Minne would be lengthened by 34 feet as well as a couple other changes to her super structure. On September 10, 1997 the Minne Ha Ha was dry docked and then cut exactly in half and had her 2 halves separated by 34 feet. Then the crews started to add deck plates and other various parts in the center to connect the two halves. The crews also reshaped the bow of the Minne to make it more pointed and hydrodynamic. Along with the changes to the bow the crew also installed bow and stern thrusters (to allow greater maneuverability) and a single propeller in front of her paddlewheel (this was just for an emergency in case the ship's boiler lost steam pressure underway or while docking. She is still soley powered by steam during her trip). After all of this the Minnewas launched on December21, 1997 and towed down to the Steel Pier in LakeGeorge Village. Here she had her superstructure added as well as other changes completed (i.e. handicappedelevator from her first deck to her second deck).In May of 1998 she was ready for carrying passengers once again, ready to accommodate all of them and their needs.

 

In May of 2017, the Minne-Ha-Ha will enter her forty-eighth consecutive year in service. Her popularity, in particular with families and young children, has not diminished over the years. Her one-hour cruises, fully narrated and close along the lake’s shoreline, are certainly the most pleasant and interesting manner of understanding and enjoying summer activities on "The Queen of American Lakes."

 


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