Dead River Oil Co. gives refrigerated truck to N.H. Food Bank

LACONIA — The Dead River Company, the largest home heating service in northern New England, yesterday enriched its longstanding partnership with the New Hampshire Food Bank by donating a new refrigerated box truck to the charity, which hosted a mobile food pantry at the Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region.

Mel Gosselin, executive director of of the N.H. Food Bank, said that the partnership between the company and the charity stemmed from the two being "sort of in the same business — keeping families together, fed and warm." Together they have distributed more than 700,000 pounds of food to the one in nine residents of New Hampshire who wonder where there next meal will come from.

"Our employees are in peoples' homes every day," said Deanna Sherman, vice-president of Dead River Company, "and they see the needs first-hand. We're humbled to be helping you here today."

"And the truck has food in it," added Gosselin.

Sherman said that when Gosselin was asked how the company could help, she answered that the charity needed a truck to deliver food to the more than 418 food pantries, soup kitchens, emergency shelters, day care centers, after school programs and senior programs it serves throughout the state. In 2014 the N.H. Food Bank distributed 11 million pounds of food — the equivalent of 9,166,666 meals — to meet the needs of more than 143,000 residents, many of them children. After increasing its distribution by 30 percent last year, Gosselin said the NH Food Bank aims to increase its distribution another 10 percent, to more than 12 million pounds, this year.

Gosselin said that the 26-foot truck, with capacity for 10,000 pounds of foodstuffs, will replace an aging vehicle, sparing the charity costly repairs. The N.H. Food Bank, which operates without state or federal funding, operates a fleet of four distribution vehicles.

Mayor Ed Engler noted that it was appropriate the partners chose Laconia, where the Got Lunch program, which has since spread to more than a dozen communities, originated. He noted that the number of students in the city schools receiving free and reduced lunch has doubled in the last decade to represent nearly two-thirds of the total enrollment. Stressing that "we appreciate all the work you do," he said "it's not enough to distribute the food. There are way too many hungry people and people living below the poverty line," he continued. "We need to stop and think about we can do to reduce the need."

After bikers brawl in Texas, national media looks to Laconia

LACONIA — With the 91st running of Laconia Motorcycle Week, the oldest motorcycle rally in the country, just three weeks away, the brawl among motorcycle gangs that left nine bikers dead, 18 wounded and 177 arrested in Waco, Texas last weekend, sent national and regional media scurrying to Laconia.

Charlie St. Clair, executive director of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association, said he received a half-dozen calls from wire services, newspapers and television and radio stations all asking if he feared an outbreak of violence could disrupt the rally. He said that he explained that he is always concerned for the safety of rallygoers, but as always "my biggest worry is the weather. It's always the weather," he stressed.

Captain Bill Clary of the Police Department said that he, Chief Chris Adams and Captain Matt Canfield had all fielded calls from local, regional and national media. But, he was quick to distinguish the situation in Texas from the rally in Laconia. In Texas, violence erupted when a meeting of a confederation of so called "1 percenters" motorcycle clubs, led by the Bandidos, was interrupted by a rival gang, the Cossacks. Laconia Motorcycle Week, like rallies in Daytona, Florida and Sturgis, South Dakota, is a rally that draws motorcycle enthusiasts from across the county, not an event sponsored or organized by a motorcycle club likely to invite confrontation with rivals.

At the same time, Clary acknowledged that state and local law enforcement agencies regularly monitor "intelligence" about rival motorcycle clubs in the region in order to foresee and forestall confrontations between rivals. "We are always looking for this kind of thing," he said, "but we have nothing that would lead us to police the event any differently than we have in the past."

The Hells Angels indirectly own property at the Weirs and twice in the last decade have hosted their World Run (convention) in Laconia without incident. Over a decade ago law enforcement agencies learned that members of The Outlaws, rivals of the Hells Angels, would ride to The Weirs to show up the Angles them during the rally. They were in Alton at one point, where they lunched at Shibley at the Pier, and then turned back to Maine. .

"It's been a media feeding frenzy," said St. Clair, "all because we're the next rally. With so many public safety people on hand, Laconia is no place to cause trouble."

Open Water: Lakes Region marinas ready to show boaters the latest & greatest

LACONIA — The boating season has begun and with it marine dealers are offering a fresh array of boats and motors to tempt enthusiasts into upgrading and repowering the fleet that will ply the waters of the Lakes Region throughout the summer.

At Fay's Boat Yard in Gilford mariners can chose between the power of a jet engine or a stiff breeze. "They look just like a regular boat," sales manager Sean Mulligan said of the newest Vortex vessels by Chaparral, noting that at first glance most customers do not realize they are jet powered. Three models are available, ranging from $35,000 to $60,000. The 20-foot boat is driven by a single supercharged 200 hp Rotax power plant while the 22-foot and 24-foot models offer a choice of either twin 200 hp or 250 hp engines. Mulligan said all three "provide instant throttle response and pin-point accuracy on demanding turns.

New at Fay's, the largest sailboat dealer on Lake Winnipesaukee, the J/70 Speedster is a spirited entry in the fastest keelboat class ever granted international status by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF). With a 22-foot long waterline and carbon mast and boom, the superior performance and stability of the j/70 lends it character of a much larger boat before the wind.

At Irwin Marine in Laconia, Tara Galligan can hardly take her eyes off the new Sea Ray 350 SLX. "It's the most beautiful boat I've ever seen. The lines on it, the craftsmanship, it's a beautiful, beautiful boat, she said. The twin-engined, 34.5-foot boat seats 18 and comes loaded with everything its passengers could want on a day on the lake. "It's a good size boat, it's got everything, every bell, whistle you could think of," she remarked.

Pontoons preside at Trexler's Marina in Moultonborough, said Scott Trexler, the marina's general manager. Pontoon boats continue to gain in popularity despite a stigma from early pontoon designs. It used to be, Trexler said, that pontoon boats relied on two small pontoons for buoyancy. The bow of the boats would swamp if passengers didn't distribute themselves evenly and the boats couldn't handle powerful outboards.

"These aren't your grandfather's pontoon boats," Texler said about the vessels currently on the market. Modern versions use larger pontoons, often three of them, for excellent flotation and stability on the water. In fact, Trexler said the pontoons he's selling now have better on-the-water manners than conventional v-hulled boats, especially in choppy and rough waters. And, the large platform typical of pontoon boat design makes for great utility.

The power deficit is gone, too. Some of the Crest boats in his inventory come with a 250-horsepower Suzuki outboard, more than enough power to pull a waterskier or tube. "They're a lot sportier, more nimble on the water," he said, than people who haven't been in a modern pontoon boat would imagine.

Personal watercraft — jet skis — are a popular option for boaters with tight budgts. Brian Whalley of HK Powersports in Laconia said that this year SEA-Soo has introduced the Spark, an entry level model with a price tag of just $5,499. At the same time, Yamaha has improved the handling of its line of personal watercraft by offering a dual throttle control on the port side, which enables drivers to shift into reverse without taking a hand off the controls. "All our machines are four-stroke, which means that they're clean, reliable and quiet," Whalley said.

At Thurston's Marina at Weirs Beach, Mark Thurston touted the second generation of Evinrude E-Tec G2 two stroke outboard engines. Introduced last September, he said that the engines are 15 percent more fuel efficient, have 20 percent more torque and dispel 75 percent less emissions than conventional outboard motors while using 44 percent less fuel and 50 percent less oil. "This is a very high tech piece of machinery," he said.

Thurston said that the E-Tec G2 will run for three years or 300 hours before requiring its first scheduled maintenance. Without valves, timing belts or camshafts, he noted, "they're simple and cheaper to live with and the only thing cleaner than an E-Tec is a sailboat." Thurston acknowledged the E-Tec G2 is more expensive than competitive products, but stressed that lower maintenance and service costs soon offset the difference.

Next door, at Channel Marine, sales manager Jay St. Gelais touts the Yamaha four-stroke outboard motors the marina has carried for several years. "It's quiet and dependable," he said, noting that the Yamaha engines are well-suited to pontoon boats, including the full range of Bennington models stocked by the marina. He said that the marina also offers the Black Diamond edition of the Cruiser Sport Service 328 Bow Rider, which earned boat of the year honors in 2013.

Whether jet powered, wind blown, or propeller driven as well as rowed or paddled, boats of all kinds, like migrating birds, will return to the lakes for the summer.