WOLFEBORO— "It's where she belongs. It's her home," said Doug Smith, as he passed the keys to the M/V Little Mount Washington — the "Mini Mount" — to the trustees of the New Hampshire Boat Museum yesterday.
A working replica of the M/S Mount Washington built to one-fifth scale, the Mini Mount was launched by its builder, the late Jack Miller of Wolfeboro, on July 4, 1995, and plied the waters of Lake Winnipesaukee until 2008. Smith acquired the ship in 2011 and, with help from Tim Lacey, Al Dirth, Dave Tarbox and Bob Baker, spent the last four years restoring it at Dave's Motorboat Shoppe in Gilford. "We were just the caretakers," Smith said, "trying to find it a permanent home."
Lisa Lutts, executive director of the museum, said the Mini Mount will become a centerpiece of the museum's permanent collection. She said that it will be displayed outdoors beneath a canopy on its trailer until the museum completes its new facility on Bay Street, when it will placed on a permanent footing — again outdoors — overlooking Back Bay.
"The boat and its history ties into the history of Lake Winnipesaukee, Wolfeboro and what is in the museum," Lutts said, "and it will be a wonderful teaching tool."
Rick Kourian, a trustee of the museum, said that accepting the donation of the Mini Mount "was a not a casual decision. It is obviously a large piece and we had to be assured that we could take care of it."
Miller, with assistance from Ed Aleska, built the Mini Mount working from the original blueprints of the M/S Mount Washington. The ship is 50 feet long with a 7-foot beam, and weighs 10 tons. Lacey said Aleska told him he and Miller devoted 20,000 hours — "one hour per pound" — for seven years to the project. The Mini Mount is powered by a pair of 350-cubic-inch, 235-horsepower Crusader Marine V-8 engines, which drive two 17-inch by 14-inch four-bladed propellers to a top speed of 15 knots, or 17 mph. A generator on board produces 7.5 kilowatts of electricity. The horn at the bow is tuned to the pitch of its larger counterpart and its registration number — NH0002MT — is just one digit higher than that of the M/S Mount Washington.
With the captain and pilot navigating from the wheelhouse, the Mini Mount had space for eight passengers and a bevy of some 300 Barbie dolls, purchased at yard sales by Miller's wife. Many of the Barbie dolls were seated in blue fiberglass chairs, replicas of the seating aboard the M/S Mount Washington, fashioned by Miller's son-in-law.
After the Mini Mount left the lake in 2008, it was acquired by Mount Washington Cruises with an eye to adding the replica to its fleet as a novelty. But, because the ship was built without certified drawings, it could not be insured for commercial use. After a spell under cover at Irwin Marine, the Mini Mount was stored alongside the M/S Mount Washington in Center Harbor and ultimately offered on Craigslist without a specific asking price.
Smith, a man of few but telling words, said, "It was tearing my heart out to see it falling apart. I saw it on the lake in its heyday, and thought it was a marvel of what Jack Miller created and just wanted to rescue it. I was astounded when I first saw it, and I still am."