Lee's Mills Steamboat Meet is nation's oldest and largest

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Janette Blazick of Tuftonboro sits aboard the Carrie Jean, 28-foot long steamboat which was built in California and is powered by Steeple Compound engine.

MOULTONBOROUGH — The annual Lee's Mills Steamboat Meet is both the largest and oldest in the country. Now in its 44th year, it began last weekend and runs through this weekend and there will be 50 or more steamboats participating.

It didn't start out as much back in 1972 when enthusiast David Thompson decided to hold a steamboat meet on Lake Winnipesaukee. Only four boats showed up.
But, over the years the meet has continued to grow in popularity and continues to attract a loyal following of steam boaters, many of whom return year after year.
Typical of those steam enthusiasts is Allen Blazick of Tuftonboro, who has been showing up ever since 1995 with the Carrie Jean, 28-foot long steamboat which was built in California around 1900 and is powered by a Steeple Compound engine.

Blazick bought the restored steamboat in SantaCruz, California, in 1993, not far from his summer home, and brought it to New Hampshire. He says that both the boat and the engine are unique, in that only 10 of the boats were made and only three of the engines of the same style that power the boat were ever made.

He said the steam which is produced goes into a high pressure cylinder, which is on the same connecting rod as a low pressure cylinder, and, after powering the drive shaft, the steam goes into a condenser beneath the keel where it is cooled and turned back into water. The water then goes back to the boiler, where it is reheated and repeats the process.

Blazick says he has always had a fascination with steam powered vehicles and it was inevitable that he and his wife, Janette, would end up with a steamboat. “When we were married her family had an 1899 steam-powered Locomobile and I had a 1909 Stanley Steamer, the same kind that Natalie Wood drove in The Great Race movie,” he says.

He says that noted car collector Jay Leno also has a 1909 Stanley Steamer in his collection. Blazick has an extensive collection of Stanley Steamers that he keeps at his home in Melvin Village. The collection was viewed by the public 10 years ago when he opened his garage during the 2006 Brass and Gas Tour, a national event featuring early 20th century classic cars.

Also at the meet are John and Nancy Echlin of Savannah, Georgia, who own a summer home in Holderness and were at the meet with their steamboat Liv-Slo.

“We just love it here. There are just so many friendly people,” said Nancy Echlin. She said that they raised their children in Connecticut and moved to Georgia when they retired in 1993 but return every summer to the Lakes Region and will keep their boat in the water until the end of September, when they head south again.

Another long-time visitor at the steamboat meet is Charles Roth of Glen Gardner, New Jersey, who has been showing up for about 20 years and whose latest boat, the Rachel Z, which he built himself six years ago, was back at the show again this year.

A former product design engineer, Roth said two years ago that he started out building model steamboats before going on to something bigger. The Rachel Z is his fourth boat and he says that when he first brought it to the meet it had a boiler and a steam engine, but no plumbing.
''There was plenty of help around and we got it up and running within a few days,'' says Roth.
The meet will run through Sunday and will feature a big parade of steamboats on the lake Sunday morning at 10 a.m.
Spectators are welcome and can get a chance to talk with the boat owners and maybe even get a ride. Visitors are asked to park their cars well off the road in order to allow access for the steamboats, which are trailered in, as well as for emergency vehicles.
Lee's Mills can be reached from either Rte. 25 or Rte. 109 by following signs to the Loon Center, which is a short distance away from the public docks at Lee's Mills.

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The 44th annual Lee's Mills Steamboat Meet is both the largest and oldest in the country. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

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Threat: blow up PD - Man held on $100,000, also said he’d cut ex-wife


LACONIA — A Bay Street man is being held on $100,000 cash only after threatening to blow up the Laconia Police Department early Thursday morning.

09-16 Warren Bears

Police said Warren Bears, 45, while at his home at 54A Bay St., also threatened to slice his ex-wife's throat, as well as threatened to blow up the house, in which a different man and a young child also live.

Affidavits obtained from the Belknap County Superior Court said police were notified of the planned attack by Bears' ex-wife who called them at 2:05 a.m. to report a disturbance.

When police arrived on Bay Street, the saw two men outside the home. One was standing in the driveway and the second one was sitting in the driver's seat of a car and had his young child in the back seat.

Bears was the man standing outside the car and he surrendered as soon as police told him to. The man in the car, "J.E.," was ordered to get out.

J.E. told police that during the argument Bears was having with his ex-wife, he heard Bears make the threats toward Bears' ex-wife that also included blowing up the house. He said he had returned back inside the house to get his child and was trying to get both of them to safety.

Police found several knives, including a machete and a scythe, a propane tank and a beer bottle filled with gasoline with a fixed wick.

"(The threat) had a lot of potential," said Capt. Matt Canfield who said that Bears' plan was to release the valve on a propane tank in the car and light a Molotov cocktail as he was driving into the building.

Canfield said that because police were able to get officers to Bay Street, which is less than a quarter of a mile away from the police station, before Bears could leave, there was no reason to evacuate the station.

Canfield added that even though there are cement posts in front of the station, it was nonetheless a very dangerous threat.

Bears faces four separate criminal charges including unlawful use of explosives for his threats to J.E. and his child; being a felon in possession of a deadly weapon, which is the machete; using a Molotov cocktail; and felony level domestic violence criminal threatening for his threats to his ex-wife.

He entered a not guilty plea Thursday afternoon and reserved his right for a bail hearing.

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Tilton selectmen sue their own zoning board


TILTON — Tilton is suing itself over the handling of a variance for a repair shop.

The Board Selectmen filed a petition in the Belknap County Superior Court to overturn a decision made by the Zoning Board of Adjustments to allow by variance an automotive repair shop along Laconia Road.

Selectmen say the ZBA didn't deliberate or make any findings regarding the five separate criteria required by state law to give Jeremy Perkins a variance, according to its minutes of June 21.

Attorney Paul Fitzgerald said there is "nothing in the motion ... that reflects a discussion of public interest, the spirit of the ordinance, substantial justice or impact on values."

Rather, he said the discussion centered on the hardship clause and he claims the minutes reflect that the ZBA "itself struggled to supply a basis for the hardship" rather than have the applicant make his own hardship argument, which is what the selectboard said should have happened.

The suit says that, according to the minutes, one ZBA member stated it was hard to come up with a hardship and if the applicant had been the actual property owner, "There would be no hardship of any kind."

Selectmen contend that a hardship cannot be ownership alone but must be directly related to the "unique attributes" of the property itself.

Fitzgerald said having two automotive repair companies nearby doesn't constitute a hardship for a new applicant.

He notes the two existing shops were "grandfathered," as they were permitted before the town ordinance changed to disallow that activity in that zone.

He said the hardship that the ZBA created on its own was that the location of the building is such that it is not easily visible from the road, not something that could be attributable to the property itself.

Selectmen say there are other allowable commercial business existing in that zone, which indicates the property can be used for other enterprises.

The pleading also notes that at some point the minutes of the June 16 ZBA meeting were altered or amended, as is reflected in the minutes of the Aug. 16 ZBA minutes. Selectmen say the alterations were an "obvious attempt to bolster the record in the matter in support of an unsustainable grant of a variance."

Selectmen contend that even with the alterations, the variance is still not supported by law.

The town's ZBA has not responding to the pleading.


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