'Better than a barrel of snakes' – Steamboat enthusiasts rally in Moultonborough


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Kristie LeGates blows the steam whistle of the “Phoenix” to a fellow steam boater on Wednesday afternoon while heading towards Lees Mill from 19 Mile Bay on Lake Winnipesaukee.  (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)

MOULTONBOROUGH — Years ago, David Thompson went to an antique boat rally in Laconia, and it led him to organize an annual steamboat rally in Moultonborough that today draws as many as 1,000 people on the weekend.
Thompson grew up around steamboats. His father and grandfather took care of lights and buoys, and they used a steamboat to navigate the lake.
“They’ve got pictures of me running around on some of the steamers my grandfather had when I was still in diapers,” he said.
While they later graduated to gasoline-powered boats, World War II forced them to return to steamboats because the gasoline was needed for the war effort.
“I had my first steamboat when I was 15,” Thompson recalled. “Throughout the Second World War, we used them for transportation over the lake, and a lot of times in the summer we’d come up by boat to visit my grandfather and stay at his house, and then steam home to Wolfeboro where my father worked for Goodhue-Hawkins.”
He recalled, “We were down to The Weirs when they had a little boat show one year, and I had about a 50-footer, and we went down. Afterward, we said, ‘Maybe we should do that ourselves, with strictly steamboats.’”
He said he approached Moultonborough town officials who granted permission to use the landing at Lees Mill.
“We started the meet 45 years ago, in 1972, and on it goes,” Thompson said. “It started out on a Sunday, then went to Saturday and Sunday, then Friday, Saturday, Sunday. For the last 30 years, we’ve been 10 days.”
Boats started arriving for this year’s Lees Mill Steamboat Rally last weekend, with about 38 of them there by mid-week. The event will run through this Sunday, when there will be a steamboat parade at 10 a.m.
“Most of the guys come in for the meet the first couple of days, and then stay until the meet is over,” Thompson said.
There are few scheduled activities, with the opening boat parade on the first Sunday and the second at the end, and a cruise to 19-Mile Bay on Wednesday.
“One of the things that makes this a success is there is no one telling someone they have to do something,” Thompson observed. “They just mill around, and a new guy will come in, and within a year, he’s part of the group.
“In all the years that we’ve done this, we’ve never had a person down there drunk,” Thompson said. “They just are so busy talking about steam and the boat and where they’ve been and what they’ve seen, they’re just so busy, it starts as soon as it’s daylight and goes until about 8 at night.”
He said the event is similar to a cruise night, where people gather to admire vintage automobiles.
“A lot of these guys have antique cars and tractors and other things,” Thompson said. “We have quite a few steam cars involved, and there’s a steam car down there today.”
He said that, through the years, the steamboat rally also has seen a Stanley Steamer (a steam-powered automobile manufactured between 1902 and 1924), and even a steam-powered ice cream maker.
The ice cream maker could only produce small quantities, and Thompson said word got out one year about it being there. “We had 100 people standing in line to eat two quarts of ice cream,” he recalled.
The Lees Mill Steamboat Rally attracts all types of boats, with paddlewheels, stern paddlewheels, and propeller boats.
“Most of the boats are kind of individual done,” Thompson said, explaining that it is possible to buy fiberglass hulls and add the engines and blowers to create unique steamboats. Otherwise, acquiring a steamboat is more difficult.
“Basically, what’s happened, we have a lot of older, retired people who own steamboats,” Thompson said. “When they pass away, someone else buys it.”
He said most steamboat owners keep their boats “until they are no longer able to climb in and out.”
Some younger people are getting interested in steamboats, usually people in their teens or early 20s, Thompson said.
“We have one who built his own boat,” he noted.
According to Thompson, the Lees Mill Steamboat Rally is among the largest in the country, and as far as he knows, it is the first. He said that, prior to his rally, there were a few people on the west coast who occasionally got together, but they started an annual rally after learning about his.
“Today there are meets every weekend somewhere, if you want to take your boat and trailer it,” Thompson said. “Steamboat rallies like this in New York usually get 10-15 boats, and there are rallies in Canada, Vermont, and Florida. But this is the first one I know of in America.”
Steamboat owners are a friendly group and he said if someone learns you were in their neighborhood without stopping in, they’ll be upset.
“And all have a good sense of humor,” he said, relating the story of a man who dropped his oil can overboard. Someone came up with SCUBA gear to retrieve it, and the next year, “about everyone brought him an oil can.”
“Buy a boat and join us, and you’ll have a hell of a good time. Better than a barrel of snakes,” he said.

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Joe Spadoni from Washington State lets off some steam from his 20’ Steam Launch with single cylinder engine before making the trek to 19 Mile Bay in Tuftonboro on Wednesday.  (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)


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Joe Spadoni from Washington State backs out of the dock at Lees Mill , Moultonboro in his 20’ Steam Launch with single cylinder engine loaded with wood fuel for the trek to 19 Mile Bay in Tuftonboro on Wednesday.  (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)

  • Written by Tom Caldwell
  • Category: Local News
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Sanbornton fire chief’s raise overstated

SANBORNTON — Fire Chief Paul Dexter received a $2,644.40 adjustment to his wages and benefits when selectmen implemented some of the recommendations from a wage study the town has undertaken.
A misplaced decimal point in calculating the adjustments led The Laconia Daily Sun to overstate Dexter’s raise in an article appearing in the Sept. 15 edition.
Town Administrator Katie Ambrose had provided the newspaper with employees’ old wages and a copy of the selectmen’s minutes for the meeting in which they made the wage adjustments. She also referenced a chart on the town’s website that listed recommended pay levels for all town employees.
In tallying the information, The Sun added the new wages, FICA/Medicaid, and retirement figures from the selectmen’s motions to arrive at the new level of compensation. It was in making those calculations that the error occurred.
In bringing the calculation errors to The Sun’s attention, Ambrose revealed another problem in using the numbers she had provided. Some of the positions already had planned pay increases, so the selectmen’s motions were to make the necessary additional budget adjustments to get to the pay level on the recommended wage matrix, and did not reflect the full amount of the raise.
After working with Ambrose to arrive at accurate figures — and using strictly the annual salaries because some of the benefit information was not readily available — the following list contains the annual salaries before and after the nine positions received wage adjustments.
Dexter, who was making $60,500 as fire chief in the community of 2,981 residents, received an additional $1,983.20 to bring his annual wage to $62,483.20.
The Public Works director did not receive additional money, with the wage remaining at $57,574.40.
The operations manager, who works beneath the director, received $977.60, bringing the annual wage of $41,433.60 to $42,411.20.
The summer day camp director received $437, increasing the annual wage from $22,807 to $23,244.
The town clerk/tax collector received $1,197, increasing the annual wage from $45,000 to $46,197.
The deputy town clerk/tax collector received $2,617.16, increasing the annual wage from $28,628.60 to $31,245.76.
The welfare officer received $5,526, increasing the annual wage from $20,500 to $26,026.
The health officer, who works on an hourly basis with no fixed hours, received a $.26 increase, for a new rate of $20.26 per hour.
Ambrose noted that selectmen on Sept. 13 changed the DPW director’s position and job description to highway department director.

  • Written by Tom Caldwell
  • Category: Local News
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Dicey tie-breaker – Haynes gets lucky roll, will face Baer in general

09 14 tie break dice roll Alan MacRae

Bree Henderson and Mark Haynes roll the dice under the watchful eye of City Councilor Dave Bownes at Laconia City Hall to break a tie for Ward 4 City Councilor from Tuesday’s special election. Haynes rolled a six and Henderson rolled a three yesterday. (Alan MacRae/for The Laconia Daily Sun)


LACONIA — With a roll of the dice Thursday, Mark Haynes defeated Breanna Henderson and won the right to advance to the Nov. 7 general election in the Ward 4 City Council race.

Haynes rolled a six and Henderson rolled a three in an unusual contest of chance that became necessary when they tied for second in Tuesday's primary, each receiving 80 votes.

Longtime incumbent Brenda Baer finished first with 130 votes and will face Haynes in the general election.

State law specifies that ties in such races must be “determined by lot,” and City Clerk Mary Reynolds decided on dice.

“It seemed like the most uncontroversial way to do it,” Reynolds said. “If you draw straws, who's to say I didn't give so-and-so an unfair advantage over this one or that one. Flipping a coin would be the same thing, someone could say you tipped it a certain way.

“Dice is under their own control.”

She wrote up a policy on Wednesday concerning tie votes, because she couldn't find any evidence one had ever occurred like this in the city's history. The candidates were entitled to a recount of the votes, but neither one wanted that.

In a City Hall conference room at 3 p.m., Reynolds gave Haynes and Henderson one die each and encouraged inspection.

Two boxes were placed on a table to ensure the dice didn't end up on the floor.

Reynolds counted down, “3, 2, 1, roll,” and each candidate flung a die into a box.
After the roll, Henderson quickly congratulated Haynes and shook his hand.

Before the roll, Haynes had said he was no dice player and really wasn't lucky. His six was the highest number he could have rolled.

Even though Henderson only got a three, she said she wasn't overly disappointed.

“It is what it is,” she said. “Actually I was going to celebrate either way. If I win, cool, trudge along, but if I lost it means I don't have to deal with the negativity and the letter writing to the editor for another two months and the stress of running a candidacy. Back to business as usual.”

Henderson owns the thriving Polished and Proper barber shop downtown.

Haynes, the Ward 4 moderator and the facilities manager of Laconia Clinic, said he took the same philosophical view as Henderson before the roll.

“I hate to tell you this, but I was thinking the same thing,” he said. “I'm not sure about the negativity, but it's a process.”

  • Written by Rick Green
  • Category: Local News
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