MOULTONBOROUGH — The 42nd annual Lee's Mills Steamboat Meet is both the largest and oldest in the country and steamboats from as far away as Maryland, Virginia, Ohio and Canada have already arrived already for the annual meet, which runs through this weekend and will see 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 Charles Roth of Glen Gardner, New Jersey, who has been showing up for about 20 years and who showed up this year with his latest boat, the Rachel Z , which he built himself four years ago, building both the hull and the boiler.
Roth, now 81, refers to himself as a steamboat aficionado, and says that steam boating is akin to a disease.
A former product design engineer, Roth says 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.
Another boat owner, Al Dunlop of Lake George, New York, says that he first brought his steamer Aurora Borealis to the meet in 1997 and that it made its first run under power on Winnipesaukee.
''I had made the whole thing, the hull, the bat itself and used a casting set to make the engine.'' says Dunlop, who recalls that his boat had four plastic lawn chairs for seats which were set atop plywood floors that spanned the deck area.
Like many of those bringing their boats to the meet, Dunlop has an engineering background, having worked at Bell Labs for 25 years before retiring in 2001.
Among the regulars at the meet is David Thorpe of Meredith, whose 25-foot fantail steamboat "The Wicwas" was first launched in September of 2002.
Thorpe is both a mechanical engineer and electrical engineer with decades of experience in high tech manufacturing. He not only machined the original engine for his steamboat from metal castings, but also built a second engine himself, which now powers the vessel.
Thorpe says that the hull, engine and deck were complete when he first launched the boat, but the boat lacked seating and canopy when he showed up at his first meet.
Over the next three years he put those elements in place and a few years ago added a Windermere Kettle, a popular item with English steam boaters of the late 19th century which hold a few quarts of water and which has an internal coil through which steam is passed, bringing the water rapidly to a boil.
Thorpe and his wife, Marge, are again hosting visitors from England aboard the Wicwas, John and Brenda Win from Abingdon on Thames, the home of the MG Motor Car company.
Winn, who has attended the Lee's Mills event about a half dozen times, is the head of the Steam Boat Association of Great Britain, and says that Thorpe is the go-to-guy when it comes to steamboats. ''His boat is technically superb. He understands steam,'' says Winn.
Winn said that English steamboating's most popular spots are along the Thames River and at Lake Windermere in England's Lake District.
He noted that Thorpe's engine has different sized pistons for low pressure and high pressure steam movement and that one of his adaptions to his system has proved so popular that 14 other boaters are now using the same valve.
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.
Last Updated on Friday, 12 September 2014 02:34
ALTON, BARNSTEAD & GILMANTON — Ray Howard of Alton topped Elaine Swinford of Barnstead in Tuesday's Republican primary election for the one seat representing Belknap District 8, representing Alton, Barnstead and Gilford, 819 votes to 641 votes.
With no Democrat is running for the seat, Howard will face Peter Bolster, a former Republican representative turned independent candidate, in the general election on November 4.
Last Updated on Thursday, 11 September 2014 01:41
SANBORNTON & TILTON — Brian Gallagher of Sanbornton topped the poll in Tuesday's Republican primary election for the two seats in the New Hampshire House of Representatives in Bellknap District 4 with 441 votes. He will be joined on the general election ballot in November by Dennis Fields, also of Sanbornton who came second with 335 votes in his bid for a 15th term in the House. Richard Brothers of Sanbornton ran third and out of the money with 264 votes.
Gallagher and Fields will face Democrats Ian Raymond of Sanbornton, who is seeking a second term in the House, and Jane Alden of Tilton in the general election on November 4.
Last Updated on Thursday, 11 September 2014 01:38
LACONIA — The Belknap County Jail Planning Committee has set a goal of coming up with a ''right-sized'' new county jail after having been advised by consultant Ken Ricci of Ricci Greene that it needs to take steps to break the logjam around the jail project.
Ricci said that the $25 million price which was recently suggested as the upper number which the City of Laconia could buy into without threaterning the city's tax cap could be an acceptable number. Laconia taxpayers will pay about 20 percent of the cost of any project and hikes in county taxes are included under their bottom line cap.
Ricci made that comment in reaction to a statement made at last night's meeting by committee member Alida Millham of Gilford, a former chairperson of the Belknap County Convention, who said that it appears that everyone agrees that a new jail is needed and that the city had put a $25 million number on what it could afford.
''Perhaps we should start with what is viable,'' said Millham.
''The first step is leaving behind the $42 million price tag and coming up with a plan that works for law enforcement and the taxpayers. Call it the right sized plan,'' said Ricci, who said the $42 million was the number his firm reached after putting together a conceptual plan but it was never his firm's recommendation as the only option available. ''We said that if you do x,y and z this is what it will cost,''
He suggested that, given recent numbers which show a decline in the jail's inmate population, one option might be to drop the number of inmate beds to as low as 100 while building a freestanding community corrections facility with 40 beds.
The original plan called for 180 beds, one-third of which would be for community corrections.
He said that the committee should look at what $25 million would buy in terms of a new facility as one of the options it would want to consider.
''Only build as much as you need and leave room for expansion,'' said Ricci, who said that given the condition of the current facility there is no question that a new jail is needed,
He said that a separate free standing community corrections facility could even be built ''right out on the front lawn'' of the Belknap County Complex.
Belknap County Corrections Superintendent Dan Ward said that while the inmate population is currently around 100, that it could spike again in the near future and that he still thought that the plan which included the community corrections facility as part of the jail was best from a program standpoint.
Ricci and Millham were both critical of comparisons made between Belknap County and Wilkes County, North Carolina, where a jail for over 200 inmates is purportedly being built for $10.63 million.
''It's just a box with beds, not a jail,'' said Ricci, while Millham said that her research had shown that the facility is just one of five sections of a county corrections complex and not a complete jail.
County Commissioner John Thomas said that one of his concerns is that the current county jail will not meet new federal standards and said that is important that a new facility meet those standards and maintained that those who are floating the idea that a fix for the current facility can be achieved for $2 million are just plain wrong.
State Rep. Dennis Fields (R-Sanbornton) said that people with a political agenda aimed at cutting county government spending "latched on to the $42 million number'' and used it for their own political ends. ''I never thought the $42 million was the real number it would cost. I always thought the projections would change,'' said Fields.
The committee plans to meet again next Tuesday at 6 p.m. to consider modifications to the jail plan in light of new information developed since the jail planning process started over four years ago.
Last Updated on Thursday, 11 September 2014 01:35
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