LACONIA — The MS Mount Washington, Lake Winnipesaukee’s iconic excursion vessel, will be entering service later than usual this year, another instance of how COVID has disrupted the normal flow of business.
Traditionally, the 230-foot Mount Washington inaugurates its season on Mother’s Day, but the vessel’s operator is aiming to return it to service by the time the summer tourist season gets underway in earnest.
“We hope to have her back in service by the end of June,” Jared Maraio, director of sales and marketing for the Winnipesaukee Flagship Corp., said Monday.
The Mount remains tied up at Center Harbor, awaiting a hull inspection as well as the replacement of the boat’s two propellers.
The new props were due to be installed last year, but that job had to be postponed until this year when the contractor, located out of state, was unable to do the work when originally scheduled because of COVID, which consequently delayed the start of the Mount’s season, Maraio explained.
The Mount’s schedule for this summer will be announced when the company has a firm date when the maintenance work and necessary inspections will be completed, he said.
Meanwhile, the company’s newest excursion vessel, the Winnipesaukee Spirit, is being outfitted in Center Harbor in preparation for its inaugural cruise on June 5, Maraio said.
Tickets for the Spirit's cruises are already on sale. However, tickets for the Mount will not go on sale until her schedule is announced, Maraio explained.
The Winnipesaukee Spirit is rated to carry 99 passengers, and can accommodate 88 for dinner, Maraio said. The much-larger Mount Washington is rated to carry 1,000 passengers and can seat up to 500 for dinner.
Inquiries about summer cruises are running strong.
“People are generally interested in getting back out and enjoying life,” Maraio said.
Last summer the company followed the COVID restrictions which were imposed on restaurants, which included 6-foot distance between tables, and the requirement that all passengers wear masks, except when the they were at tables eating or drinking. He said the company is “still considering how to deal with restrictions” for this season in light of possible changes as the state begins to emerge from COVID.
At present the mail boat Sophie C is the only boat which is operating.
Work to prepare the Doris E — the second of the company’s two smaller excursion vessels — is expected to begin once the work on the Winnipesaukee Spirit and the Mount Washington is complete, Maraio said.