By Manfred Rieder
It is coming: The ice on the lake is almost all gone and the town of Newport is preparing for the upcoming sailing season. After years of no public lake transport, last year the steel ship Northern Star began daily lake cruises from the beautiful setting at the Gateway center in Newport harbor. Originally the vessel sailed lake Champlain but obviously there are numerous excursion vessels and ferries to compete with and captain Chris elected to bring his boat to Newport where he has pretty much a monopoly on the tourist trade. And a good thing it is too because thousands have enjoyed the cruised far into Canada which are run every day until late in fall. The ship is of elegant and traditional design and offers plenty of space on her open decks and even if it should rain, her spacious interior can be a cosy place to watch the placid waters of Memphremagog. The Northern Star is actually the first real passenger ship to sail from Newport since the famed "Lady of the Lake" excursion steamers last voyage in 1917. This famous side wheel steamer had operated from 1867 to 1917 and has become the logo of the City of Newport.
Just across the bay, on Farrant Point, Newport Marine Service is getting busy as well. The tarps are still on most of the boats that have wintered here but when we visited on Tuesday, there was signs of life with two owners busy at washing decks and scrubbing bottoms. Bog Kerr the friendly and knowledgeable owner of the marina for the past ten years was delighted to show his facility. The place is amazing - there is an atrium-like deck which is surrounded on all sides with covered docks, a rarity in marina facilities because it certainly allows people to stay on their boats and enjoy company or read a book if it is too rainy or windy on the water. The facility offers a full service repair shop, rents boats and has a waterfront fueling station. The main shop is full of new and used outboard engines and every imaginable gizmo today's boaters may wish to add to their arsenal.
Next to Newport Marine Service is another covered boat shed which is a dockominium which means that the boat owners also own the space they occupy and all the boats stores there are hoisted out of the water over winter so the owners do not have to pay extra for winter storage and it is a fairly simple task to lower them back into their natural element when the season starts. The rest of the dry stored vessels are all launched and hauled out at the same time when a hired crane crew shows up and does the work as the marina does not operate such equipment.
The same is done at the Newport Yacht Club which operates from the city dock where they get launched and hauled out. The Yacht Club rents docks from the city, other slips are available to individuals for seasonal rental. When we visited the city dock today, workers were repairing some loose planking on the deck and we were told that the floating docks, hauled out during winter, will be installed within the next week. The other local marina is at the East Side Restaurant and it will sprout its docks some time in May as well. So, all is being readied for an enjoyable season on the water and with so many things going on at the Newport waterfront this season from the Water Fest, yacht races, fireworks and open mike events on the esplanade, it looks like the locals and visitors can look forward to an enjoyable time until the dreaded cold returns in fall.