LAKE GEORGE — Easing the steamship Minne-Ha-Ha out of its dock and into Lake George, John McDonald Jr. begins a running commentary to the more than 300 passengers over the ship’s public-address system.
“Good morning and welcome to the Minne-Ha-Ha,” the Ticonderoga resident says as he dodges parasailers and small boats and steers the huge paddlewheeler into the open water.
McDonald is not just captain of the Minne-Ha-Ha, one of three vessels operated by the Lake George Steamboat Co. — he’s also the superintendent of Ticonderoga Central School District.
This has been McDonald’s part-time summer job for 25 years, ever since former Ticonderoga High School guidance counselor William Connors told him about all the fun he was having as another summer captain for the Steamboat Co.
McDonald shares the helm of the Minne-Ha-Ha with retired Ticonderoga Central School teacher and curriculum coordinator Stephen Boyce, who’s been a captain for the steamship line for 32 years.
“I feel like the kid who grew up to drive the firetruck,” Boyce said. “It’s something different happening all the time. I like it a lot.”
Swinging the wheel to get closer to the shore and start a mini tour of some million-dollar camps, McDonald said he shares a love for the captain’s job.
“I wouldn’t have done it for so long if I didn’t like it. It’s a family company. They’re good people.”
Lake George Steamboat Co. was started by the Dow family in 1945, and they have three ships today: the Minne-Ha-Ha, Mohican and Lac du Saint Sacrement.
Built in 1969, the Minne-Ha-Ha is 134 feet long and has boilers capable of producing 6,000 pounds of steam and 200 horsepower.
Both McDonald and Boyce hold a state license called Masters of Public Passenger Vessels, as do all captains for Lake George Steamboat Co.