Amazing Neighbors

September 3, 2013

School chief pilots steamship



After he was named school superintendent in 2000, McDonald cut back on his steamboat job, but he’s recently started doing it again.

“It’s nice to keep in touch,” he said. “I work here two days a week; when I was a teacher, I worked four days on and four off.”


The Minne-Ha-Ha runs seven trips a day on Lake George, with a moonlight cruise sometimes added.

During their stints as captain, McDonald and Boyce have to be not just the pilots, but tour guides, entertainers and operators of the ship’s steam calliope that’s programmed to belt out tunes.

At one point, McDonald directs passengers to look at the shoreline, where someone has erected a 7-foot-tall model of the Statute of Liberty.

“You can see it’s not as large as you’d think when you get this close,” he says, pretending the replica is the real thing.

Operating a huge passenger steamship on one of the busiest lakes in the country is no small task.

“I remember in 1981, my first year here, I came in, hit the dock and took a chip out of the wood on the side of the pier,” Boyce said.

“The ship’s engineer painted ‘welcome to the club’ and my name on it and gave it to me. I still have it.”

McDonald takes the microphone one more time as the massive steamboat approaches its berth in Lake George village.

“In just a few minutes, we’ll be docking at the Steel Pier,” he tells passengers. “Please take a seat.”

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