Revived Winnepesaukee 'Shakedown Cruise' Kicks Off Summer Tourism Season

May 3, 2018

Governor Chris Sununu enjoys a moment aboard the M/S Mount Washington.
Credit Todd Bookman/NHPR

The M/S Mount Washington is out of storage and ready for another season of tours on Lake Winnipesaukee.

It used to be tradition for the boat to make something of a warm-up journey before taking on passengers: it was called the Shakedown Cruise.

This year, at the request of Governor Chris Sununu, that tradition is back.

[Editor’s note: we highly recommend listening to this story.]

Years ago, Shakedown Cruise was an unofficial start to the season. It was a chance to field test the ship after its winter hibernation and make sure it was in good condition before taking on paying passengers.

“The original engines that were in here were put in in 1946, and so by the 1970s and 80s, the engines were getting older and older, and older, and they wanted to check those engines out,” explains Jim Morash, one of the Mount Washington’s captains.

Often with just the crew and perhaps some dignitaries on board, the boat would head out for a quick work out: the ship would do figure eights, stop and start, and check in on its ports.

In 2010, the Mount got new power in the form of Caterpillar-brand engines. They’re reliable--a little too reliable to require an annual Shakedown Cruise.

And so, the tradition faded out.

This year, though, Captain Paul Smith says they got a special request to bring it back in a slightly different form.

Captain Jim Morash, chief operating officer of Mt. Washington Cruises, inspecting the seas.
Credit Todd Bookman/NHPR

“We have to give all the credit to you for sort of bringing back this tradition of the shakedown cruise,” says Smith to the highest ranking official on board today, Governor Chris Sununu.

“Well, being a good politician, I will take all the credit,” replies Sununu.  

Sununu says a revived Shakedown Cruise is the perfect way to formally kick off the summer tourism season. Officials and industry leaders were happy to climb aboard.

“I always thought it was just a great way to come up and talk to people and a lot of elected officials at the time would come. Again, the idea was, let’s put some meat on the bone, bring it back, bring a lot of the Chambers together, bring Travel and Tourism, bring Parks, so everyone is taking off on the same page, not in terms of just what we have to offer, but how are we going to sell it to the rest of New England,” says Sununu.

Tourism is one of the state’s largest industries, with more than 3.4 million visitors expected this summer. They’re forecast to generate nearly $2 billion for the state’s economy.

That is, if it doesn’t rain too much.

“There is a small squall approaching,” says a Captain’s voice over the ship’s intercom. “So it may be a good time to go inside and enjoy some coffee and danish.”

Luckily, the M/S Mount Washington has plenty of indoor seating.