LOCKPORT – Lockport Locks and Erie Canal Cruises announced Tuesday that it has added a paddle-wheel boat to its fleet of craft used for rides through the Erie Canal locks.
The Lockview VI, as the paddle-wheeler is called, is the largest of the three boats the company owns, both in terms of size and passenger capacity.
Company owner Mike Murphy said the new boat is 75 feet long and 21 feet wide, and holds 150 people. The Lockview V, the company’s main workhorse boat, accommodates 125 passengers and is 16 feet wide by 65 feet long.
Murphy said he bought the paddle-wheeler in 2012 from Uncle Sam Boat Co. in Alexandria Bay, the leading tour boat company in the Thousand Islands region. He, his son and grandson piloted the vessel on a six-day trip across Lake Ontario and through the Oswego and Erie canals to reach Lockport.
Murphy said he paid about $100,000 for the boat, which was originally built in 1985 in Norfolk, Va., and spent about that much on renovating it.
“It took us a year to rebuild the whole thing,” Murphy said.
The wheelhouse atop the boat had to be lowered by about 12 feet to clear the bridges over the canal in the Lockport area. Also, the paddle-wheels at the rear couldn’t be seen by people on the inside deck, so the rear of the boat was opened up to allow for that.
The restrooms were moved as part of opening up the back of the craft, and a bar was added. The mahogany bar, Murphy said, was acquired from the refreshment facility at Hyde Park in Niagara Falls.
The Lockview VI is powered by two diesel engines that run independently of each other, each driving one of the tandem paddle wheels.
Murphy said the new boat needs 95 feet of canal to turn around. “When I turn it, one paddle’s going forward and the other’s in reverse,” he said. “All three boats I have, have different handling characteristics.”
Murphy, whose smallest boat is the 50-passenger Lockview IV, said all of his craft are stored during the off-season at Smith Boys Marina in North Tonawanda.
But while the two older boats are hoisted out of the water for the winter, that can’t happen with the paddle-wheeler because of the limitations of Smith Boys’ hoisting equipment.
“The boat’s one inch too wide to be lifted out of the water in the winter,” Murphy said.
Last year, while it was under renovation, the boat was kept in an area of the Niagara River at the marina that purportedly never freezes. Of course, with last winter’s long-lasting cold, the water would have frozen if it weren’t for a bubbler system that prevented ice from forming around the Lockview VI.
The paddle-wheeler will be available for special events and also will be used when unusually large crowds show up for the company’s ordinary daily runs, Murphy said.