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No museum for tour boat

July 9, 2009
By HEATHER SACKETT, For the Enterprise

LAKE PLACID - Local nautical icon the Doris II is no more. Last month, the old wooden tour boat was destroyed and disposed of, according to owner Serge Lussi.

Workers from Harlow Excavating and Contracting crushed the boat and took the pieces to the construction and demolition site at the Clinton County landfill on June 10. Owner Norm Harlow said the process took about three hours and the debris filled two-and-a-half dump truck loads.

In April, the Doris II failed an inspection by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Marine Division due to structural problems. Those problems proved too costly to fix, and the Lussi family, which also owns the Lake Placid Marina, decided to replace the Doris II with two smaller pontoon tour boats. Harlow agreed that the Doris II was not in good condition.

Article Photos

The Doris II on Lake Placid in July 2007
(Enterprise file photo — Andy Bates)

"All of the lower ribs were totally rotted," he said. "They would have had to have been replaced."

The Doris II had been giving tours of Lake Placid since 1950. The Lussis said they have saved some relics from the boat - the drive shaft, the rudder and the propeller - that they will clean up and put on display at the marina.

The decision to dispose of the 58-year-old vessel was not an easy one for the Lussis.

"I was upset; my wife was upset," Art Lussi said. "My sister Katrina was married in the Doris. It was very traumatic for all of us. I tried very hard to find some people who could store it, but when they told me the practicalities of doing it, I realized there was no way."

Although they never discussed it with representatives from historical preservation organizations or other nonprofit groups, Serge Lussi, Art's father, said the family had looked into donating the boat to a museum or the Lake Placid Center for the Arts. But the 90-passenger boat that was built on the marina property and had only ever plied the waters of Lake Placid proved too large and cumbersome to transport. The boat was 80 feet long, 20 feet wide and was so tall that maneuvering around power lines would have been a problem.

"It sounds crazy, but maybe the only way you could do it would be to hire a helicopter," Art said. "You would have to disassemble it and put it back together. It could not go on a road."

Hallie Bond, curator of the boat exhibit at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake, agreed that storing the huge boat would have been impossible for the museum, even if the boat could have somehow gotten there.

"I certainly understand the difficulty in keeping these old wooden boats going," Bond said. "We don't have any place to put it under cover."

Still, Bond said it's a shame the Doris II couldn't have been saved. The boat marked the last days of local boat building in the Adirondacks. By the middle of the last century, gasoline-powered boats were being imported from elsewhere, Bond said.

"A locally built tour boat of that size, I can't think of too many around, so that's significant," she said. "It would have been nice to preserve it."

The Lussis say that although some camp owners are sad not to see the Doris II making its rounds every day, the new, smaller tour boats have some advantages over it. The two new boats, which hold just 17 and 24 passengers, are better, Serge said. The tour guide on the Doris II used a microphone hooked up to a sound system. Now, the captain can speak directly with the guests and answer questions more easily.

"The bad news is, the Doris went away," Serge said. "The good news is, the new boats are much more successful than the Doris ever was. Customers say it is a much more intimate experience."

The new boats are also much quieter than the Doris II's 350-horsepower inboard Chrysler engine.

"I live on Averyville Road, and when the wind was blowing from the north, I could hear the rumble of the Doris," Art said. "The new modern engines are outboard motors, but they are very efficient."

Still, for some the Doris II had a unique appeal that modern boats can't recreate.

"I think the experience of riding around on an historic boat on an historic lake is a little bit nicer," Bond said.

Serge said the new tour boats have not yet been named. If anyone would like to suggest a name, call marina manager Brian Bliss at 523-9704.



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