Newport CityCouncil Leases Dock Space For Moonlight Lady
Saturday, September 22, 2012
NEWPORT CITY -- The Newport City Council has created docking space for the Moonlight Lady, a cruise boat destined to ply the international waters of Lake Memphremagog.
The council agreed on Monday to lease space for the Lady at the rate offered by the boat's captain, Chris Johansen.
Johansen said he would like to pay the city 50 cents a passenger for each time the Lady goes out on a cruise. The city council approved of that price, Mayor Paul Monette said.
But the council didn't talk with Johansen about leasing the Gateway Center. Johansen told the council he did not need the center to run a cruise business, Monette said.
Johansen has said he is close to closing on a deal to purchase the Moonlight Lady from her current owner, Lake Champlain cruise line operator Michael Shea.
He wants to bring the Lady to Lake Memphremagog and offer cruises beginning next year that would cross the border into Quebec.
Johansen was the captain of the last boat that offered international cruises, the Princess.
The lady is a $1 million yacht which is U.S. Coast Guard certified to sail international waters. The Lady has been making international cruises on Lake Champlain.
Johansen said it will cost him and partners $800,000 to buy, move and retrofit the Lady to make her sea-worthy for next year. He has discussed plans with U.S. and Canadian border security officials and said that international cruises can be done here just as they are on Lake Champlain.
Johansen envisions chartered cruises on the 49-seat vessel around Lake Memphremagog.
The lack of Coast Guard certification has kept the Newport Belle, another large yacht on the lake, from becoming a tour boat that Newport City has enjoyed through most of its history.
Cruise ships sail from ports in Magog, Quebec, at the north end of Lake Memphremagog but aren't doing international cruises.
The cruises would be reserved in advance. The boat would not take on casual passengers.
Johansen captained the Newport Princess and another boat between 1996 and 2001. He has been working as captain on the Moonlight Lady and the Spirit of Ethan Allen, a 400-seat vessel, on Lake Champlain for Shea.
The council supports Johansen's plans to bring the Lady to Newport City because it would add to the local economy.
A cruise boat has been a part of the city's history, beginning with the most famous and largest boats on the lake -- The Lady of the Lake and The Anthemis, which sailed from 1917 to 1955.
There was no public cruising between 1956 and 1996, when the Memphremagog Navigation Company brought a paddle-wheel vessel called Newport's Princess here until 2000, when she was replaced by the Stardust Princess.
The Newport Belle owned by Bill and Nancy Cook was intended for public cruises but did not pass Coast Guard certification for international waters. She arrived in 2008 and is used for private outings.