ROXBURY, NJ – The Lake Hopatcong tour boat Miss Lotta tour boat won’t be cruising into Roxbury’s Landing Channel on June 30 as part of its Third Annual Veteran’s Cruise, said its captain today.
The much-anticipated visit by the big boat to the channel at the southern tip of Lake Hopatcong was scuttled after its captain, Leon Moreau, sailed her into the channel on Monday and found the trip to be too dangerous. "I notified Roxbury yesterday," Moreau said. "Everybody, including myself, is disappointed. But safety trumps what we were trying to do."
People had been urged to come to Landing Gateway Park to wave and cheer when Miss Lotta, carrying veterans, paid the visit. It was to be the first time the Veteran’s Cruise came to Roxbury.
Roxbury resident Christine Houtz, who is helping organize the Veteran’s Cruise, said news that the boat will not come down the channel was disappointing, but she said she quickly came up with a “Plan B" that will bring the boat to another Roxbury site: The Shore Hills Country Club about a half-mile north.
"I brainstormed and picked up the phone and reached the president of the Shore Hills Country Club," Houtz said. "They said 'Yes.' They are going to give us that spot to welcome our vets and to cheer them on. There was no hesitation, which was wonderful."
Moreau said depth measurements of Landing Channel indicated the water would be deep enough to handle the Miss Lotta as long as the spring brought enough rain. The vessel, a refurbished, 57-foot skipperliner, needs about 60 inches of water, he said.
"Last November we went out and on a patio boat and checked the water depth," Moreau said. "It was ok. This Monday ... we took Miss Lotta down the channel, turned it around and took it back out. Some of the things we didn’t factor last year were how close we got to people's docks and we didn’t think much about boat traffic."
Too Close for Comfort
But in Monday's dry-run, Moreau realized the big boat was coming within 15 feet of some docks when taking the route plotted by those who know about submerged hazards, such as trees, that must be avoided. "There was not a wisp of wind on Monday," he noted. "I'm worried that, if we get stuck with a windy day for the Veteran's Cruise, it might be problematic to keep on course. And keeping on course is pretty important."
As for boat traffic, Moreau said there was only one boat in the channel on Monday. He said it's likely there will be a lot more on the day of the cruise. Given the size of Miss Lotta and the need for it to stay on the plotted route, other boats in the water would be a problem, Moreau said. "There's only room for us," he said. "Nobody else."
Moreau and Houtz hope something can be done before long to clear the channel of obstacles on the bottom that force Miss Lotta - and other big vessels - to stay on that narrow path. He said town officials agreed to discuss the problem. "There's obviously a commitment on the town's part to see what can be done to that channel to make for safe passage for boats like Miss Lotta," Moreau said.
One of the goals of ongoing plans for the so-called Landing Gateway is to allow for bigger boats, including lake taxis, to dock in Landing Gateway Park.
Moreau said the lake is due for its 5-year drawdown, a time when it will be easier for experts to ascertain what would be involved in cleaning up the channel.
Houtz said she's heard from many people living along the channel who saw Miss Lotta venture down the waterway Monday, the first time a big vessel has done so in a century. "My phone was blowing up," she said. "They were so excited. People were running down to their docks and taking pictures."
She said she knows those folks, and others who planned to come to Landing to cheer for the veterans, will still show their thanks by going to the Shore Hills Country Club with their flags and other tools of celebration.
The Veterans Tour will take place in two shifts. The Miss Lotta will depart at 9 a.m. with veterans from Jefferson and Hopatcong and at 11 a.m. with veterans from Mt. Arlington and Roxbury. Houtz can be reached at (973) 479-5881 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.