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Saturday, October 14th was the last day to experience Mooshead Lake aboard the Historic Steamboat Katahdin.
Saturday, October 14th was the last day to experience Mooshead Lake aboard the Historic Steamboat Katahdin.

From the December 27, 2023 Edition of the Moosehead Lakeshore Journal

By Emily Patrick

Though downtown Greenville has plenty of character all on its own, one of its features is so iconic many of us tend to take it for granted: the steamship Katahdin. When the ship is out cruising Moosehead Lake, East Cove looks almost naked, so it’s hard not to notice that the Port side of our Lady of the Lake has been under wraps recently. I sat down with Liz McKeil, Executive Director of the Moosehead Marine Museum, to find out just what was happening under all that plastic. 

Turns out, the Port side deck repair is just Phase II of a massive project that started in 2017 to restore the ship’s deck and keep her sailing for years to come. Because the Katahdin is a historic vessel and the Katahdin’s crew and caretakers’ goal is to maintain her integrity as such, the wooden body of the ship requires regular maintenance and replacement from time to time. Before 2017, it had been about 25 years since any such work had been done to the ship.

In 2017, the bow of the boat was repaired. In 2018, however, a fire on board required a complete engine and electrical system replacement and drained the nonprofit’s “rainy day” fund. Due to the fire and the subsequent need to raise a substantial amount of money to “Keep Katahdin Cruising,” followed by the Covid-19 pandemic, Phase II is just now getting underway. The skilled team from Bristol Marine in Boothbay, who are no strangers to restoring historic vessels like the Kate, will return in the Spring of 2024 to complete the second phase of this massive- but necessary- undertaking.

What’s next? The remaining work to be done includes the starboard deck, the green rail and hauling the Kate out of the water for painting and repairs. Though the Moosehead Marine Museum has raised a million dollars already, they’re only about halfway to their $2 million goal.

The Katahdin has been cruising Moosehead since 1914 almost continuously. I feel it is our duty as citizens of Moosehead to make sure she keeps on cruising! The fundraising campaign is expected to go “public” in 2024 after the congressional spending budget is (hopefully!) passed. Senators Collins and King have requested about half a million of the 2024 congressional spending budget on behalf of our beloved boat, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Keep an eye and an ear out later this year for ways that you can help!

As a nonprofit, the Moosehead Marine Museum is always looking for volunteers. If you haven’t taken a cruise on the Katahdin or visited the Marine Museum (or haven’t in a while), I suggest you do. People come from all over the country to take a ride on the iconic vessel, and the Kate contributes an estimated $1.5 million to our local economy each year. The boat is an integral part not only of our local economy, but the spirit of the town and Moosehead itself. 

Luckily, the Kate (or as she’s otherwise affectionately known, Moosehead’s Cinderella), has a loving group of stewards who are doing everything they can to ensure locals and visitors alike can enjoy her splendor and reap her benefits for many years to come. In particular, Liz McKeil’s affection for the historic vessel was apparent throughout our conversation. 

She recalls first being dragged onto the boat “kicking and screaming” as a teenager by her father, former board member and Executive Director of the Moosehead Marine Museum Duke McKeil, for a summer of volunteer work. That experience clearly spurred a lifelong love and dedication to the vessel. Liz’s dream is to complete the repairs to the Kate in the next 5-10 years so she can hand over a safe and reliable vessel to the next Director and retire to the galley. Let’s do what we can as a community to help Liz and the Katahdin fulfill this dream. When we take up a cause as a community, we all know there’s nothing we can’t achieve. 

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