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Celebrate the Grand Lady of Moosehead Lake – the SS Katahdin

The Kate rests in her berth at East Cove in Greenville on a soft summer evening.
The Kate rests in her berth at East Cove in Greenville on a soft summer evening.
Posted July 25, 2014, at 10:07 a.m.

By Shelagh Talbot

GREENVILLE— Come celebrate the 100th birthday of a grand old lady – a steamship nicknamed the Kate in Greenville. This venerable craft is officially known as the Katahdin and she sails the waters of Moosehead Lake every summer. Her birthday celebration takes from August 13 – 17, beginning with a presentation on the role of steamboats during the years when the logging industry was humming.

The Kate has had quite a history – her original wood hull burned and that inspired her owners, the large tourist resort at Mt Kineo, to commission a young shipyard, BIW, to build the steel hull. It was brought in sections, first by train and then by hauled by teams of oxen to East Cove where the new hull was installed. Her sumptuous seating area comfortably transported visitors to hotels and resorts all over Moosehead Lake while supplies and even animals were ferried from one spot to another on her lower decks. At one time there were as many as 50 steamboats bustling up and down the lake.

The automobile and the building of roads contributed to the demise of many large resort hotels and train to boat transport on Moosehead Lake. By the late 1930s many families had their own automobiles and of all the steamships that plied the waters, only the Kate was left. Her engines were converted to diesel and she became a workhorse – towing huge rafts of logs up and down the lake. Her beautiful seating area languished. In 1975 she was a participant in the last log drive in the United States. Conservationists had deemed log drives bad for lakes and rivers so in August of that year, the Kate worked for the last time, towing rafts that were acres and acres of four-foot logs chained together by log booms. It was quite an event and photographs of the Kate, diminutive in relation to the huge islands of logs, are on display at the Moosehead Marine Museum.

When the Moosehead Marine Museum was founded in 1976, a year after the last log drive, the Katahdin was acquired as the star exhibit. From the start, considerable sums of money had to be raised to repair the Kate and turn her into the cruising vessel she is today. With a maximum capacity for 225 people, the Kate provides the perfect venue for a leisurely cruise on Maine’s largest lake.

Don’t miss out on the fun during this special time! The logging presentation at the Center for Moosehead History, located at 2 Lakeview Street in downtown Greenville starts at 7 p.m. on August 13. Two days later, Friday Aug. 15, the Moosehead Yacht Club will hold a boat show and parade in East Cove, near the Kate’s berth. The show promises to be special this year. According to Juan Galan, Vice Commodore of the Club, “It is expected that we will have many antique boats on display … but with some centennial gems as well, floating or on a trailer.” For info visit their website at www.mlyc.com. Best of all, the Kate will lead this exciting centennial parade.

On Saturday she will be honored at a public Birthday Celebration, with events happening all day, concluding with a gala of fireworks over East Cove. Sunday, Aug. 17, look forward to a Family Brunch. Even if you cannot make this event, the Kate sails on into autumn bringing spectacular foliage cruises. For information about all these events contact the museum at www.katahdincruises.com or call them: 695-2716. Liz Cannell, Executive Director of the Moosehead Marine Museum is very busy with all the preparations. “Come to Greenville and join the special centennial celebration if you are able. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event, and everyone is invited,” she said.

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