Grande Mariner was Stranded on Canal System During 2011 Flooding.
The M/V Grande Mariner, a 96-passenger cruise ship that was stranded for more than two months because of flooding in 2011, today returned to the Erie Canal for a new season of cruising America's most storied waterway.
The ship, and a sister-ship, M/V Niagara Princes, both owned by Blount Small Ship Adventures in Warren, R.I., was among a handful of ships stranded on the New York State Canal system because of destructive high waters in August and September brought on by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.
"We are thrilled to see this wonderful ship back on our Canals, and grateful for the partnership we share with Blount Small Ship Adventures, as well as other commercial operators on the Canal system," said Brian U. Stratton, director of the New York State Canal Corporation. Last year was challenging for Blount and for their passengers, but the fact that their fleet is returning for another year of operation on the Canal is an indication of their belief in this historic waterway, and the appeal it holds for their customers," Stratton said.
Nancy Blount, president of Blount Small Ship Adventures, said, "We are proud to continue the decades-old family tradition of going where the big ships cannot, like the New York State Canal system. We commend Governor Cuomo and applaud the Canal Corporation for restoring the heavily-damaged waterway to full operation, and we are very happy to be again offering cruises on the Erie Canal in 2012."
Catastrophic flooding from the back-to-back storms caused significant damage to locks in the Mohawk River section of the Erie Canal. Much of the Canal system was forced to close to all vessel traffic beginning Aug. 28. A 55-mile stretch of the waterway between Schenectady and Little Falls remained closed until maintenance forces and contractors completed emergency repairs on Nov. 20. During this time, the 184-foot-long Grande Mariner was berthed at the Canal Corporation terminal in Rome and the M/V Niagara Prince was berthed in Utica. The Canal Corporation worked closely with Blount Small Ship Adventures to ensure that the ships were moored securely in safe and accessible areas.
After a brief ceremony today in Waterford, Canal Director Stratton joined Ms. Blount aboard the Grande Mariner to travel through the Flight of Five locks. The ship will continue through the Erie Canal and Oswego Canal, bound for the Great Lakes. It is scheduled to arrive in Chicago on June 5.
Blount Small Ship Adventures (formerly American Canadian Caribbean Line) was founded by pioneering ship builder and inventor Luther Blount. Captain Blount began building boats in 1947, and had built 100 vessels by 1964. In 1966, Captain Blount coined the company's motto: "Go where the big ships cannot."
Building the small ship cruise line required many innovations. Blount's patented bow ramp made it possible to walk directly from ship to shore, instead of being ferried by smaller ships into port. His patented retractable pilot house - combined with the shallow draft of his ships - made possible cruising down narrow waterways, under low bridges, and through places like the Erie Canal. They were innovations cruisers had never seen before, and help keep small cruise ship's operating on the Erie Canal today.