Mark Simiele, owner of Seneca Harbor Cruises on Seneca Lake, welcomes the 2021 season with an additional vessel: the Seneca Spirit. This addition to Captain Bill’s fleet is a 64' Skipperliner that has sailed as a tour boat in Washington DC for the past 20 years. A public christening is currently being planned.
“I anticipate that it will take 12 days to bring the Seneca Spirit home,” said Simiele, explaining that the route includes time on the Potomac, Chesapeake, and Delaware rivers, winds around the tip of New Jersey passing Atlantic City, and ultimately arrives in Watkins Glen via the Erie Canal. “The 3-person crew sails from sun-up to sunset, with overnights in marinas along the way. We’re tracking her path in real-time, using an app [https://maps.findmespot.com/s/9YRX/QV] and enjoying daily updates from the crew.”
The 115-passenger boat has two levels, with the upper deck completely open-air, an acoustic system designed for narrated tours, and a whisper-quiet engine that travels at a steady 8 knots. It is currently sailing to Watkins Glen from its previous port of 20 years in the Washington, DC, area.
“Captain Bill’s is an iconic attraction in Watkins Glen,” said Watkins Glen Chamber Executive Director Michael Hardy. “A favorite with tourists and a special treat for our residents, Mark and his crews highlight one of our region’s most treasured assets: Seneca Lake.”
This is Captain Bill’s first purchase since acquiring the 270-passenger Seneca Legacy in 2006. The 49-passenger Stroller IV, built in 1934 and limited by pandemic-related social distancing requirements, finished the 2019 season and was then retired. The Seneca Spirit will be Captain Bill’s main sight-seeing vessel, leaving port every 90 minutes for a 60-minute guided tour of the southern end of Seneca Lake. The Seneca Legacy will resume a pre-pandemic schedule for lunch and dinner cruises: lunch cruises will be offered three days a week; dinner cruises will sail six nights a week.
Simiele said it was a difficult decision to retire the Stroller, indicating that it was driven by a need to pivot business operations in light of the pandemic.
“Long-term, though, this is the right decision,” said Simiele. “Captain Bill’s is part of this community. It’s a family-run operation that is family-friendly and values-oriented. On the surface, we offer boat cruises. Dive just a little deeper, though, and we’re a conduit to a different reality where you can breathe deeply and move at your own pace.”
Photo caption: Captains bringing the Seneca Spirit to Watkins Glen: (from left) William Darrow, Steven Naimoli, and Tony Compese