Q & A: Love of boats put Bombard on course to captain’s post

A pirate’s life for some. A captain’s life for others. Adam Bombard prefers the latter. As one of th

A pirate’s life for some. A captain’s life for others.

Adam Bombard prefers the latter. As one of the men who pilots the Lac du Saint Sacrement and other big steamers for the Lake George Steamboat Co., Bombard turns a large wooden steering wheel during spring, summer and fall voyages on Lake George.

“This was my first job,” said Bombard, 31, who lives in Glens Falls and graduated from Glens Falls High School in 1997. “I started as a deck hand, summer job, worked my way up the ranks. I’ve been here half my life; this is my 16th season.”

Bombard has worked full time for the company, which also runs the “Mohican” and “Minne-Ha-Ha” boats, for the past 3 1⁄2 years. When the last autumn trips have been made, Bombard begins maintenance and renovation projects for the off-season.

Sitting in the captain’s quarters on the 600-ton, 190-foot long “Saint Sac” on a recent sunny morning, Bombard answered questions about his profession.

Q: How did you get your start as a ship’s captain?

A: I’ve been interested in boats since I was a kid. I remember riding the “Minne-Ha-Ha” when I was 6 years old with my grandfather. I was enthralled with the boats then, so I always knew this would be a good summer job. We’re licensed through New York state, so I got what’s called an apprentice master’s license when I was 21, way back in 2000. Basically, what you do then is you train with someone who’s more experienced. Sort of like a learner’s permit for a car. You practice and practice, learn all you can. I think it was the year after that I got my master’s license, and then basically we sail as the master, the captain. There’s always two of us aboard the boat. One guy who has a little more experience is senior and the other guy is junior, like an airplane. You continue to gain experience, you continue to learn.”

Q: Do you have a favorite boat?

A: I like them all for different reasons. I’m on the “Minne-Ha-Ha” the least. I generally just fill in over there. Or this time of year, spring or fall, move it to one side of the dock or the other to do maintenance on it. I’m on this boat and the “Mohican” pretty much equally.

This boat is nice, it’s the biggest boat, our flagship. The “Mohican” I like for other reasons. It’s a little bit smaller, we wander around with it a little more, go farther down the lake. During the summer, we go all the way to the other end and back. I like that, do it once a week.

Q: Besides piloting the ship, what are other captain’s duties?

A: You’re responsible for the safety and comfort of the passengers. If something happens down below, you’re notified about it. You have to handle the situation. That’s another reason why there are always two of us aboard, one guy running the boat, the other guy taking care of problems like that. There’s a lot of observation to the water, especially during the summer when we have a lot of boat traffic.

I had a great advantage in being a deck hand, learned how to handle the lines, tie the boat to the dock. We run a lot of drills; we’ll work fire drills with the deck hands. During the winter, I crawl around the ins and outs of these boats. You get to know them a little bit better.

Q: What kind of questions does the captain get?

A: This boat, they most often ask about the name, “Lac du Saint Sacrement.” I tell them it was the first European to see the lake, Isaac Jogues, [who] named it that in 1646, “the Lake of the Blessed Sacrament.” Then in 1755 it was named George after King George II of England by William Johnson, who constructed Fort William Henry. People often ask, “How did you get this job?” Sometimes I joke around and say, “I started yesterday.”

Q: Do you do the running commentary during trips aboard the Saint Sacrement?

A: Not on this boat. We have an entertainer, Danny Lombardo, who plays music and does narration. But on the “Minne-Ha-Ha” and the “Mohican,” we do the narratives ourselves. It’s cemented into my brain. It’s the history of the lake. . . . Some people are more interested in history. We point out a lot of the homes along the lake, the western side of the lake was at one time called “Millionaires Row.” We talk about a lot of the mansions that still exist, the previous owners.

Q: Remember any odd things happening on your trips?

A: I’ll say I’ve seen a lot of interesting maneuvers on the parts of other boaters on the water. Most of the time, they know enough to stay out of the way.

Q: What are the wedding cruises like?

A: We’ve already had three of them this year. This boat does a lot of wedding business, great place to have a wedding. We have a captain who actually marries them, they stand on the stern of the boat overlooking the lake. Everything you could possibly need for a wedding is right here on the boat.

Q: When are your favorite times of year on the water?

A: All the different times of year are great for different reasons. This time of year you have all the different shades of green. You can tell which trees are coming into bloom by the lighter and darker shades. Summertime, for people who are people-oriented. There are a lot of people around, the lake’s busy, the village is busy. And fall for fall foliage.

Q: When does your day begin in July and August?

A: On a summer day in July and August, I’m typically here when the deck hands start, about 8:30 in the morning. I also hire all the deck hands and schedule all the other captains. This boat, we run it until 9 at night, so I’m here until then.

Q: Bet you’re extra busy on Thursday nights, when Lake George has its weekly fireworks shows.

A: People love fireworks. We use this boat and we put a lot of people on, great way to see the fireworks. We don’t go out very far. Just out here and sit and watch the fireworks, take a short little spin on the lake and then we’re back, an hour and a half. The “Mohican” has taco cruises, pizza cruises, pasta cruises. The “Minne-Ha-Ha” does moonlight cruises on Saturday nights.

Q: When does the season really get busy?

A: With Memorial Day weekend, then Americade [motorcycle meet] hits, then summer. We get going here, we hope to be busy all the time. As we forge ahead, there aren’t that many quiet times.

Categories: Life and Arts

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