A Skaneateles business is making plans for its own Diamond Jubilee.
On July 1, Mid-Lakes Navigation will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Barbara S. Wiles, a 36-passenger mahogany craft that is one of the few U.S. Mailboats still in operation.
Special sightseeing cruises on Skaneateles Lake will run at 1, 2 and 5 p.m. Tickets are $7.50 and can be purchased starting at 9 a.m. that day at Mid-Lakes Navigation, 11 Jordan Street. A “take-out” cruise, for $15, departs at 6:30 p.m.
In celebration of the diamond jubilee, birthday cake will be served, and passengers on the Barbara will receive a free raffle ticket, making them eligible to win diamond earrings from Skaneateles Jewelry, a gift certificate for a pair of Syracuse Chiefs tickets and other prizes.
Additionally, anyone born in 1937 is invited to take a free sightseeing cruise that day on either the Barbara S. Wiles or the Judge Ben Wiles. A sightseeing cruise on the Judge leaves at 3 p.m.
The Barbara S. Wiles was built in the mid-1930s by the J.E. and J.G. Lindsay Boat Co., of Hub Island, in the Thousand Islands. In 1937, Alden Shaw and Walter Harris, of Lake George Marine Industries, bought it for $10,000.
The vessel, then named Roamer, was placed ashore at Fishers Landing on Nov. 10, 1937. A week later, it journeyed to Lake George, where it enjoyed a 40-year career. After the Lake George Steamboat Co. bought Lake George Marine Industries, the Roamer was taken out of service. Once overhauled, it served as a sightseeing boat in Bolton Landing through 1980.
In March 1981, Peter Wiles Sr., founder of Mid-Lakes Navigation, bought the vessel for use as a dinner boat on Skaneateles Lake. The craft was launched in Skaneateles on April 28, following considerable renovation and the installation of diesel engines. Renamed the Barbara S. Wiles, after Wiles’ mother, it sailed for the first time on Skaneateles Lake on May 23, 1981.
The Barbara S. Wiles suffered a close call the following January, when it—and the flatbed rail car supporting it—slid 50 feet into the lake. The accident, believed to have been weather-related, caused about $20,000 in damage.
But what 75-year-old doesn’t have a harrowing tale to tell?
Mailboat cruises on the Barbara begin July 2; cruises run Monday through Saturday (except holidays), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., through Sept. 4. Tickets are $23/adults, $17/children (plus $8 for an optional lunch).
For more information, call (315) 685-8500 or go to www.midlakesnav.com or the Mid-Lakes Navigation page on Facebook.
Contact: Sandi Mulconry
Group M Communications