NH Dinner Cruise Boat Partially Sinks

(NECN: Lauren Collins, Sunapee, N.H.) - Wendy Nolan wiped tears from her eyes.

"To see it like this is, is really sad," she said.  

The M/V Kearsarge means a lot of things to a lot of people in this sleepy lakeside community of Sunapee.

"People came to go on this boat. There were lots of weddings on this boat, lots of parties on this boat. And it's just very, very sad," said Nolan.

"Captain" Al Paterson, who’s been at the helm over the decades, says it’s hard to pick out one favorite memory.  

"To see smiling faces coming off the boat, shaking our hands, it is a wonderful experience," he said.  

Tim Fenton, whose family owns the Kearsarge and the M/V Mt. Sunapee II, checked on his dinner ship, docked in Sunapee Harbor for the winter, around 4 p.m. Thursday.

"I did my normal daily check of the boat and the bubbler and it looked great. There weren't any issues. Then about 7:30, I got a call saying that the boat was sinking and I came here and it looked like this," said Fenton.  

The bow is peeking out of the ice, the stern is slipping into the frigid water. Tethers are keeping the boat from sinking any deeper. On Saturday, a salvage company will heave the Kearsarge out of the water and try to figure out why a docked boat on a still lake went down so quickly.

Marine patrol and state environmental services are keeping an eye on the vessel. So far no spills, though there is a boom in place just in case.  

The owners say this is only a set back, not the end of the Kearsarge.  

"We'd really love to see her up and running again. It totally depends how quickly on what sort of damage is assessed," Fenton said.  

The boat has been here for more than 30 years and the Fentons often donate it for community functions. Locals flocked to the harbor parking lot Friday to take pictures and offer their comfort.  

"We realize that this boat has meant a lot to a lot of people and we're just thankful that everyone has been so supportive," said Fenton.

If all goes well, the Kearsarge will resume dinner cruises when the season begins Memorial Day weekend. 

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