A longtime attraction at Niagara Falls is introducing two new all-electric, zero-emission vessels to its fleet. Maid of the Mist will carry its first passengers aboard these new boats beginning Tuesday morning.
Special guests were invited Monday for a preview ride aboard the James V. Glynn, one of the two electric craft. The man for whom it is named has worked for Maid of the Mist for 70 years, most recently as its chairman.
"My first job at the Maid was having a palm of pamphlets, and I handed them out at Prospect Point," said Glynn, now 86 years old. "When I gave you a pamphlet, I gave you a ticket and I asked for a dollar. The ticket was 90 cents for the boat and ten cents for the elevator."
Eight years ago, Maid of the Mist was in danger of closing. But under an agreement with the Cuomo Administration, New York State Parks and the New York Power Authority, Maid of the Mist Corporation invested $32 million to transform the former Schoellkopf Power Station site near the falls into a site where boats could be stored during the winter, and where the boats could be maintained. NYPA, which owns the land at the site, provided clearance and technical support that enabled Maid of the Mist to utilize the space.
The other new vessel is named the Nikola Tesla, in honor of the Serbian-born engineer who developed alternating current, the system which allowed electric power generated at Niagara Falls to be transmitted long distances.
The new all-electric boats operate on lithium-ion battery packs and, between each passenger run, repower at an onshore charging station.
ABB, a Florida-based company that develops sustainable technology, participated in the construction of the new vessels. Company vice president Edward Schwarz says by making the boats quieter, they many even allow modern visitors to hear the Lower Niagara as visitors may have during the Maid of the Mist's earliest days of operation in the 1800s.
"We get the gain of the efficiency and the effectiveness and the safety of having modern technology, but the experience is as close to nature as possible, which is really the goal," Schwarz told WBFO.
Christopher Glynn, president of Maid of the Mist Corporation, spoke of the company's transition to the all-electric boats.
"Once this technology became available and we were in the market for boats, it became obvious that electrification would be a great thing for us," he said. "It's a great sustainability message, of course, from a marketing perspective and sales, but also for the community, and what the governor's goals are, and State Parks' goals, and NYPA's goals. It was just a really good fit."
Joseph Kessler, executive vice president and chief operations officer for NYPA, reminded guests of the Cuomo Administration's goals for reduced emissions and hailed the new Maid of the Mist boats as a step closer to reaching those goals.
"In order for us to meet Governor Cuomo's aggressive climate leadership goals, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent by 2050, we've got to do things like this, Kessler said. "Innovative things, creative things, trendsetting things, and thinking about different ways we can do business."
Prior to the arrival of the new vessels, Maid of the Mist was operating two diesel-fueled boats, Maid of the Mist VI and Maid of the Mist VII. The first has already been retired. Christopher Glynn said Monday they will hold on to Maid of the Mist VII for the short term while they continue their transition to the newer technology.