Swan Boats Wrap Up 141st Season

September 26, 2017
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By Dan Murphy

Workers moving a Swan Boat at season’s end.

While Boston was spared the brunt of Hurricane Jose, it still created unforeseen challenges for the Swan Boats, which was forced to wrap up their 141st season in the Public Garden a day earlier than anticipated last week to prepare for the incoming, inclement weather.

“Logistically, it made thing more difficult than one might think,” said fourth-generation manager of the Swan Boats, Lyn Paget. “We had to make a lot more trips to get the boats out of the water.”

Even under the best conditions, a crew of workers spends four days breaking down the operation at the end of each season, devoting a whole day to just moving the fleet of six catamarans, which weigh between 800 and 900 pounds each. The entire following day is then typically spent transporting the benches, paddleboxes and other heavy equipment.

It’s a season-ending ritual that can be traced back to Lyn’s great-grandfather, Robert Paget. The elder Paget created the Swan Boats in 1877, drawing inspiration from Richard Wagner’s opera “Lohengrin,” in which the titular knight rescued the damsel while riding a boat drawn by a swan across a lake. With this in mind and drawing on the recent popularity of the bicycle, he crafted a dual-pontoon boat with wooden benches for passengers and a brass seat for the driver that sits atop a paddlebox encased by the likeness of a swan.

Meanwhile, Lyn Paget said despite Jose, this Swan Boats season was somewhat uneventful, and she isn’t complaining.

“We made it through the season largely without incident,” she said. “Except for the tricky weather in September, it all turned out well.”

But as the season only begins to fade into memory, Lia Vizza, executive director of the Friends of the Public Garden, is already awaiting the Swan Boats’ return on Saturday, April 14, 2018.

“It is a sure sign of the official end of the summer when the Swan Boats leave the Public Garden each year,” Vizza said in a statement. “Until next spring.”

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