Indian Pipes: Cruising Lake George Aboard a Private Charter Vessel
“What’s a boy from the Bronx doing operating a charter boat on Lake George?”
That’s a question John Orlando is asked frequently, he says, as his wife and first mate Anita tosses Indian Pipes’ lines to the deck and the 36-ft. boat backs away from her berth on Green Island.
Actually, Orlando may have sailing in his blood. His uncles were Italian seamen who settled in New York; one operated an excursion boat in New York’s bays and harbors.
But that doesn’t really explain how a lacrosse coach from Rockland County became the owner of Lake George’s oldest and largest private charter vessel.
It was not entirely by accident, but almost, Orlando says.
“We had been vacationing on Lake George for a few years when I noticed a boat anchored in Red Rock Bay and I realized that with the right boat, we could spend the summer right there,” says Orlando.
That led to 16 years of summers on Red Rock Bay, where the same families returned year after year, their children learned to fish and handle boats, and their education in all things Lake George began.
Elsa Steinbach’s Sweet Peas and a White Bridge proved to be a valuable source of information, as did walks along the trails of the old Knapp Estate.
It was on one such walk one August afternoon that Anita came upon a wild flower she’d never seen before.
Identified as an Indian Pipe, it became a family emblem and when the time came to buy a new boat, the name of the boat.
According to John Orlando, he saw a trawler from the company that produced Indian Pipes and wanted one for his own family.
It would be a cruiser built in China by Albin of America, to Orlando’s own specifications, which included a swimming platform, wood decks, trim and interior, and room for six to sleep comfortably.
The boat also has a galley, two bathrooms and a living and dining area.
Orlando could justify the expense, he said, only if he turned the boat into a business, and that was how, in 1986, Indian Pipes Charters was born.
“Every cruise is different, because the people are always different and the lake is always changing,” said Anita Orlando.
They’ve carried rock stars and Nobel laureates; they’ve helped men ask their girlfriends to become their brides and families repair broken relationships.
Given John Orlando’s ebullient personality and Anita Orlando’s natural warmth, it’s not surprising that many of their passengers turn into life long friends.
A typical cruise, Orlando says, begins in Bolton Bay. The boat circles Dome Island and heads toward the Narrows and Paradise Bay.
On the way back to Green Island, the boat passes between the Dollar Islands and Tongue Mountain.
Unlike the larger excursion boats, though, Indian Pipes will anchor to allow its guests to swim or sunbathe.
Orlando offers a lively narrative, an original mixture of scholarship and mirth, which he couldn’t suppress even if he wanted to.
If children get restless, they can go tubing behind the boat.“I tell the kids that the first part of the cruise is for the parents, the second part is for them,” says Anita.
As we cruise back to the Green Island docks, where a family is scheduled to be taken out for a picnic, John Orlando says, “Not bad for a boy from the Bronx.”
Indian Pipes is certified to carry 18 passengers, and can be charted at a cost of $225 per hour. For more information, contact John Orlando at 644-2979.