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Zinc Whiskers – What You Should Know Now!


Metal whiskers have long been a known problem for electronics. For the last 10 years, the article Are Zinc Whiskers Growing in Your Computer Room? has been used as a guide to investigate and remediate Zinc Whiskers from data centers around the globe. Unfortunately, despite significant effort, Zinc Whiskers haven’t gone away.   As an industry it was generally considered that the only serious source of Zinc Whiskers in computer facilities was certain types of access floor panels. Facilities without these specific panel types were assumed ineligible for whisker contamination.   How wrong was that assumption! Zinc Whiskers have been found on a variety of metal components within all types of facilities, including: steel building studs; electrical conduit; suspended ceiling T-bar grid and hanger wires; and of course access floor panels, pedestals, pedestal heads, and stringers. This may be surprising, but it’s not really news.

PART I – Zinc Whisker Susceptibility   The real news is Zinc Whiskers are being discovered every day on cabinets, racks, and the servers and computers themselves. That’s right! Zinc Whiskers may be growing on and in computer hardware.   How is this possible? It’s simple really. Computer systems are a combination of electronic circuit cards mounted and contained within metal boxes and enclosures. The metal of choice is steel because it is conductive, strong, and reasonably inexpensive. The steel is often plated to prevent oxidation or rust. Zinc is still the plating material of choice because it’s relatively inexpensive, is conductive, and yields a good finish appearance. Many computer enclosures are zinc plated; so are rack rails, cabinet shelf supports, and other structural elements.   If Zinc Whiskers are everywhere, aren’t they noticeable? Remember that Zinc Whiskers are thinner than a human hair and roughly 0.5 – 5.0mm long. You have to be looking for them to find them. Look for them growing en masse. Seeing a single whisker is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.    Zinc Whisker contamination should be considered whenever there are abnormally high failure rates – both catastrophic and less severe soft failures. The failure rate may peak within 72 hours of performing invasive maintenance work in or around the equipment.   Many factors determine the probability of Zinc Whisker failures. These include but are not limited to:

  • Age of the source material and therefore the general length of the whiskers.
  • Susceptibility to mechanical actions such as scraping, scuffing and vibration, that can cause whiskers to release from the host surface and migrate freely.
  • Susceptibility of equipment to whisker failures.

Many users wrongly conclude only power supplies are susceptible to whisker related failures. This is likely because power supply failure tends to occur with a dramatically loud ‘pop’ and cause a system outage. Unfortunately, power supplies are not the only exposed electronics in a computer system. There are a myriad of integrated circuits (chips), leads, circuit traces, and other components. To be sure, parts of all the items on this list may be concealed by plastic or solder mask and generally unexposed.   

But not everything is protected, and these uncovered leads are just as susceptible as the power supply. Zinc whisker bridges and shorts of exposed circuitry still have the potential to wreak havoc on a system. What happens if leads on the memory bus are intermittently shorted during the critical setup and latch portion of the clock cycle? Perhaps data will be corrupted. Perhaps the corruption will be detected and corrected by error correction algorithms. Perhaps the affected data is really an instruction for the processor. What if the processor tries to load and execute this corrupted instruction? Will the system failover or hang? Any engineer will agree that finding and fixing intermittent failures is one of the hardest things to do. ”If you can’t see it, you can’t fix it.” Whisker related failures fit into this category.

Many system anomalies are not logged or tracked. If a reset clears the situation, the problem is quickly dismissed as annoying but non-critical. Often, these on-the-floor fixes don’t get the visibility of management. Ask an IT manager if equipment needs to be reset and they’ll say, “…no, why do you ask?” Ask an operator if equipment needs to be reset and they’ll answer, “…of course, all the time, why do you ask?”

So, if Zinc Whiskers are everywhere and affecting equipment, how come it is not common knowledge? Most users get their information from personal experience or from trusted sources. If personal experiences are not memorable, it’s human nature to discount and discard them. If resetting a stuck machine is no more memorable than filling a coffee cup, it isn’t remembered. A power supply popping is unusual and memorable. Clicking the button is not.

In the IT world, trusted resources are typically associates and vendors. Neither one is talking because neither one has an incentive to talk. Users don’t admit they have Zinc Whisker problems because of fear of condemnation and repercussions from vendors. Users are supposed to honor their equipment contracts by maintaining suitable computing environments. Zinc Whisker contamination does not contribute to a suitable environment. Likewise, vendors aren’t talking for fear of liability. Vendors are supposed to honor explicit and implied warranties that the equipment they produce and sell is free from defects. If the very equipment is vulnerable and or producing the whiskers, there is a legitimate fear of legal liability. 

The result of all this silence is customer ignorance about a very serious topic.

PART II – The Reach of Zinc Whiskers and What to Do Next  

How bad is it?   Evidence suggests that Zinc Whiskers may affect one or more components in 50% or more of the racks and cabinets in any given environment. Historically, manufacturers only tested equipment when problems were suspected.  Users only tested when the manufacturers weren’t providing answers. Recently, large users have been willing to sponsor broader, facility-wide testing. Unfortunately, for the reasons indicated above, the specific results of these tests remain confidential. Suffice it to say, Zinc Whiskers affect or have affected virtually all vendors.  

If whiskers abound, why aren’t there more problems?

The evidence suggests that Zinc Whiskers tend to remain reasonably well connected to the host surface. Until they reach a certain length, Zinc Whiskers will remain connected until they are liberated by mechanical means such as rubbing and scraping. After they reach a certain length, not only is liberation possible from direct mechanical means but also from more passive means such as vibration or airflow. Once dislodged, Zinc Whiskers are free to migrate within the environment.

Zinc Whisker failures need not be catastrophic. Bit errors, soft failures, and other anomalies may be attributed to Zinc Whiskers.

What is the cure for Zinc Whiskers?

Generally, the accepted cure for Zinc Whiskers is to remove and replace the root source material with an uncontaminated version. It is not reasonable to replace every contaminated piece of equipment, either from a logistics or financial perspective. That doesn’t mean the problem should be ignored. . Zinc Whiskers will continue to grow. As they become longer, they become potentially more harmful. 

Users can’t stop using their equipment nor can they stop meeting the needs of the business through hardware migrations, moves and rearrangements. Users who want to proactively address the issue should develop a plan for managing the issue through staff training, vendor management, and equipment and facility handling procedures. 

There are many suitable healthcare analogies that can realistically be applied: don’t stop working with a sick patient; don’t ignore the patient’s condition. Rather, take proactive steps to help the patient while preventing the patient from infecting or sickening others.

Part III – Addressing Zinc Whisker Contamination

The following recommendations are based on a logical argument that to do nothing is neither proactive nor rational in the long term. Something must be done. Outlined below is one possible approach to dealing with broad Zinc Whisker contamination.

Users should require:  

  • All persons who enter the site will be informed of the presence of Zinc Whiskers and be required to sign a nondisclosure agreement. Violators of the NDA may jeopardize their employment or vendor status. 
  • All staff and visitors who have any business touching any equipment in the room must be trained and tested on Zinc Whisker Awareness
  • All staff and visitors who have any business working on any equipment in the room must be trained and tested on Zinc Whisker Management
  • Upon passing the Zinc Whisker management training, all staff and visitors will be required to sign the Zinc Whisker conduct pledge. This pledge will compel staff and visitors to treat Zinc Whiskers seriously and to take no action that would aggravate the problem. Their actions will reflect the best interests of the user and reliable computing. 
  • All cabinets will be examined for Zinc Whiskers. The results of the examination will be posted on the front and rear door of the cabinet. 
  • Identified Zinc Whiskers in or on cabinets will be so indicated with colored adhesive markers. The markers will serve to alert staff and visitors where the contamination is most significant. 
  • Staff and visitors will be expected, by virtue of their training and agreement with the pledge, to work around the contaminated areas to the best of their ability.

  Users will: 

  • Require, by way of purchase agreement, all new equipment to be free of Zinc Whiskers for a period of 36 months. 
  • Work with all vendors to help understand the problem and develop solutions for future designs. 
  • Seek to replace (either by purchase or through vendor agreement) any equipment that is expected to be on site longer than 18 months. 
  • Seek to monitor and manage any equipment that is expected to be retired or replaced in less than 18 months. 
  • Establish a monitoring program for failures. 
  • Establish test sites with regular sampling to monitor conditions in the room(s). 
  • Establish a regular cleaning program for the facility. 
  • Establish a cleaning program for inside racks. 
  • Continue with the investigative process to locate and eliminate any additional root sources. All cabinets in the data center should be inspected and tested, as needed, to determine where additional sources exist. 
  • Planning should begin immediately to undertake a thorough investigation, tracking, and remediation program. The program should include:
    • Identification of sources.
    • Management of the sources.
    • Removal of the root sources, as possible.
    • Cleaning of the data center to remediate and mitigate the potential impact.

CONCLUSION   Zinc Whiskers are more prevalent than previously considered and acknowledged. At the same time, we can live with Zinc Whiskers and enjoy reasonably reliable operations. But it is important to acknowledge and manage the condition – not ignore it. Living with a chronic contagious disease provides a useful operational model. Once a surface becomes a Zinc Whisker source, it will always be a Zinc Whisker source. Left undisturbed, reliable operation may continue. Unless interaction with that surface is required, the Zinc Whisker status of that material need not be disclosed. However, if interaction with the Zinc Whisker source is required, then service staff should be informed and trained to take appropriate precautions to prevent an unnecessary release of Zinc Whiskers and possible equipment damage or broader facility contamination.

Tourist Survives Bungee Fall Into Zambezi

On New Years Eve, 2011, young Australian girl visiting Victoria Falls decided, like many thousands of intrepid adventurers before her, that bungee jumping off the Victoria Falls Bridge was a once in a lifetime opportunity not to missed. Unfortunately she got more adventure and adrenalin than she bargained for, miraculously surviving a live-threatening accident.

As Erin Langworthy (22) prepared for her 111 metre jump, with friends watching in support, no-one could have predicted the incredible series of events which would follow. The rush of adrenalin as she stepped off the bridge and dropped down into the gorge below must have turned to horror as, at the limit of the jump, just as the bungee cord had stretched to its maximum length and was beginning to recoil, the cord amazingly snapped, plunging the plucky adventurer into the Zambezi river below, the fast current quickly taking her downstream towards the fearsome rapids for which the river is renowned.

Showing incredible presence of mind and physical determination, Ms Langworthy managed to swim to the south bank of the river, no mean achievement considering her feet were still tied together and attached to a significant length of heavy bungee cord. At one point she even had to dive down to untangle the cord, which had become trapped between rocks, and she managed to safely get herself to the shore. Luckily the speed of her fall had been cushioned somewhat by the bungee cord before it broke, and her drop into the river below was only about 30-40m, and she amazingly sustained only relatively minor internal injuries.

Ms Langworthy was taken to an emergency medical facility in Victoria Falls and later flown to Johannesburg, where she spent a week in hospital recovering from her injuries before being allowed to return home to Australia. Video footage of her amazing ordeal was shown in TV interviews in Australia, and soon became an internet sensation, with over 1,000,000 people watching the video of her jump on YouTube within 24 hours of it being posted, and her story being shown on news channels across the world. Never missing the opportunity to sensationalise a story, the rapids of the Zambezi quickly became reported around the world as ‘crocodile infested’, when there are in fact very few, if any, crocodiles in this section of the river!

The Victoria Falls Bungee has been operating, without prior incident, for 17 years and has conducted over 150,000 jumps. It is one of the most popular adrenalin activities in Victoria Falls, which has a reputation for outstanding adventure activities, including the famous white-water rafting below the Falls. Like any commercial bungee jump, the operation is run to strict safety levels, with well trained staff in close attendance, rigorous safety procedures and regular checks on equipment.

Following the incident, the bungee operation suspended operations whilst independent safety experts assessed the causes of the accident. The internationally qualified safety auditors who audited and inspected the operations system and equipment concluded that safety procedures and equipment complied with international industry adopted bungee jumping standards.

Working together with the safety auditors the Victoria Falls Bungee company have introduced new procedures to improve these safety standards. With particular regard to the management and handling of bungee cords, a safety auditor expressed the opinion that the standards now employed are unparalleled in the industry, and in all probability industry leading.

The broken bungee cord was sent for forensic analysis and testing by a team of experts based in South Africa, led by two Professors of Structural Engineering. In their investigations the team, amongst other things, concluded that the batch of rubber used in the manufacture of the failed bungee cord was not as strong as it should have been.

Following this analysis, the Victoria Falls Bungee operation has adopted newer rubber cords which are now stronger than recommended by the ‘Code of Practice for Bungee Jumping’. To ensure the strength and integrity rubber samples from future cords will be tested before being put into service. In addition thorough regular inspections and load-testing of the bungee cords will take place to confirm their strength and bi-annual independent safety audits of equipment and procedures will continue.

A company representative said: “The incident was a huge shock to us and thank God that Erin was not more seriously hurt, her courage and presence of mind was amazing. Since the incident we have revisited every part of the bungee safety system and implemented a number of new tests and inspections which will minimise the chances of this happening again. As a result we can say with some confidence that there has never been a better or safer time to bungee jump at Victoria Falls”.

The Victoria Fall Bungee remains as one of the most incredible, and safest, locations in the world in which to undertake this activity. In a show of support for the operation and its safety, Zambian Tourism minister Given Lubinda subsequently bungeed off the bridge, whilst taking the opportunity of wishing Ms Langworthy a swift recovery and inviting her to return soon to Zambia and continue her holiday. He even offered to Bungee jump with her, but it is not known if Ms Langworthy is keen to try the jump a second time.

Lake Winnipesaukee and the MS Mount Washington

Glittering within New Hampshire’s Lakes Region, itself created by the likes of Little Squam, Silver, Squam, Waukewan, and Winnisquam lakes, is Lake Winnipesaukee, one of the three largest to lie within the borders of a single state. And plying it for three-quarters of a century is its flagship, the “M/S Mount Washington.” A cruise on this very, and venerable, symbol is obligatory for becoming acquainted with the area.

Sandwiched between volcanic Belknap and Ossipee mountains, the glacially-formed and spring-fed lake was first discovered by white men in 1652 when surveyors dispatched by the Massachusetts Colony to determine its northern boundaries realized that the point they sought lay three miles up the Merrimack River. Embarking on a secondary expedition in a sailboat, they reached the village of Aquadoctan, then the largest Indian community in the area, located in the north and west foothills.

The point itself, marked by a plaque on today’s Endicott Rock, stands in present-day Weirs Beach, named after the triangular, rock-and-log-fishing trap found nearby. The 72-square-mile lake of Winnipesaukee, with a 25-mile length, one- to 15-mile width, and 182.89-mile shore line, equally derives its name from an Indian word which has several translations, including “the smile of the great spirit,” “beautiful water in a high place,” and even “smiling water between hills.”

Encircled by the major port towns of Alton Bay, Center Harbor, Meredith, Wolfeboro, and Weirs Beach, and comprised of 274 habitable islands, it is a magnet for summer tourists, offering an array of accommodation types, restaurants, shops, water sports, and boating activities.

Because of its size and its number of communities, intra-lake transportation had been vital and integral to its existence, whether it be for passengers, freight, or mail, since surface, lake-perimeter conveyance, particularly during pre-motorized days, had been laboriously slow.

The first such aquatic surface vehicle combined the buoyancy of a hull with the horsepower of the actual animal. Two such horses, positioned at its aft treadmill on an open, 60- to 70-foot boat, turned its side paddle wheels as they trotted, producing a two-mph speed.

Further integrating travel models, railroads strategically positioned stations next to steamboat docks, facilitating passenger interchange.

One of the lake’s first such boats, the 96-foot-long, 33-foot-wide “Belknap,” was inaugurated into service at Lake Village in 1833, propelled by a retrofitted sawmill steam engine. Redirected onto rocks by gale force winds eight years later, it sank from sight.

Succeeded by what became a virtual symbol of the area, it passed its wake to the “Lady of the Lake.” Constructed by the Winnipesaukee Steamboat Company in 1849, the 125-foot-long boat was launched from Lake Village and carried 400 passengers during its maiden voyage to the Weirs, Center Harbor, and Wolfeboro.

But even the “Lady of the Lake” could not covet the crown earned by its competitor, the “Mount Washington,” which became reining queen after the elderly lady herself had been retired in 1893.

Powered by a single, 42-inch-diameter piston which generated 450 hp, the wooden hulled, side-wheel steamer was launched in 1872 from Alton Bay and exceeded 20-mph cruise speeds.

Technology climbed a step on the “Mineola.” Constructed in 1877 in Newburgh, New Hampshire, it was both the first propeller-as opposed to paddle wheel-steamer and the first to have been large enough to carry both passengers and cargo.

What was to become the end of the “Mount Washington’s” long, illustrious career in the 1920s only became its beginning. The Boston and Maine Company, its owner, withdrew it from service, but Captain Leander Lavallee, unable to accept the icon’s demise, purchased it and operated lake excursions for tourists during the summer months until even this resuscitation abruptly lost its air when a fire unexplainably erupted at the Weirs train station and spread toward the dock where it had been moored only two days before Christmas in 1939, reducing it to a mostly submerged char and ending its career in the very water which, for 67 years, had ironically given it life.

Still undeterred, Lavallee could not see its name sink with it. Citing the $250,000 of an all-new design as prohibitive, he embarked on a search for a second-hand “Mount Washington II” replacement instead that was ultimately located on Lake Champlain in the form of the “Chateaugay.” Built in 1888, the iron-hulled, side-wheel steamer, owned by the Champlain Transportation Company, had been operated between Burlington, Vermont, and Plattsburgh, New York.

The $20,000 price did not pose an obstacle, but the 150 miles of surface transport to its new Lake Winnipesaukee home did. Since he only needed the hull, he reduced it to 20 severed sections and transported them on flatbed rail cars on April 3, 1940. It only provided part of Lavallee’s intended flapship.

Insisting on no longer manufactured steam engines, he acquired a second boat, the “Crescent III,” for $25,000, cannibalizing it and transplanting its vital, engine, boiler, shaft, and propeller arteries into his new aquatic creation.

After an extensive process of naval engineering symbiosis, the reconstructed, repackaged, twin-screw “Mount Washington II” was baptized with Lake Winnipesaukee waters when it was floated out at Lakeport on August 12, 1940.

In sheer size, this hybrid, given birth by two parental boats that had never even met each other, was slated to rein supreme-and long. Stretching 205 feet from bow to stern, it weighed 500 tons, was propelled by two screws, and featured a 35-foot beam and seven-foot draft.

According to its 1941 summer timetable, it offered exactly the type and style of service Lavallee had envisioned for the original steamboat’s successor. It operated two daily round trip excursions, except on Sundays, on the 65-mile run from the Weirs at 08:00 and 13:00, calling at Bear Island, Center Harbor, Wolfeboro, and Alton Bay. Passenger fares were set at $1.00.

As the venerable and seemingly timeless symbol of Lake Winnipesaukee, which reflected Lavallee’s almost-infinite vision, it neither ceased to sail, nor evolve. Indeed, its hybrid assembly would only characterize its continual dry dock surgery.

In the spring of 1946, for instance, it was retrofitted with two, 615-hp Enterprise diesel engines, facilitating the conversion of all previous steam equipment to electrical, and visibility was improved with the elevation of the wheel house from its former second to a current third deck location.

Five years later, removal of its boat deck enabled passengers to be accommodated on the now reconfigured third deck.

Yet, its most extensive reconfiguration, mimicking its very hull-sectioned birth, occurred on October 31, 1982 at its Center Harbor shipyard and winter headquarters, when the Winnipesaukee Flagship Corporation, its current owner and operator, once again sliced it in half, just forward of its engine room bulkhead, and inserted a 24-foot, prefabricated hull section, increasing its overall length to 230 feet.

The elongated ship, accommodating 1,250 passengers on four decks with a nine-foot draft and weighing 750 tons, was refloated on April 30, 1983 after six months of reconstruction facilitated by the Marine Railway specifically built for this purpose as far back as 1949. Crewed by 15, the boat, previously designated the “MV Mount Washington”–for “motor vessel”–now carried the “MS”-or “motor ship”-prefix. It could almost have been called the “Mount Washington III.” In order to cater to its length and gross weight increases, the Weirs Beach dock facilities had been modified.

Subsequently retrofitted with clean-burning, EPA-approved CAT engines in 2010, this indisputable flagship of Lake Winnipesaukee had been able to reach almost 16-knot speeds.

Principally docked at Weirs Beach, Laconia, the Winnipesaukee Flagship Corporation’s headquarters for passenger embarkation just off Route 3, it offers a single daily, two-and-a-half-hour round trip from mid-May to mid-October, with a second during the high summer season. Morning departures permit visits to Alton Bay, Meredith, or Wolfeboro, with return service in the afternoon.

Sunday brunch, holiday, and theme-related sailings, such as for birthdays, reunions, anniversaries, and weddings, include meals, entertainment, and even overnight accommodations.

Weis Beach itself traces its origins to 1736 when the first recorded structure, a log fort, rose from the hitherto untouched area, and the first rail link, integral to the country’s westward expansion movement and the Gold Rush fever that mostly filled the air with delusional dollar signs, followed more than a century later. A rudimentary station, facilitating transportation mode interchange, enabled passengers to continue their journey by steamer at the Weirs, located on the lake’s western shore.

A remnant of this rail travel takes its current form as the Weirs Railroad Station, only steps above the dock-leading ramp, and the single track, now plied by the one- and two-hour tourist excursions to Meredith and Laconia undertaken by the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad during the summer months, had once existed in triplicate and been used by the White Mountain Division of the Boston and Maine Railroad.

The quad-decked “M/S Mount Washington,” transformed into a multiple-facility luxury liner, sports the Victorian-style Steamboat Lounge, complete with a dance floor, as well as the engine room and galley, on its lower deck. A second dance floor is located in the Main Salon above, along with the Purser’s Station, a gift shop, a bar, and the Fantail Grille. The Promenade Deck features open seating in its bow, the Captain’s Lounge, a snack bar, the Flagship Lounge with a bar for alcoholic beverages, and yet a third dance floor. The Observation Deck, as its designation implies, offers open, mid- and aft-seating for optimum views.

Mooring release, preceded by a silence-shattering wail of the boat’s horn, unleashes it for its autonomous navigation as the 230-foot, four-decked behemoth, clearly wearing its crown as queen of the lake, disappendages itself from the hopelessly tiny dock, before it leaves the Weirs Beach area by means of the Eagle Island Channel, itself sandwiched between Eagle and Governor’s islands.

Stonedam Island, the first to be passed on the boat’s left and centerpieced by the 112-acre Stonedam Island Wildlife Preserve, had once been connected to Meredith Neck by means of a stone causeway.

The lake’s nautical history, at least in distance, is never far from the “Mount Washington’s” course; indeed, the journey is like a return to it. Dolly Nichols, who had once operated a hand-powered ferry between Meredith Neck and Bear Island, is commemorated by a cluster of small islands bearing her name.

Bear Island itself, the lake’s second largest, serves as one of the US Mail Boat’s scheduled stops. As its name implies, the boat itself, created by an act of Congress in 1916, is the country’s only full-fledged floating post office with the power to cancel mail. Its official address is “R.F.D. No. 7, Laconia, New Hampshire.”

Several vessels have encompassed the post office fleet. The first, the “Dolphin,” was built in 1885 and was followed by the more ambitious, single-propeller, 100-passenger, 65-foot-long “Uncle Sam” constructed 18 years later and converted to diesel propulsion in 1945. It provided faithful service until its retirement in 1961. The even larger “Uncle Sam II” that replaced it, a former Navy PT Boat, featured a 75-foot length, a 20-foot beam, an 80-ton weight, and a 150-passenger capacity. The similarly-dimensioned, diesel-engined “Sophie C,” itself the “Uncle Sam II’s” replacement, sports dual decks and a snack bar and is open to tourists wishing to taste this unique slice of lake life during its scheduled, mid-June to mid-September mail runs. Like the “Mount Washington” itself, it is owned by the Winnipesaukee Flagship Corporation of Weirs Beach and Center Harbor.

Floating in the midst of beauty expressed by islands, coves, bays, and mountains, the “Mount Washington” offers a glimpse of the White Mountains’ Presidential Range, including its Squam, Sandwich, and Ossipee peaks. The latter sports 2,975-foot Mount Shaw.

One Mile Island, reflecting its distance from Center Harbor on the lake’s northern tip, is the winter home of the “Mount Washington,” where it is subjected to its annual maintenance, inspection, and repair.

Becky’s Garden, little more than a jagged, rocky outcrop seeming to balance a wooden, two-story house atop it, is the lake’s smallest charted island.

The profile of Mount Washington, at 6,288 feet the highest in the northeast, looms skyward in the distance.

Compared to Becky’s Garden, Long Island belongs on the other end of the size spectrum. Connected to the mainland’s Moultonborough Neck by an automobile-accessible bridge, it ranks as its largest.

Carving its quickly dissipating trench into the water, whose average depth varies between 35 and 90 feet, the “Mount Washington” penetrates the 12-mile-long by five-mile-wide Broads area, its largest, unobstructed expanse.

The lake, a mirror-like all water bodies-of the sky, seldom reflects the same picture. On a sunny day at high noon, for instance, it appears an illustrious blue. On semi-overcast days, it wears a deep blue velvet coat. During densely cloudy times, it looks as if it were covered with a dirty-white quilt, while its pine-blanketed islands appear as if they were immersed in the ethereal white mist seemingly caught by their needles.

On board, passengers can purchase alcoholic and soft drinks at the bar. Soft pretzels and cookies are baked in the Promenade Deck snack bar. The Main Deck’s Fantail Grille offers all-day breakfast, clam chowder, salads, sandwiches, bagels, hot dogs, chili, and hamburgers. During sailings with tour groups, independent passengers can often purchase a ticket for the all-inclusive buffet, which typically features salads, hot entrees, and desserts.

Turning around Sewell’s Point, located on its left side, the “Mount Washington” glides into Wolfeboro Bay, entry to the port town of Wolfeboro and considered the country’s oldest summer resort because of the house Colonel Governor John Wentworth built there in 1764 to mark the terminus of his Portsmouth-originating Prairie Road.

Poking its bow into the lake’s southernmost point, the “Mount Washington” sails past Little Mark Island, itself the threshold to five-mile-long Alton Bay. It is flanked by the gently curved top of Mount Major.

Like Wolfeboro, Alton Bay is another of the lake’s major port towns. Settled in 1710, it served as the assembly point of the original “Mount Washington” 162 years later, in 1872.

Rattlesnake Island, adopting its name from the slithering reptile that had once resided on it, offers the highest elevation, of 390 feet.

Glendale is another of Lake Winnipesaukee’s nautically significant locations. It not only houses the Marine Division of the New Hampshire Department of Safety-which oversees all of the state’s lakes-but is the site of the “Lady of the Lake’s” sinking, its earliest, most significant steamboat.

Incorporated as New Hampshire territory during the Revolutionary War, Governor’s Island enjoyed celebrity resort status by the end of the 19thcentury.

Re-entering Eagle Island Channel, the “M/S Mount Washington” reduces its speed to a slow coast and initiates its approach to the Weirs Beach dock, returning to the area first discovered by white men in 1652 and leaving a 140-year wake behind its hull, which itself had first plied Lake Champlain waters under the name of “Chateaugay” as far back as 1888.