Win tickets to see the smash hit musical Mamma Mia at the Roanoke Civic Center. Two winners will each receive four tickets!
It takes all hands on deck to keep the lady of the lake on the go.
The Virginia Dare Cruises and Marina with Portside Grill and Bar
Lennice and Cecil Alexander of Alta Vista celebrate 33 years of marriage with a ride on the Virginia Dare.
Jane Goldberg of Clifton Forge with Janice and Bill Bruce of Eagle Rock took a cruise of SML while visiting family in the area. "You don't have to go all the way out of state. You can do so much in your own local area," Janice Bruce said.
Peggy Stewart of Gibsonville, N.C. takes the helm of the Virginia Dare cruise ship July 13 as the captain supervises.
Kim Gillispie of Hardy, Pam Dutton of Moneta and Darlene Lackey of Hardy enjoyed the view from the top deck on the Virginia Dare.
Peggy Hodgin of Gibsonville, N.C., Carol Robinson of Greensborough, N.C. and Peggy Stewart of Gibsonville, N.C. waited in line on the Virginia Dare as waitress Wendy Lockliear served chicken and pork tenderloin.
Waitress Susan Garrecht of Huddleston pours iced tea for passengers dining in on the cruise ship.
Virginia Dare general managers Alice and Lynn Swain with office manager Amanda Thompson stand on the steps of the main building, which houses the kitchen, office and gift shop of the marina.
Waitress Susan Garrecht rings the bell calling for passengers to start boarding the cruise ship July 13.
Portside employees Ivy Gilmore, Sam Aguilera and Zach Cromwell hustle to get food out to the tables at the on-the-water bar and grill.
Wendy Lockliear serves coffee and slices of Louisiana crunch cake July 13 on board the Virginia Dare.
Ashley Thurman shows off a slice of the Portside's chocolate-dipped key lime pie on a stick.
Ivy Gilmore of Roanoke cuts limes at Portside Grill and Bar just before opening for the day.
Ivy Gilmore and Ashley Thurman make frozen mango sangrias at Portside Grill and Bar on July 13.
Sam Aguilera fires up a batch of chili-lime wings on the grill July 13.
Friday, August 16, 2013
The dining and sightseeing cruise ship the Virginia Dare is in the capable hands of Alice Swain. But that’s only one of the roles she’s taken on.
She manages the Virginia Dare Cruises and Marina, among a handful of other businesses at Smith Mountain Lake, including a gift shop, gas pump, boat slip, cottage rentals and a weekend bar and gril l. In addition to weekly cruises during the season, private charters and event catering are offered.
“Thank goodness, in this economy, we probably wouldn’t make it with just one or the other,” Swain said.
On a recent Saturday morning, Swain was in the kitchen getting food ready to take onboard and to Portside Grill and Bar, which is next door. She rushed past Michelle Barrett, who has worked for three seasons in the kitchen prepping and cooking. Swain quickly started making more chili-lime wing sauce for Portside’s most popular appetizer. There are sauces that only Swain makes because, she says, pointing to her head, the recipe is in her memory.
One of those is her special hot sauce, which is available in Corona bottles on tables at Portside. Swain said she makes 4 gallons of the sauce at a time and has contacted the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to sell it in the gift shop.
Swain glanced at the clock. In a few minutes, passengers would start boarding the cruise ship. A crowd started to swell on the porch; many were sitting in rocking chairs or starting their way down to the deck.
Meanwhile, waitresses Susan Garrecht and Wendy Lockliear were busy preparing the Virginia Dare for diners. They set up the iced tea and salads for those who will dine in. Garrecht, in her seventh season working on the ship, answered a ringing phone behind the bar. The office manager was calling,
“Wendy, don’t leave! She added four eating,” Garrecht called out.
Lockliear had just carted the food from the kitchen to the boat. Garrecht started pouring four more iced teas.
“It gets crazy right before boarding,” Garrecht said.
At 11 a.m. on the dot, she walked out of the cruise ship and rang a bell. Garrecht called 37 people onto the ship. Some will dine inside ; others will stay on the enclosed top deck for sightseeing. After about an hour, almost everyone headed to the top deck to get a better view of the lake.
After the cruise ended and everyone left the boat, Garrecht and Lockliear started cleaning and preparing for the second cruise of the day. The next cruise would be different from the first one. A man called earlier that day to say he planned on proposing to his girlfriend that evening on the top deck.
“It makes us feel good they are coming on and spending their special occasions with us,” Swain said.
She said people often include a trip on the Dare in their wedding, birthday, class reunion and field trip plans.
Office manager Amanda Thompson, who books reservations, said management always is looking for new ways to draw in customers.
Among them are themed cruises; on one cruise with an Hawaiian theme, guests and employees dress in island attire, and the menu is changed to include tropical-inspired dishes.
“It takes six to seven hours to do a two-hour cruise,” Swain said. “I can’t do this job without my employees.”
It takes time to prepare the food, open up the bar and register, clean the ship and prep for the next cruise.
Swain said she and the staff pride themselves on their customer service, which includes trying to accommodate customers’ special requests, such as children’s meals and vegetarian dishes . Keeping everybody happy is one of the challenges they face.
“We do not do gourmet. We do good food,” Swain said. “It’s just good food prepared in our kitchen.”
She said the food tax and the increase in the cost of diesel fuel have driven the cost of a dine-in ride to $45. The sightseeing trip is $20. Swain said your typical restaurant doesn’t have the added cost of maintaining a boat’s fuel and maintenance.
Diners receive a tea, salad, a hearty meal with bread, dessert and coffee. Sightseers and diners can purchase snacks and drinks from a full bar.
Swain said her husband, Lynn, who helps manage the boat and restaurant, has worked at the marina since about 1996. Swain, originally from Miami, said she has worked around the water all her life and has spent nearly 20 years at the Virginia Dare marina.
“I started out waiting tables on the Dare. I never thought I’d end up running the company,” she said.
Weather JournalBreather before next wintry system