03 September 2019

Carved Swan on Bow

Every shelf, cabinet, and bulletin board in the Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen is filled with nods to stories and attractions from throughout Disney and Walt Disney World history. One of the loveliest attractions to ever have resided inside the Magic Kingdom plied the waterways around the park once upon a time and is mentioned not once, but twice, inside of the Skipper Canteen. The Plaza Swan Boats were in operation for just over a decade, from May of 1973 until August of 1983 and took guests on a leisurely tour of the waterways of Main Street U.S.A., near enough to almost touch Tomorrowland, and venturing briefly into Adventureland.

The Plaza Swan Boats originally docked near the Plaza Restaurant, in what has become an outdoor seating area along edge of the canal. Once the permanent dock was built, the green roofed pavilion that could be reached by walking through the Plaza Rose Garden, the original dock was repurposed. Guests could board one of the twelve boats named after popular Disney heroines for a D-Ticket during the peak summer season, although one boat would be refurbished as a vacuum boat for cleaning the canals.

The boats, which ran on natural gas, would provide a glimpse of grace plying the channels of the Magic Kingdom. In truth, however, these swans roamed more like odd ducks. An electrical guidance system failed early in the attractions history, calling for an alternative navigation approach. The new steering mechanism consisted of two jets, one each in the front and rear, which could be employed by their own steering wheels by the piloting Cast Member. While these jets answered the problem caused by the failings of the electrical system, they also included the addition of user error. There were many accounts of boats running ashore, crashing into support beams and even spinning in circles.

With problems ranging from popularity that could not be supported to ever-increasing maintenance costs, the herd of swans were permanently docked after the 1983 summer season. While there were flaws in the Plaza Swan Boat’s system, a scenic tour of the waterways surrounding three lands of the Magic Kingdom, especially in such a regally designed craft, would be right up there with the tours of the Walt Disney World Railroad, Peoplemover and Liberty Belle.

Back inside the Skipper Canteen, the first reference to this charming can be found upon the bookshelves between the crew mess hall and the secret meeting room of the Society of Explorers and Adventurers (S.E.A.). Here a volume is entitled The Grace of a Swan, and while the Swan Boats were graceful to look at, as mention above, they surely did not live up to this description in the movements. The second can be found on the bulletin board, a small classified advertisement has been placed to sell a single boat. Described as all white with a swan carved on the bow, those interested are directed to Merry Time Traders for more details. A merry maritime to be sure!

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