Lake Geneva hosts the world’s most important event of its type the Parade Navale.
This boat , features the most elegant side-wheel paddle ships seen anywhere today. All the boats were built by Sulzer Brothers between 1904 and 1927. This boat is also the largest Belle Epoque fleet in the world for its passenger capacity.
On June 17th, 2011 it was classified as part of the Swiss Historical Heritage due to its great significance to the nation.
All repairs and renovations respect the details of the original ships. Once a year in spring, the public gets a unique opportunity to see the entire fleet together. The company in charge of public transport on Lake Geneva is the Compagnie Générale de Navigation (CGN), that organizes this event, which is called the “Parade Navale”.
The next parade will take place on Sunday, May 25, 2014, in Vevey.
The Steamboat “Vevey” is Back on the Water
This Year’s Edition Marks A Special Feature
Compared to the past years, the return of the steamboat named “Vevey”. When the “Vevey” was inaugurated on August 14, 1907, no one would have thought that this boat was going to survive the century.
At that time, the builder Sulzer Brothers did not have great experience in boat building and hired the naval engineer Gunnar Hammershaimb. He originated from the Faroe Islands to develop and build the entire Belle Epoque fleet for the lake.
While the maritime background of the engineer was widely known to create robust boats, they were not intended to survive the century.
Over the course of time, the lack of funds of the GCN during economic crises hindered the company to invest in new boats.
It had to renovate the existing ones too. In 1953, the “Vevey” had been taken out of service and its coal steam engine was replaced by a diesel-electric engine.
In 2010, the boat was taken out of service again to receive extensive renovation which enabled it to have a second life on Lake Geneva.
Since November 2013, the “Vevey” has been back on the lake and will join the other 5 Belle Epoque side-wheel paddle boats for the upcoming Parade Navale on May 25th 2014 in Vevey.
Parade Navale Edition 2013
The spectators came to marvel at an aquatic ballet performed by the five remaining active steamboats on the lake:
- “Montreux“ (1904)
- “Savoie“ (1914)
- “Simplon“ (1920)
- “Rhône“ (1927)
- “La Suisse“(1910)
During this event, these boats carried 1’700 happy passengers all together who enjoyed the naval dancing parade from onboard a paddle steamer right in the heart of the event on Lake Geneva.
Other spectators watched from the shores for an overview and the return of the ships for the grand finale. The aquatic dance lasted for over an hour. The boats first performed their amazing mechanical ballet on the water far away from the shores.
Various coordinated movements one after the other was executed before the ships reduced speed just about 30 yards away from the public on land. At the end of the performance, the five boats aligned facing the quays and blew their steam whistles all together for a long minute before releasing over 2’000 balloons; one color for each paddle steamer.
The 2013 edition was again a huge success despite mixed weather throughout the day. This year’s event in on another beautiful part of Lake Geneva in the delightful town of Vevey which is near Montreux and closer to the Alps.
Vevey is easily accessible by direct train from Geneva and via connections from other towns in Switzerland.