Catching up with the fourth-generation owner of Boston’s Swan Boats and featured Weekends with Yankee guest.
By Ian Aldrich
May 02 2022
Fourth-generation owner of Boston’s Swan Boats, Lyn Paget.Photo Credit : Emily Kan
When the Swan Boats in Boston’s Public Garden launched for the 2022 season in April, Lyn Paget was on hand for the opening-day festivities, just as she’s been for much of her life. In a city rich with icons, the Swan Boats hold a particular sway—one that goes back to 1877, when Lyn’s great-grandfather, Roger Paget, first debuted his whimsical watercraft here. This past spring we caught up with Lyn, current president of the family business, as she prepared for the new season, to talk with her about the enduring appeal of the Swan Boats as well as some other favorite summer diversions in her home city.
Q. Opening day for the Swan Boats is a big event. What do you think explains the allure?
Every year it’s the same: We’ve all been through a long winter and now, suddenly, it can seem we’ve turned the corner and there’s this place with flowers and all this life, and all this color, with boats on the water. The whole area seems to just explode with spring, and that day wraps up that whole transition in one picture.
Q. Boston has undergone tremendous change over the past 150 years, and yet the Swan Boats are still a crucial part of the city’s identity. What’s allowed for that?
Boston is a city that loves its place in history. There’s this sense that things like its historical sites and historical architecture need to be protected. We’re part of that story. I also think the Public Garden is pretty amazing, and those boats, in that setting, are such a special thing. When you add the aesthetic appeal with the history, with the fact that we’re downtown and we’re something you can do easily with children, you can understand why we’ve lasted as long as we have.
Q. What do you hear from customers about what the boats mean to them?
We’re generally part of some other traditions they have: birthdays, Mother’s Day, some other special event. We are a part of something they do year in and year out. And so when they aren’t able to do the Swan Boats, like what happened in 2020 when we shut down because of Covid, there’s a real sense of loss.
Q. You said that the Swan Boats are typically part of a bigger day out in Boston for visitors. What are some of the nearby experiences that might go along with that?
What I love about Boston is that it’s such a walkable city. You can stroll through the Boston Public Garden. You can easily get to the New England Aquarium or the Museum of Science. You can find interesting places to eat in the Back Bay or Beacon Hill and the South End. And then you have everything that’s going on by the harbor and the Seaport—that’s added a new dimension to what people can experience.
Q. What about your own favorite things to do in your hometown?
We never went to the Harbor Islands when I was a kid—it just wasn’t a thing—but now, when the weather turns, I like to be near the water. There’s nothing better on that first warm day than to go out to, say, Castle Island, or walk around some of the other islands. I also like just walking to the other businesses near the Public Garden. There’s a guy who has run an ice cream truck at the corner of Arlington and Boylston streets for, like, the past 30 years. On a hot day, that’s a place a lot of us like to visit!
Our visit with Lyn Paget and the Swan Boats is featured on season six of Weekends with Yankee, which debuted this spring on public television stations nationwide. To find out how to watch, go to weekendswithyankee.com.