October 2008


Tuesday afternoon the available members of the steamer Delta Queen gathered on the Texas Deck bow for a crew photo. I have never been so proud to have served with such an excellent staff. As we will soon be scattered to the four winds, I wish my steamboat family all the best.

Delta Queen crew

Delta Queen crew

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Kids in awe of the Delta Queen.

Kids in awe of the Delta Queen.

As the Delta Queen was docked in Cape Girardeau, MO, a group of schoolchildren assembled along the riverfront to see the boat. It weighed heavy on my heart as I realized this might be the last time for them to see an authentic steamboat. There are so many river towns that will lose this educational icon which illustrates how our country grew westward. It was the transportation provided by the steamboats that also made possible migration, and new agricultural and industrial opportunities.

I desperately hope that these kids will see the Delta Queen again.

Potential Delta Queen passengers for the 2058 season!

Potential Delta Queen passengers for the 2058 season!

Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau window

Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau window

We bid our farewell to Cape Girardeau on a cold but sunny day. This is a town that truly loves the Delta Queen. Even the front of their Convention and Visitors Bureau features a picture of the Delta Queen and Mississippi Queen.

We didn’t arrive into Cape Girardeau until mid-morning, so we extended our 1pm departure until 3pm. We had our Tribute Event for Cape at noon, but it was still really chilly. We put the band in the Forward Cabin Lounge and ran the speakers out onto the deck. We strung one microphone out to the chilly rail and conducted the presentations out there as about 100 brave (and bundled up) citizens came out for the event. It was clear and lovely, but as cool as it was, I knew those folks really wanted to be there and that meant alot! Cape always gives us such a nice welcome with volunteer greeters and even a local band!

Captain John Dugger and Mayor Jay Knudtson

Captain John Dugger and Mayor Jay Knudtson

This is the furthest upriver the Delta Queen made it this season and as we turned and headed downstream, we bid a fond farewell to the lovely Upper Mississippi River. Until we meet again.

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Just before showtime, the Delta Queen reached the mouth of the Ohio River and turned upstream into the Mississippi River. There is an old tradition that if you can toss a coin into the spot where the waters of the two rivers meet, your wish will come true. From what I heard, there were more than 100 coins hitting in the perfect spot, all with the same wish: “Save the Delta Queen.”

Me backstage before "Riverman!"

Me backstage before

I did my final performance of “Riverman!” which was written by Tom Hook. The show takes a fictional character through several major events in steamboat history. It is a multimedia show with a PowerPoint presentation and accompanying musical tracks. It is very touching and giving my last performance on the Delta Queen was very emotional. It was a great night.

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Looking out at the wicket dam 53 and the wicket boat from the lock chamber.

Looking out at the wicket dam 53 and the wicket boat from the lock chamber.

With the river low, the wicket dams were up for dam 52 and 53. As we locked through, I was struck by the thought that here was an 81-year-old steamboat passing through a lock and dam almost 80 years old. These wicket dams are made up of wooden planks that can be raised when the water is low or folded down onto the bottom of the river when the water is high, eliminating the need to lock through. Pretty cool design. And they’ve been working here since 1929. A lock and dam and a steamboat, supposedly outdated, but both still operating effectively.

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Paducah Ambassadors bid farewell to the Delta Queen.

Paducah Ambassadors bid farewell to the Delta Queen.

We docked in Paducah, KY for a cool, morning stop. Some passengers headed off on shore tours, but there are so many repeat passengers that most just stroll in to town to shop or lounge around the boat, savoring the ambiance.

We slipped away with a few of the entertainers to our favorite coffee shop, Etcetera out on 6th Street. They have good, hot coffee and fast internet access, both of which are coveted treasures to steamboat employees. A nice local lunch and back the boat for our 1pm departure.

A great crowd gathered to wave farewell, including the wonderful Paducah Ambassadors (often known as the Red Coats). For years, these incredible volunteers have welcomed our guests with information, maps and warm hospitality. We will miss you Paducah!

The Delta Queen prepares to depart Paducah, KY.

The Delta Queen prepares to depart Paducah, KY.

Photographer Ron Rack came down to the Delta Queen earlier this cruise and shot some amazing panoramic photos of the Delta Queen. We owe Ron special thanks for helping to document so vividly this American Treasure. Visit his site to ook around on the Delta Queen with 360 degree interactive panoramas by Rack Photography by clicking HERE

Enjoy!

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