Laura, me, Nicole, and Hunter

Laura, me, Nicole, and Hunter in the DQ's Forward Cabin Lounge.

Yesterday, Laura and I were walking along the DQ’s outer deck and we heard our names being shouted from shore. Now, of course, this is an almost daily occurance from our fans, (HA!) but this voice sounded familiar. We looked out onto the Coolidge Park bank and saw an old river friend, Hunter Smith. Hunter was a deckhand and mate aboard the boats for years. We were on the Mississippi Queen with him for several.

Hunter and his girlfriend, Nicole, just happened to be passing through Chattanooga and stopped by to take a look at the boat. We brought them aboard to show Nicole around and then arranged to meet later for dinner. Sweet Nicole kindly sat through many a steamboat story. It was great to see Hunter again and reminisce about the old days. Hunter is now working aboard the casino boat at Rising Sun, Indiana and we wish him all the best.

My favorite Hunter story is the time the Mississippi Queen was docked at Paducah, KY and the river had a huge, quick rise that day – about 9 feet! Quickly, our lines were submerged under water. Captain Ciaramitaro said to just cut the lines, but realizing that we did not have any spare shackles (the metal fastener used to secure the line [rope] from the boat to the tie-off on shore), Hunter valiantly went in after them. The water had become so deep and the current so swift, the deck crew tied a rope around Hunter’s waist to make sure we didn’t lose him. They lined up on that rope like they were getting ready for a tug of war. And in a way, they were! Struggling against the current, Hunter dove several times into that murky brown goo where the Tennessee River dumps into the Ohio River. But after exhausting effort, he had the shackles in hand and the boat was free. A crowd of curious passengers along the rail let up a cheer, and I shouted right along with them.

That was one of those days I wished I had my video camera! But I can still close my eyes and see it like it was just happening. My mind is filled with so many moments like that. And as I walk the empty passageways of the Delta Queen, they are flooding back in rapid succession.

Take care Hunter. And all the best to all the Steamboaters out there!

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