Sunday, October 10, 1999
Riverboats on the way
The stars of Tall Stacks are converging on Cincinnati
BY JOHN JOHNSTON
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The boats are a long way from home now, some of them. Their progress has been predictably slow, at least by modern transportation standards. Riverboats can't be rushed, even those powered by diesel fuel and piloted by captains with cell phones.
Three paddlewheelers are towed up the Ohio past Carrolton, Ky.
(Michael E. Keating photos)
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The destination is Cincinnati, where beginning Wednesday the river will be a stage and the boats will be lead players in Tall Stacks, a five-day celebration of the steamboating era.
The event, the largest event of its kind in the country, features 19 riverboats from 10 states. It's expected to draw some 900,000 people to Cincinnati, Newport and Covington; news media will transmit pictures and stories to millions more nationwide. The American Bus Association has deemed it the top tourism event in the nation for 1999.
As the boats make their way here, their captains tell of a journey of anticipation and excitement. And in at least one case, heartache.
The Cincinnati Belle, moored at the Serpentine Wall, in the mist of dawn.
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I lost my favorite captain this year, said 52-year-old Capt. Dale Meanley Lozier of the Memphis Queen Line, which is bringing two boats to Tall Stacks. She said the captain died suddenly in June after suffering a seizure.
He was 28. And he was her son, John T. Lozier.
I'm just crushed. He was in perfect health, as far as anybody knew, she said. I was going to turn the company over to him. He was so smart and efficient.
I had planned on him being captain of the Island Queen on the way up (to Cincinnati). Instead, Capt. James Gilmer is piloting the boat, which is expected to arrive here Tuesday or Wednesday along with the Memphis Queen III.
Both 400-passenger boats were built by Capt. Dale Lozier's father, Tom Meanley Jr., a legendary riverboat captain who died in 1996.
Capt. Dale Lozier will put her grief aside this week. She's been to every Tall Stacks and wouldn't miss this one.
Plenty of tickets remain available for Tall Stacks '99, the five-day festival celebrating the steamboating era that begins Wednesday. |
As of Saturday afternoon, there were 30,000 tickets left for the event, said Karen Bender, Tall Stacks marketing director.
We're ahead of where we were at this time in '95, Ms. Bender said.
About 10,000 tickets are available for morning boat tours, and 20,000 tickets remain for various riverfront cruises, she said.
Tickets are available at the event, by calling TicketMaster at 562-4949 or at either the Aronoff Center or Music Hall box offices, she said. Prices vary.
Special Tall Stacks coverage at Cincinnati.com/tallstacks
I get to see all my friends in the river business, all in one place, she said, her southern drawl thick as Mississippi mud. Of course, you're too busy to talk to them. Tall Stacks means working from 5:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. and having a nap in between.
Keeping busy aboard the Memphis Queen III will help take her mind off her son. His New Orleans Saints cap still hangs from a spotlight handle in the Island Queen's pilot house.
He's gonna be with us in spirit, Capt. Lozier said.
Further up the Mississippi, at Moline, Ill., the Celebration Belle began its 1,000-mile journey to Cincinnati early Monday morning.
The 800-passenger Belle is the largest luxury excursion boat on the upper Mississippi. Quite possibly, people will smell it before they see or hear it.
We cook all our food on board, and we'll cook all our food on board at Tall Stacks, says 59-year-old Capt. Joe Schadler, who works alongside his son, Capt. Scott Schadler, 28.
On the journey to Cincinnati, the boat is making daily stops so passengers can take day-long cruises.
I feed 'em four times a day, the elder Capt. Schadler said. On all the trips, I'm baking my fresh Italian garlic-seasoned rolls. I'm baking them as people get on, and they smell that, and their mouths are watering.
For breakfast, I make fresh homemade caramel-pecan sticky rolls. I bring that out, and the hash browns, and homemade pork sausage, scrambled eggs, cranberry cake.
They're so hungry, the first time they swallow without tasting. I get 'em about 11:30, and hammer 'em really good (with more food). Then about two hours later, I give 'em hot and cold hors d'oeuvres, and then I top it off at 5 o'clock with a prime rib dinner, and usually a French puff pastry.
We pride ourselves as a gourmet boat.
The Harriet Bishop, Jonathan Padelford and Anson Northrup also drew attention.
For the trip to Cincinnati, the riverboats owned by Padelford Packet Boat Co. of St. Paul were lashed to a 130-foot barge. The barge carried Capt. William D. Bowell Sr.'s Mercedes Benz. And the whole shebang was pushed by the towboat Sophie Rose.
It's got everybody lookin' all the way downriver, said Capt. Gus Gaspardo. During Tall Stacks, he'll pilot the Harriet Bishop, named for St. Paul's first school teacher.
Enlisting a towboat cuts down on the wear and tear, and on the expense of bringing (the boats) down, he says. The towboat also will push them home to Minnesota.
Much further south, the 900-passenger Creole Queen's nine-day journey north began on the last day of September. It left New Orleans with a fuel tank filled with 20,000 gallons of diesel enough to make it to Cincinnati and back and plenty of spare parts.
One thing about taking a boat 1,378 miles is if you have any problems along the way, you're a long way from home, Capt. Al Christian said.
There's a possibility you could hit a log, and break some (paddle) boards. When you do that, it's like having a tire low on air. So we have about a dozen spare boards, each one 12 feet long, 2 inches thick.
No boat, however, has come farther than The Colonel. It began its 1,720-mile journey Sept. 28 at its home port in Galveston, Texas.
Having a great time, said Capt. Joy Manthey, as the boat cruised past Old Shawneetown, Ill., one day last week. She and her nephew, Capt. Troy Manthey, are piloting the 730-passenger stern-wheeler.
Joy Manthey, who is 42, has reason to be excited. She grew up on riverboats. Her great-grandfather, John Streckfus, built the first excursion vessel on the Mississippi. She earned her captain's license more than 20 years ago.
But two years ago, she did something she had long considered: She joined the Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille as a novice nun. Since then, her religious training has taken her away from riverboats.
Then she received permission to pilot The Colonel to Tall Stacks.
Jokingly, a lot of people call me Sister Mary Captain, she said.
Once she takes her vows, possibly in January, she hopes to embark on a river ministry that focuses on the needs of towboat crews.
As boats begin arriving in Cincinnati this weekend, she and the other captains say they feel right at home.
It's kind of like a reunion for us, said Capt. John Davitt of the American Queen, which, at 418 feet long and six decks high, is the largest steamboat ever built for the inland waterways. It's based in New Orleans, but is heading this way from Pittsburgh.
I haven't seen some of the other pilots, mates, captains and engineers in months and months. This is a chance for river people to take a few days and be together.
And there's no better place to be, they say.
Cincinnati is such a river town, Capt. Davitt said. It's amazing the way it still loves the boats and has a respect for the river.
River cruise industry growing fast
Special Tall Stacks coverage at Cincinnati.com/tallstacks
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