Swan song for the Queen

Foreground, the Delta Queen; background, the American Queen.

Foreground, the Delta Queen; background, the American Queen, moored at Helena AR.

All pictures and content © 2008 Joe Dempsey

A pair of Queens

If you’ve arrived here from the Corndancer Photo of the Week, the story continues here. If you’ve arrived here independently, get the first part of the story here.

The Delta Queen’s exception to the federal 1966 Safety at Sea Act ended October 31, 2008, the day she docked in Memphis TN, on what could be her last river cruise. At Memphis, Delta Queen passengers were transferred to a sister river boat, the American Queen. The cruise continued with the American Queen in the lead to the next scheduled stop at Helena AR. The pair will continue the cruise to the Delta Queen’s possibly final destination, New Orleans, with intermediate stops at Greenville and Natchez MS; and Baton Rouge LA.

The Delta Queen's mighty sternwheel. The American Queen is in the background. Both boats are preparing to depart Helena.

The Delta Queen's mighty stern wheel. The American Queen is in the background.

The Delta Queen underway, inching past the American Queen.

The Delta Queen underway, inching past the American Queen.

The Delta Queen

The Delta Queen, now past the American Queen. The pilot is starting his delicate maneuvers to put the 285 foot vessel safely into the main channel of the Mississippi.

The Delta Queen up close and personal as she begins her final maneuvers to enter the river.

The Delta Queen up close and personal as she begins her final maneuvers to enter the Mississippi river. The Helena Bridge is in the background,

The Delta Queen, heading downriver, south of Helena.

The Delta Queen, heading downriver, south of Helena.This does not have to be her last trip, but the threat that it is − is real. Contact your congressman. Send a message loud and clear: "Save the Delta Queen."

Keep the " ... big wheel churning!"

Help the " ... big wheel keep on churnin ... ."

As of now, the Delta Queen is functionally out of business as a commercial passenger vessel. This does not have to be a permanant condition. Congress returns to session November 15, 2008. In a matter of minutes, the needed exception to the Safety at Sea Act provisions could be approved for a full congressional vote. There are numerous sources of information available. Check out a collection of news stories here. See our coverage of the story here. See larger Delta Queen pictures here. Visit the “Save the Delta Queen” page here.

If you believe the Delta Queen is worth saving, forward this information to your friends. Contact your congressman. If enough people raise enough cane, perhaps this treasure of American Heritage will be saved and will continue to be an available resource.

Thanks for dropping by,



A reprieve of sorts

This article from the Commercial Appeal offers a glimmer of hope.

By Bartholomew Sullivan

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The historic Delta Queen paddle boat, decommissioned as a passenger carrier in October at Memphis, is going to Chattanooga for use as a waterfront boutique hotel.
Maura Phillips, a spokesman for the Chattanooga Water Taxi and Fat Cat Ferry, the new leasee, said the Delta Queen will leave New Orleans in early February and be moored at Coolidge Park Landing across from the city’s huge aquarium. The boat has 87 cabins.
Company owner Harry Phillips, a licensed boat captain and former banker, said he is committed to historic preservation and that the Delta Queen will be cared for accordingly until she can be returned to open water. He said the boat’s safety equipment, including fire-suppression sprinkler system, exceeds that in many hotels.
“We’re going to take good care of her,” he added.
The National Historic Landmark lost its longtime U.S. Coast Guard exemption to carry overnight guests on Nov. 1 because of its wooden superstructure. Ambassadors International Inc., its California-based owner, and a group of enthusiasts organized as “Save the Delta Queen” are continuing to pursue the exemption so that it can return to cruising the Mississippi and Ohio rivers.
The Delta Queen’s last port of call as a passenger ship was at the north end of Mud Island in Memphis. It then went down river with only its crew and is currently tied up in New Orleans.
Vicki Webster, a spokesman for the Save the Delta Queen group, said “the only good thing” about turning the 82-year-old vessel into a hotel is that it gets out of what she called a “bad neighborhood” in New Orleans where it is subject to vandalism and ramming by industrial ships.
The Save the Delta Queen effort asked former President Bush to extend the boat’s exemption by executive order in the last weeks of his presidency, to no avail. A Kentucky preservationist is seeking to have it placed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s “11 Most Endangered” list that comes out in April.
A coalition of congressmen with riverboat interests, including U.S. Reps. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and John Tanner and Steve Cohen, both D-Tenn., supported extending the exemption legislatively last year, but with no success.

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