Steamboat for Sale
By Margaret Foster | Online Only | Aug. 13, 2010
A beloved steamboat is for sale. Built in 1926, the 285-foot Delta Queen made its last voyage in 2008 and is now a floating hotel docked in Chattanooga, Tenn. Its owner, Seattle-based Ambassadors International, listed it for sale with broker PKF Capital for $4.75 million last month.
"It would definitely be good news if Ambassadors sells the Delta Queen to someone who is really interested in this National Historic Landmark boat and who is willing to take good care of her," Franz Neumeier of Save the Delta Queen said in an e-mail. "The sooner someone else owns the Delta Queen, the better."
A new owner may not be able to re-launch the Delta Queen, however. Its Coast Guard-issued certificate of inspection expired in November 2008. Supporters like Neumeier say that although it needs repair, it's perfectly safe. However, in April 2008, for the first time in 37 years, Congress rejected the owner's request for an exemption from the Safety of Life at Sea Act, which restricts overnight guests to 50 rather than the boat's capacity of 176. A new owner could pursue another exemption.
"I'm highly optimistic that we'll get an exemption in the next Congress," says Vicki Webster, leader of the Save the Delta Queen campaign.
For years, the National Trust for Historic Preservation offered tours on the historic steamboat, which was part of the Trust's Historic Hotels of America program. The Delta Queen has four decks, Tiffany-style stained-glass windows, an 1897 calliope, and the same steamboat bell that graced a ship on which Samuel Clemens traveled in 1883. This summer, it's possible to stay aboard the Delta Queen in one of 88 staterooms, but the ship remains tied up. Neumeier says that visiting a docked boat does not provide a full experience.
"You miss the whole character of a boat if it's not running—especially on a steamboat, where you hear and smell the steam, feel the motion of the paddlewheel, listen to the steam whistle and calliope," Neumeier says. "[Delta Queen] deserves a new exemption from a law that was never made for river boats anyway."
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