On March 1, a keel laying ceremony was held at Blount Boats, Warren, R.I., for an old-style passenger boat.
The 89’×30’ steel excursion boat was designed by Timothy Graul Marine Design, Sturgeon Bay, Wis., for Wendella Sightseeing Co. in Chicago. Founded in 1935, Wendella operates six boats in the Chicago area for sightseeing, architectural tours, ferry services and private charters.
The profile drawing for the 300-passenger boat to be built at Blount resembles another Graul-designed boat, the 68’×23’ Chicago’s Little Lady, built in 1999 for a competitor of Wendella. Both have an early 20th century look about them, with an enclosed main deck (except for the bow area), a completely open second deck, a small pilothouse perched at the forward end of the second deck that you can walk around, and even a house flag flying from a staff on the stem head.
For chilly fall and spring architecture tours, the new boat has a heated cabin. And for the steamy days of summer, the cabin is climate controlled.
Power to run the air conditioning and heat comes from a pair of 40kw Northern Lights gensets. Power to move the boat along Chicago’s waterways is pulled from two Caterpillar C12 diesels rated at 340 hp at 1,800 rpm.
If customers want to hire the boat for a wedding or other social function, folding chairs and tables for 65 people are stowed at the back of the boat, near the heads, said Robert Pelletier, vice president at Blount Boats.
The boat is scheduled for delivery in April 2007. It will travel to Chicago via the Erie Canal.
The keel for the excursion boat was laid in the same building where the crew at Blount Boats is building a pilothouse, tower and mast for a 150’ ATB tug being built at Senesco Marine. Blount Boats was given the chance to build the entire tug, but since the Warren River in front of Blount’s docks only has a 12’ depth at high tide and the tug draws 20’, that wasn’t possible.
In another shed, a 120’ hull is about 75 percent complete. The boat was designed 18 months ago for a company that would have used it on the West Coast, but “when their concession contract fell through, Luther decided to build it on spec,” Pelletier said. The boat could be used for a 600-passenger ferry, a dinner boat, or even a truck ferry, he said. Several operators have expressed an interest in the hull, but no contracts have been signed.
— Michael Crowley