The riverboat Columbia Queen is taking a 5,425-nautical-mile ocean cruise lashed to the cargo barge Columbia Newark and propelled by the tug Jack Brusco.
The passenger vessel is heading toward a multimillion dollar makeover at Bollinger Shipyards, a new name and a maiden voyage in late September.
The journey got underway from Portland, Ore., June 24, and the vessels were scheduled to transit through the Panama Canal July 14 and arrive in New Orleans later this month, said Bill Kelley, technical and contracts manager for Brusco Tug & Barge, the Longview, Wash.-based company handling the move.
“To date, tug and tow top speed has been 9.9 knots, average speed has been 9.2 knots,” Kelley said. The 115’2”x31’1”x10’4” Jack Brusco, which carries a crew of six, is a single screw, 3,000-hp, EMD 645 series-powered vessel that burns an average 2,400 gals. per day. And so far the trip has “really been smooth.”
Renovation of the 203’8”x60’x12’ riverboat is expected to take six to eight weeks, said Tom Markwell, president of French America Line, the newest entry in the growing U.S. river cruise market. The overhaul will include interior refurbishments, and engine and possibly generator and plumbing work to meet Coast Guard requirements.
The maiden voyage was originally planned for late August, but has been put off to Sept. 30 "to allow for any weather related delays in her transit – as well as the additional time needed at Portland to prepare the vessel and barge for transit,” he said.
Renamed the Louisiane and homeported in New Orleans, the vessel will have a capacity of 150 passengers and 64 crew and sail five- to 10-day cruises on the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, Cumberland and Red rivers and the intracoastal waterway.
French America bought the riverboat for an undisclosed sum from Xanterra Parks & Resorts, Greenwood Village, Colo., which in 2011 purchased it and other assets of Ambassadors International Inc., out of bankruptcy court. Ambassadors was the parent of money-losing Majestic America Line, which shut down in 2008.