Promotional photograph of 1955 Chris Craft Corsair, forty-five feet.

From the factory, 1954:

A forty-five foot wooden motor yacht in the height of the Korean War is hardly an extravagance; it is an obscenity. Promoted as part of Chris Crafts "Freedom Fleet" for the 1955, it had all the conveniences of a well-appointed home at twice the cost. Her presence brought to mind overnight cruises from Key West to Havana for  days under the Cuban sun and nights dancing to a Latin beat. She had fitted carpets, polished mahogany panelling, an en suite for the owners, and quarters for the crew. Decadence on the seas while the country is at war and the baby boom was in full expansion. See the true beginnings of River Queens: An American Journey.

 

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The King and I hanging in the Travelift at Highport Marina, Lake Texoma Pottsboro, Texas.

Purchase Survey, 2001:

On February 11, 1955, she was settled into a custom cradle, cover in canvas, and slid down the rails from the factory in Algonac, Michigan to Lake Texoma, then a man-made reservoir only a decade old. No one knows how many times she changed hands, but in 1980, she was taken in trade on a new boat--probably something fiberglass, cheaper and easier to maintain and repair than wood. She was just another twenty-five year old without engines or a transmission that no one wanted. The marina owner, DeWitte Loe, gave it to his college roommate, John King and his wife Perky. John and Perky had always been boaters at Loe's Highport on Lake Texoma. But they had sold their last boat, did not come down to the lake much any more. DeWitte missed seeing them.

"DeWitte, I don't have a boat. Why are you sending me an invoice for slip rent?" John asked over the telephone. "Do now," answered DeWitte. 

Twenty years later, John is dead; DeWitte is just out of the federal penitentiary; and The King and I is sinking in the slip, accused by the Widow King of killing John with all-night drinking and smoking expeditions beyond her wary eye. John had a heart condition. The series of events that led Dale and Alexander to find the King and I in some forgotten boathouse in a marina forced into receivership by the Justice Department starts the tale told in River Queens: An American Journey.

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Christened Betty Jane on Memorial Day 2003 and sent out into a storm on her maiden voyage.

The Maiden Voyage, May 2003:

Dale and Alexander's restoration of the King and I took two years. As the survey shows, the electrical systems were outmoded, the plumbing leaked, the hull was rotten--none of those defects were cosmetic. Whitewashed decks had to be refinished, the cabins needed new paint, and the floors needed to coverings. But on Memorial Day, exactly twenty-four months from purchase, the King and I was renamed Betty Jane and sent out into a pop-up thundershower, famous on Lake Texoma, on her maiden voyage. It is only one of the stories recounted in River Queens: An American Journey.

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A color watercolor original of Betty Jane at anchor outside Aqua Yacht Harbor, Pickwick Lake, Iuka, Mississippi.

Survey, 2006:

Five years after purchase, Dennis Gibbs and his associate, Drew, were in another boathouse in another marina surveying another boat. Alexander called to them from the Betty Jane. Drew said he thought he recognized the restored King and I but wasn't sure. Dennis did not believe it. Alexander's business with the two was that Betty Jane was due for another out-of-water survey. Read and compare the 2001 survey with the 2006 survey.  Meet the boat that Alon Carpenter and Kenn Ferrari plucked from Lake Texoma and transported to the Arkansas River for a once-in-a-lifetime odyssey of two gay men crossing the American Heartland in an antique motor yacht. Read River Queens; An American Journey.

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