River Queens

From the Factory, 1955

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Survey 2001

In the lift:

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In the Slip:

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On Paper:

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For two years.

Dale and Alexander pulled and tugged on the King and I. They spent the first summer simply clearing out the lives that John and Perky King, the previous owners, had left behind. Blouses and skirts strained at their hangers. Trousers and shirts, stuck together by heat and humidity, lay in drawers. Eyeglasses and prescription meds lay on the counter in the en suite as if Mr. & Mrs. had stepped out for a moment; it had been three years. The electrical had to come out as did the plumbing. By September, the King and I's interior was stripped of all domestic conveniences. Two engines, a generator, a few lights, decks, bulk-heads, and built-in were all that remained.

In the middle of September, the King and I was hauled out again. But this time to replace hull planks, to change out all the through-hull fittings and seacocks, to sand and paint the bottom. A blessing in the person of Clay Burns blessed us with an opportunity. Owners were not usually allowed in the shipyard nor to work alongside the boatwright, but Clay, the craftsman who had kept the King and I afloat for the passed twenty years was retiring.

"I'm retiring," Clay said. "I'm gonna take my wife and my fifth wheel up to Colorado where there ain't no boats. I'm gonna die there. Colorado's beautiful country." 

A turnover in management enforced less stringently rules that had been in effect for decades. We got to work side by side with Clay Burns and his son, Bud. The two soaked up everything they could; skills that we would later use to get ready for the river. 

The King and I went back into the water a month later. Now she is named Betty Jane. Over the next two winters and another summer, we pulled new wires and ran new hoses. Slowly, one by one, each system's coming back on line received the same jubilant celebration. The work was hard, frustrating, and successes came sparingly. I stripped, sanded, stained, and varnished the decks with my best friend Marvin Matherne. Dale rebuilt and tuned the engines.

On Memorial Day, two years after purchase, Betty Jane was ready for her maiden voyage. Invitations went out to all who had joined the effort from fetching parts to delivering emergency rations and moral support. The party assembled. Captain DeWitte "Buddy" Greer, required to be on board until we had proven mastery of some basic skills as prescribed by the insurance agent, was the last to arrive. He busted through the door to the slip and said, "How's about a boat ride?"

The engines started, and Betty Jane pulled out of her slip.

 

The Maiden Voyage

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 Survey 2006

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