The Str. Natchez River Relief Tour 2005

Natchez River Relief Tour 2005 logo

In October and November 2005 the Str. Natchez tramped along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. for a Hurricane Katrina Relief Tour.

The tour was accompanied by a weblog, an online diary, on This ist the story of the Str. Natchez and her crew on this legendary tramping cruise. As it is a weblog, entries start with the last entry and are going back in time.

Pictures of the Natchez' tour can be found in the Str. Natchez River Relief Tour Photo Gallery.


The Grand Journey ends

The Natchez arrived at the Toulouse St. wharf this morning. She left Baton Rouge yesterday, laid up overnight at Audubon Park, and came in, calliope blazing, to her home base this morning. Debbie Fagnano was at the keyboard, as she has been since Natchez MS. Capt. Don Houghton said that all the TV stations were there, and he's seen the coverage on the news already. There were several tourists on the wharf asking when they'd be going out on the next trip. They will run trips this weekend and then sporadically during December. The usually busy Sugar Bowl week around New Years will find the football fans in Atlanta this year, but the Natchez will run during that week, anticipating some non-football tourism business. Capt. Don reported that he was unable to communicate by cell phone or internet, even in port, on the lower river stretch, hence the dirth of information once she left the Ohio. They had good crowds in Natchez and Baton Rouge - even had a midnight charter in BR. This trip served many purposes: employing the crew, housing the crew, making some money, giving the crew/office staff a view of a totally different river and its environs, introducing the Natchez to some new communities, and giving everyone some pointers on what the Tall Stacks trip will entail. This was also the first time that Gordon Stevens was able to ride extensively and see what really goes on to make the boat function out in the middle of the river. (Remember those short rides down from the Worlds Fair site in '84 when we all 'looked busy' polishing the chandeliers for 10 minutes, Gordon???) So all in all, it was a worthwhile effort. Thanks to one person seldom mentioned, and it was only his money that was on the line, to Capt. Bill Dow, for having the courage to let this trip happen. When I reached Capt. Don tonight, he was in the process of settling into his new 'home', a travel trailer that a friend loaned him and had set up in his driveway for his return. See you all in New Orleans on the Natchez!!!

judy | November 23, 2005

Communications wasteland

Since leaving Paducah, the Natchez has been traveling in areas mostly unserved by cell phones and internet communications. She should be in Vicksburg today. Keith and I did receive brief emails from Capt. Don yesterday. There was rough weather around them, but presumably none of the tornados which cut across the midlands. Today is Vicksburg, Friday Natchez MS, and the weekend at Baton Rouge. A Tall Stacks note: because many of the boats, including the Natchez, will be running breakfast trips, they will not have the Passport boat tours as in the past. So if anyone wants to visit the Natchez or Belle, or any boat, it will have to be by ticket for a cruise.

judy | November 16, 2005

Celebrety sighting on the Natchez

Greg Menke reports: We had a famous person on the Natchez while she was in Paducah. Miss Carol Channing was in town to perform and she stopped by to see the boat.

franzneumeier | November 12, 2005

Paducah PSes

After a night's sleep at home, I realized I had left out quite a bit in my Paducah posting. That wonderful experience can never be completely documented, but here are some more items I remembered: .Orgers John and Carol Mullen rode the first trip and visited with me for a spell during the cruise. Since I was up in my perch in the Gift Shop, I didn't get to roam about the boat, so I didn't see Carol Channing, nor any other .orgers. If you were aboard, sorry for the omission. I previously mentioned the willingness of so many people to pitch in - yet another is John Shoup, who is the manager/producer for the Dukes of Dixieland. He had been trailing the boat on the Ohio and was responsible for the appearance of the Pfister Sisters, Luther Kent and I believe the chefs who gave the cooking demonstrations. He also supplied the Gift Shop with some of their cookbooks. A Hotard bus(Gray Line) is following the boat, carrying the musicians and female crew members, who stay in local hotels. One souvenir which I salvaged was a shipping label for some souvenir items:"Capt. Kevin Mullen, Steamer Natchez" Kevin graciously allowed Fed Ex to deliver some supplies to the Belle to put on the Natchez. He also gave Ken contact info for some of their distributors so some replenishments could be made in the shop. The Gift Shop was stocked with everything they had in NOLA. Most of the items with 'Natchez' on them are sold out now, other than shirts and sweatshirts, so it will be souvenirs of NOLA on downriver. Capt. Bill Wilson has been following the boat with a company truck, which is used to haul supplies and garbage UP the levee. Remember, most of these crew members aren't used to inclines... I heard one talking about the 'mountains' along the Ohio. The city of Paducah is one which appreciates its river, past and present. They have a constant flow of traffic driving along the levee, people on lawnchairs and benches socializing along the levee, and a nice riverfront park extending from the levee to the hotel. Of course, the Dafford floodwall murals are fantastic, and there is a River Heritage Museum next door to the Seamen's Institute. A great town to visit for a river rat. Since the '82 Race, the Natchez has carried the nickname of "The Racehorse of the Western Rivers". Perhaps a secondary nickname could be "The Silver Bullet", in honor of the fuel firing the crew on the travel days.

judy | November 12, 2005

Emotionally Exhausted, or Pooped from Paducah!

It was a 'reverse Apprentice episode'. As I walked up the gangplank Tuesday night, Gordon Stevens greeted me with, "You're hired!" I didn't know I had applied! I had driven down intending just to ride and visit, but turns out Ken LaPorte's faithful sidekick Suzy was leaving for a couple of days and they needed someone else for the Gift Shop.

(picture by Greg Menke).

Its been 11 years since I worked in there, but I found I can still hit 2 buttons at once on the register, causing an overring! Incidentally, the reason Suzy left was that her son was getting married and it seemed the proper thing to do to be in attendance at that event. She was scheduled to return at Memphis, but I'm sure she'll find her way to Greenville instead. But it was a fantastic 'reunion' with my NOLA family and home. To hear the calliope tooting AND the Dukes booming on the speakers simultaneously might have been cacaphony to most, but to me it was the wonderful sound of Life back on the NATCHEZ. And when I slipped away from the Gift Shop momentarily to check out the dining room, what a sight to see it full of passengers dining and enjoying performances of the Pfister Sisters and the Dukes. As was noted on the message board, Mr. Calliope, Travis, had to be on his deathbed or near it to miss playing a concert, but as luck would have it, Paducah is the residence of one fine calliopist, Capt. Greg Menke. He stepped up to the keyboard in the cool, no, cold breeze and played 3 concerts Thursday. Pinchhitters were also needed in Food and Beverage as several of the great B&B crew headed back to Cincinnati after Evansville. Fortuitously, Gordon Stevens' sister lives in Paducah and was able to find several people to step in for that stop. The crew and office staff are truly overwhelmed with the reception they've been getting and the willingness of people to help out in any way possible. I've assured them to count on the many volunteers from .org too when Tall Stacks time comes, as we're more than willing to do whatever for PR, errands, etc. Before the boat had come into sight Tuesday night, I had received two calls from the pilothouse, both shopping lists of items needed from WalMart. With Wednesday being a day off, my car was able to go on autopilot to the WalMart by the end of the day, as many crew members took their first opportunity to shop ashore since the trip started. The Natchez arrived in Paducah at 8:30 PM Tuesday and landed at the upper end of the levee. The MQ was due in Wednesday morning, so their regular space was left open on the lower end. She arrived a bit late, and as I was standing on the levee watching her approach, a caller on my cellphone asked, "Judy, is that you standing on the levee?" It was PT on the MQ. So, cookieless - they had all been delivered to the Natchez the evening before- I went up for a brief visit with Capts. PT and Bobby Powell, and got some great shots of the Natchez from the MQ wingbridge. Of course, the first-time-ever opportunity of photographing the 2 1975-built steamboats together on an old-fashioned levee was not passed up. After the MQ departure, it was more WalMart runs and visits on board the Natchez. 6 of us went over to Whaler's Catch for seafood dinners, in place of the usual Mike Anderson's meal in NOLA. A good time was had by all. Unfortunately Capt. Steve Nicoulin couldn't join us as he stayed back to protect the boat in the name of Homeland Security...most of you know the overzealousness of that in Paducah...Thursday: Cruise Day. All the inflatable air mattresses, bedding, and personal items have been stashed away and the vessel returns to her excursion boat appearance. This day is sunny, but brisk, in fact 30 degrees cooler than when they landed Tuesday night. Some hardy souls sat out on deck, but most stayed in the dining room area except to visit the Gift Shop or take a quick stroll about the decks. A special passenger was aboard - Carol 'Hello Dolly' Channing. She had spoken to the Rotary Club meeting on Wednesday and Capt. Greg and Gordon invited her to visit, which she did. This blog has gone on too long already and I still haven't been able to express my feelings correctly about how wonderful it was to be taken in and to be part of this wonderful steamboating family. As of today, Capts. Steves Nicoulin and Villier are on the boat for 72 consecutive days, and are looking forward to getting their FEMA trailers set up in their driveways so they will be able to work on rehabbing their homes.As I drove home on I-57, I passed many trailers made in Elknart, headed for NOLA, wondering if I might be looking at the future Captains' Quarters... The spirit of everyone is so amazing - it shames me to even think about complaining about my insignificant problems. If anyone has doubted whether or not the Natchez would be back, SHE IS! This was a most uplifting 3 days I experienced - THANKS GANG!

judy | November 12, 2005

Str. Natchez at Paducah

Keith Norrington reports: Judy just called from Paducah to report that a decision was just made to cancel all of the cruises at Memphis for the Str. NATCHEZ. Apparently, the ticket sales do not warrant a stop and they are considering other options at the moment.

Sharon Reynolds had just e-mailed me that she has been doing all kinds of PR work in Memphis on behalf of the NATCHEZ, encouraging friends to buy tickets for the cruises and she's also been contacting television and radio stations, but receiving minimal response. A large half-page ad was also seen in the Memphis newspaper.

Judy will be "the gift shop lady" aboard the NATCHEZ during her Paducah cruises. It's an understatement to say that she is thrilled to be back on her beloved boat after a long absence. There has been great publicity at Paducah, due largely to the gracious assistance of Capt. Greg Menke and other river people. Nothing beats "The Sternline Telegraph"!

franzneumeier | November 9, 2005

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