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Of the NATCHEZ, the MQ reunion, and Doc on calliope

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Old 04-22-2009, 08:50 PM
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: Rock Island, Illinois mile 480 UMR
Posts: 3,865
Default Of the NATCHEZ, the MQ reunion, and Doc on calliope

I returned last night from a week in New Orleans and didn't post anything because I didn't take a laptop along. It was meant to be a true R&R to heal the car wreck discomforts, and what better way to r&r than to be on a steamboat in beautiful weather?
The temps were in the 70s all week, but the winds were unfortunately up there too, usually in the 15-20 mph range, which made departures and landings sometimes interesting, especially when we slipped over a boil near the dock - the river is high, about 12 feet, which is well below the 17 foot flood stage. After a round of golf each of the first two mornings, I headed over to ride the NATCHEZ' 2:30 trips. She still isn't doing an 11:30 during the week unless there are big groups reserved, but the crowds on the 2:30 were certainly heartening. We had over 600 two days and decent numbers on the others. Better to carry 600 on one trip, burning fuel for one trip, than to carry 300 on two separate trips and consuming double the fuel. Friday, Saturday and Sunday all three trips were run, and there was a dinner trip every night but one. A couple of evening charters were included in the schedule. So all in all I am feeling much better about the finances of the NATCHEZ after this visit. Now if only we could get back to the three a day/ seven days a week schedule with good crowds on each trip.... but considering that when I narrated I pointed out that the NATCHEZ was one of only TWO steamboats still operating in 2009 on the Mississippi system, it is a relief to see business picking up, even though there's a long way to go to get back to 'normal'.
A bit of lagniappe this trip was the MISSISSIPPI QUEEN crew reunion on the NATCHEZ Friday night. A few old crew members had decided to get together at the French Quarter Festival, and one of NO Steamboat's office people, Deidre, had worked on the MQ so she arranged for the gathering to occur in the Magnolia Suite during the dinner cruise. At the beginning of the week the number expected was 60, then it rose to 88, and finally to a hundred. I never did hear the official number, but the Mag was overflowing. Capts. John Davitt, Paul Thoene, and Lee Hendrickx were there, as well as Homer and Missy, Toots Maloy, Mike Gentry, Bob Stevens and Keith Tinnin. Most of the attendees had worked on the MQ in the late 80s/90s and many had been on the other QUEENS also. The names of others there I do not know, but perhaps you'll recognize some faces in the accompanying pix...
I went through the thread in which people were listing songs they'd like to hear Doc play on the calliope, so when we were dining at Le Rojo Rojo (commonly known as Ruby Red's), I presented him with the list for his homework assignment. He played the calliope Sunday morning and got most of the requests in before the Festival bands started at 11. More on that later... so in summary, it was the typical good time in NOLA and with my NATCHEZ friends, and hopefully the Racehorse of the Western Rivers will keep gliding along through the NOLA harbor representing the steamboating era to increasing numbers of passengers as this season progresses.
Picture 1: It was quite breezy all week, and here the NATCHEZ' union jack flag is flapping mightily as we head up into the General Anchorage. The New Orleans Hornets flag was also displayed in honor of their playoff game that night.
Picture 2: Quite the coincidence, but the night of the MQ crew reunion, the Dukes were out of town and who led the band but Eddie Bayard - who just happened to be the first bandleader on the MQ!
Picture 3: Doc Hawley playing the requested oldies but goodies in the Sunday morning concert.
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