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Judy Patsch 10-03-2006 07:53 AM

Tall Stacks Day 1
I should have set this up as a blog, but with the webmeister not online, I'll just have to do regular posts - this will be a behind the scenes look at Tall Stacks. I just read Keith's report and it looks like this week is giving a lot of us steamboating highs... I arrived in Cincy at 3:30 Monday afternoon, some 14 hours after the NATCHEZ did. I was worried about getting close enough to be able to drop off a big box of cookies. Shoot, if the stage were wider, I could have driven aboard! She's docked right below the phony AQ wheel and as you drive down the ramp, it looks like you're going to drive right into her. From the Pete Rose Expressway, its a similar view as of the Belle in Louisville - the pilothouse visible as you buzz along the road. When I went aboard it was break time, a fortuitous chance for the cookies to get eaten. Among the gang catching a few rays on the main deck were Capts. Steve Nicoulin, Don Houghton, and Finley Fraser; President Gordon Stevens, VP Bill Wilson, Chief Scotty Vieagas, Ken LaPorte, Suzi Cobb and several others. The boat, like the BELLE, is resplendent in a new paint job on the decks. In order to seat the 500 capacity for meals, they've set up narrow tables along the railing on the hurricane deck(we only seat 258 inside). An auxiliary gift shop will be outside the dining room. Ken says we have 15,202 hat pins, so if you're not going to be on the boat for a cruise and would like a souvenir, email me. I'll find the price today...After an hour or so of good talk, I thought I'd better get checked into my motel in Newport. I took a detour- a scenic tour of downtown Cincy due to the one-ways, and dropped off 3 crew members at their hotel, the Millenium. The Travelodge is home for several .orgers: Suzanne and Richard Martinez, already checked in, and Pat Carr, Pat Traynor, Franz and Carmen, all of whom were approaching on the BELLE. The Martinezes and I took my River 3 down River Road looking for the BELLE, and we were rewarded a couple of miles below Andersons Ferry. We got a few shots there and proceeded to the ferry landing to await her. Wow! It was sunset and the hills across the river are like at the famous Madison landing. Capt. Bill Ray gave us a whistle salute and the goosebumps are returning as I type this... what a beautiful scene as she glided and whooshed past. On to the public landing, where we sat on the NATCHEZ awaiting the BELLE's arrival. Just as I remembered from my childhood, here came some lights and they just got bigger and bigger as she approached. She landed just below the NATCHEZ with Capt. Kevin on the wingbridge and Capt. Bill in the pilothouse. Apparently the Rabbit Hash Shipyard has been shut down for a couple of days, as a beaming Tom Schiffer disembarked from the two day trip. It looked like they had around 100 on that trip segment. Wonderful photo ops of the NATCHEZ and BELLE side by side at night... it took 2 trips to get the 4 and their baggage over to the Travelodge, but Franz and Carmen certainly didn't mind waiting bythe BELLE... since it was past closing time for most restaurants, we ended up at the Hofbrauhaus in Newport! They've never been to the original one in Munich! Who was there ahead of us but the majority of the NATCHEZ crew. They held forth in the courtyard while we chowed down in the main hall. A great day of fun, fellowship, and fotos on the river. Today the work begins, but what a great feeling to be back on the NATCHEZ with my steamboat family!

Darin Schuld 10-03-2006 11:09 AM

Day 1 account
What a wonderful account of your first day, Judy. Some of the Gateway City contingent will be arriving Thursday evening, taking in an evening dinner cruise on the Belle of Louisville. I understand that a lot of steamboaters will be aboard the Natchez when it soaks it's competition on Friday.

How interesting that Franz/Carmen have never been to the original Hofbrauhaus, considering that they are from that area. I hope they enjoyed the Cincinnati one. I just visited the Las Vegas location last week. It was great fun.

David Tschiggfrie 10-03-2006 11:34 AM

Great report, Judy! Many thanks to you and to Keith for providing these first glimpses of those special steamboat moments for those of us stuck at home and at work during the festivities. Although I know your work schedule on the NATCHEZ will be exhausting this week, any little vignettes or observations you can share with your friends not fortunate enough to be there is always appreciated. The emotional high of being back aboard the NATCHEZ, doing what you like best to help out that beautiful lady, will more than compensate for your lack of sleep. You can always crash when you get back home! In the meantime, have a great week, and know that there are scores of river friends who are there with you in spirit (including many special ones who have made their final crossing, as well). Thanks again for your efforts to enable the rest of us to have some small share in this celebration of steamboating.

Judy Patsch 10-04-2006 07:35 AM

Day 2 TS
Just a brief note before heading to work...most of the boats had one cruise last night, a chartered dinner cruise. Krogers chartered the NATCHEZ. With free food and drink available, most pax weren't interested in spending money in the Gift Shop, so Dan Back and I were able to get out and snap some pix while underway. What a beautiful sunset! The BELLE came in early for a medical emergency, and we haven't seen the MAGNOLIA BELLE yet. Hopefully she's here this morning. The evening ended with fireworks, but I headed back here to rest. Most of our day was spent stuffing the shop with as much merchandise as possible, freeing up the storage space on the boat for other stuff. We did take a break and ate over at Mike Finks, and then toured the BELLE and MAJESTIC. We had quite a few crew members from other boats on the NATCHEZ too. Tuesday was probably the best day for us to visit, and it was great comraderie. My NATCHEZ colleagues were impressed by the gleaming BOL, and I certainly felt my age when I told them it was about 55 years ago when I took my first steamboat ride on her as the AVALON.... no rest for the wicked, got to go pick up our boss Ken LaPorte. We're skipping the breakfast cruise to hit WalMart for supplies. Rain is headed here tonight so we need plastic for our outdoor shop. Weather for the rest of the week is to be beautiful and 60-70s. If you ride the NATCHEZ, hot new item is a wonderful windbreaker - and we've still got 15,200 pins left! More later....

Steve Huffman 10-04-2006 08:00 AM

The MAGNOLIA BELLE seemed to moving on a slow bell when she came by our landing around 9:30 PM Sunday evening. Not sure if she has mechanical issues or not, but she locked thru Markland later that evening. The captain is formerly from Florence, Indiana, so perhaps they had an extended lay-over at Turtle Creek Marina(?)

Judy Patsch 10-05-2006 12:07 AM

Day 3 Tall Stacks
The MAGNOLIA BELLE is tied up upriver from Cincy on the Kentucky side, obviously not a part of TS. In fact, Franz and Carmen were to ride her tonight but they got switched to the NATCHEZ afternoon harbor trip. What an official first day! Ken and I made the WalMart run and got back in time to watch the NATCHEZ and BELLE land...of all days, I left my camera in the motel. I zipped over to the BELLE to briefly greet Hotfingers Prater and Lil Smith. They were driven along the wharf by golf cart, probably the slowest Hotfingers has moved all week. They'll be on the NATCHEZ Thursday. Tom Schiffer and Sharon Cunningham rode an early cruise, and the afternoon harbor trip carried in addition to our webmeisters, Ann Zeiger, Barb Hameister, Noftzgers, Hindmans. True steamboaters, they assisted in picking up the dishes and pieces thereof which went crashing to the deck when a serving table collapsed near them. Amazingly only about 10 plates broke. Capt. Sister Joy Manthey breezed onto the boat between trips. She's port captain operations, assisting the boats in and out of their docks. The dinner cruise had Chief Chris Wirtjes, Ann and Barb, and Capt. Pete and Evie O'Connell ex-BELLE aboard. Capt. Pete favored us with his wonderful handmade monkeyfist keychains, and fortunately there were a few cookie crumbs left for him to sample. Severe storms were forecast for this evening, but we lucked out and missed them. Actually Evie saved us by purchasing 3 rain ponchos before the cruise started. She knew that would keep the rain away, and it did! I'm not sure what the total number of crew is on the NATCHEZ, but the food and beverage is largely staffed by casual labor from the Cincy area, while regular crew (and a couple of strays like Dan and I) man the rest of the boat. Looking at some of the temps hauling stuff up the stairs to the Texas bar/serving area, I suspect a few won't return tomorrow. Working on a boat is NOT the same as on land. I mentioned the goose bumps the other night when the BELLE glided by and gave us a whistle salute... well, today it was tears of joy: I looked out the Gift Shop door before our morning harbor cruise began, and it was nothing but a sea of humanity on deck, shoulder to shoulder - people everywhere. I called my coworkers over to look, and their eyes lit up too - the NATCHEZ had truly come back to life! We had 1164 passengers on that cruise(1100 it seemed were schoolkids, maybe really only 1000 of them). What a joyous moment to see that mass of people out there on deck. We saw many of the older kids in the shop, as one bought a pair of sunglasses and soon all the classmates came in for the same. We probably sold 75 pair that trip, and none the rest of the day! For the day we carried 2616 pax - and Debbie appropriately played each cruise, I Ain't Down Yet! Yes siree, the NATCHEZ never left, but she is really really 'back'. Thanks Cincy and environs and all you steamboaters for your support! ....we've got just under 15,000 pewter hat pins left - reserve yours before they run out!!!! 8 hours before the next 'showtime', so time for some zzzzzzzzzzz....

Darin Schuld 10-05-2006 01:26 AM

No the Magnolia Belle is not part of Tall Stacks. It was disallowed because of an insurance problem. Supposedly, the boat is being replaced by the Blennerhassett, operating at the same dock as the Magnolia Belle. But, if Franz was moved to the Natchez, it sounds like maybe there was a choice. Don't know.

Glad to hear that things are going well on the Natchez. Save a pin for me. I'll be aboard on Friday.

Judy Patsch 10-05-2006 07:00 AM

Yes, the BLENNERHASSETT is there in its place. Franz and Carmen were reassigned to the SPIRIT OF JEFFERSON, but they refused that and asked for the NATCHEZ instead, which they received. So if anyone is displaced from a cruise, don't accept the TS reassignment if you don't want it. Negotiate. The rains came during the night and now we're supposed to have clear skies the rest of the fest. The temp has dropped from 85 yesterday to 58 now. Temps are supposed to be low 60s today and tomorrow and 70s for the weekend. Looks great....time to go over for our longest day. We start with a harbor cruise at 9AM and our moonlight gets back at midnight. We broke down the temporary outside shop last night due to the weather forecast so now we'll put it back up before the first cruise.... Friday afternoon the race includes the DQ, BELLE OF LOUISVILLE, and the NATCHEZ, even though the media stuff omits the NATCHEZ....

Keith Norrington 10-05-2006 03:26 PM

I'm sure Franz and Carmen are having a ball, despite the fact that Leonie began school several weeks ago and had to remain in Munich under the watchful care of her grandparents. Carmen told me Sunday that she heard Leonie humming a song last week. And what WAS that song??? "Waiting for the Robt. E. Lee"!!! I can't imagine why!!!!

Judy Patsch 10-06-2006 02:10 AM

Days 3 and 4 TS
Two days rolled into one! I'm writing this at 1:45AM Friday after just getting in from the boat. Our last cruise was scheduled to end at midnight, but we landed at 1:10AM due to the rising water. Those of you familiar with the Ohio know how quickly it rises and falls- it started up Thursday afternoon and we juggled landing areas starting around 5PM. When we returned from the dinner trip, the BELLE had to pull out to let us in and several of her deckhands got soaked and cooled off diving for the the mooring rings which had gone under during our cruise. When we came in for the midnight landing, we had to wait for boats to be manuevered so we could squeeze in. Capt. Joy Manthey was working the radios on this as port captain. With the help of a tow on our stern we got in at 1:10AM. I zipped off the boat to my car, as there was a sign that the parking garage towed after 1AM, and anyone with NOLA experience takes that seriously. The car was there and I headed back for the levee where I picked up the Pats and 3 coworkers and got them home. It was snug but we made it. Word is that the races are off due to the high water, and quite frankly I don't know what the situation will be in 6 hours when I go back for our first cruise. Our stacks are 63 feet high, but more important is the lack of landing area without wading to the boats. I feel sorry for the deck officers and crews tonight - there won't be much sleep as they'll be babysitting the lines and maybe moving boats. At this time, there appears to be no room for the DQ and MQ at the wharf....the day started 18 hours ago with a quick run to a 24 hour Walgreens to pick up paper bags for gift shop purchases. The first trip was quite light and the lunch appeared to be so too. They suggested that Dan and I take off and enjoy the festival. I walked up the levee and bought a TS pin, heard Debbie start the calliope, and went back to the boat. Enough festival for me. When I got up to the Gift Shop, Dan was already back too. We came here to be on the NATCHEZ and help, not to tour the riverfront. The lunch cruise was delightful, with Hotfingers(Miss Helen) and Lil aboard. I did take time off to visit with them at their breezy table. They helped the New Orleans Steamboat economy with their large gift shop purchase. As they were preparing to leave, in walked Steve and Barb Huffman. So that soiree continued until the next trip was ready to board. The dinner trip was billed as a Mardi Gras dinner by TS. Apparently beads and masks were promised to the pax. This was something we didn't know about, and we had no beads for those who requested them. There have been quite a few snafus regarding things pax have been told vs. what reality is. I guess that's a liability of a large event run not by yourself but by an outside group. As I was catching a late night supper, Capt. Wilson came and told me some friends from the SPIRIT OF PEORIA were up in the Gift Shop spending money - it was Lee and Kathy Havlik of JBS fame. I was able to visit with them briefly but unfortunately boarding time for the moonlight came too soon for them to get a tour of the boat. Hopefully they'll be able to come back this weekend. They too are having a ball working on the SPIRIT. The moonlight cruise found Pat Traynor, Pat Carr, and Frank Prudent aboard. It was another glorious day of steamboating, and a long one. I hope my navigation/deck crew friends can catch some sleep tonight, they should be exhausted. It was like being on a plane which has landed and is waiting on the tarmac for a gate. And there were at least two boats yet behind us waiting to land after 1 AM!!!!!!!

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