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

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    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.
    Attached Files

    Of the NATCHEZ, MQ and Doc, continued

    Picture 1: that's Capt. John Davitt in the red/white striped shirt, with Capt. Lee Hendrickx to his left. Out by the bull rail in the dark shirt is Capt. Paul PT Thoene. Others I know not.
    Picture 2: No ids here, but you can see the crowd inside the Mag Suite, as well as out on deck.
    Picture 3: We turned early on the downriver trip so we could go up and pass by the MQ for the group. She's over to our port side, the object of their attention in this pix. Capt. Steve Nicoulin put our searchlight on her, and when the big MISSISSIPPI QUEEN nameboard lit up, there arose a great cheer from this crowd. It was a melancholy moment for me, watching these people look at THEIR boat, and knowing the shape she is in and the importance she had in their lives...
    Please feel free to offer IDs of anyone you recognize in these shots.
    Attached Files


      and finally, the calliope concert info

      As I mentioned, Doc had to hustle to get as many songs in as possible before the Festival bands started up in Woldenberg Park. Songs he played:
      Quality Plus
      When the Turkey in the Straw Danced the Chicken Reel
      My Happiness
      Third Man Theme
      Peggy O'Neil
      Wildwood Flower

      You know I'm no techno nut, so these songs were recorded on a cheapo cassette recorder in windy conditions. If anyone wants a copy of this 15 minute tape, email me, and I'm sure you can transfer/enhance it to your liking.

      In the photo, Doc is checking his request list for the next song...
      Attached Files


        Hi Judy,

        Thanks for sharing your photos! I was just listening to John Hartford on my MP3-Player and there it was "Natchez Whistle" :-).

        Keith Tinnin and others have posted lots of photos of the MQ reunion on Facebook and it looked like the Natchez cruise and seeing the MQ was one of the highlights.



          MQ reunion on NATCHEZ

          It was obvious that they were all having a good time, and they had the private party room and their own bartender for the trip. I'm sure they appreciated Capt. Steve Nicoulin and Capt. Troy Delaney taking the boat up past the MQ for their benefit too. Capt. Joy Manthey saw a large group of them travelling together through the Festival site at the park on Saturday, so I'm sure it was a memorable weekend for them. Speaking of Capt. Joy, she is doing quite well these days, busy as ever working as a Captain/Chaplain for Kirby Marine - on the lower Miss and over the Intracostal to Texas. She's also on a national safety board, where she heard both Capt. Phillips and the First Mate of the hijacked ship speak last week. She is the head of the souvenir tent volunteer group every year at the FQ Fest. She has a condo in Baton Rouge and rents out her lake area home in NOLA. She hasn't made it back to the UMR in a couple of years but may be coming to the Grafton Towboat Weekend this year, if her schedule permits.


            Nice to hear from you again! I'm glad that your trip to New Orleans went well, and the pictures are awesome as always. One thing I noticed is that the calliope looks like it has been polished since I was there for New Years when I got a group together to do it. Bobby must be getting on them about that lol! I definitely would like the audio of the calliope, so if you could send it to my e-mail, that would be awesome.