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Passenger misbehavior

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    Passenger misbehavior

    Compared to the Delta Queen there is a distinct lack of decorum on the Belle of Louisville. Misbehavior by the clientele is almost a daily occurrence there.

    Usually it is minor mischief but once in a while persons, and even groups, seem to come aboard with malice in mind and heart. It seems to be most prevalent among the well-heeled such as "service" clubs and fraternities. They can be really destructive.

    Mischief is when a fool decides to jump in the river or a drunk wants to walk the rails like a tightrope or a high school twerp wants to show off for his girl friend and dons a life jacket.

    Criminality comes in when felons decide to throw furniture, life jackets or each other overboard.

    One terrifying instance was when a kid decided to jump in the river to save time leaving the boat. We were several yards from the old wharf at Louisville when he did it. He landed in mud, unable to move, while the boat slid on and on. The Belle had worn a path in the river-bottom mud. Once the bow was in that groove she would land herself, so she was not about to slide sidewise into the punk. After landing we dragged him ashore and suggested that he try to improve his brain.

    genteel NATCHEZ, sort of

    Doc and Roddy always remarked about how much more civil the NATCHEZ passengers were compared to their BELLE and AVALON days, but there certainly were miscreants in NOLA too. The one I remember best was on a charter. It was celebrating the top Plymouth dealerships and their salesmen, and there was an open bar - obvious invitation to trouble - the tables had been moved to the sides to allow more dancing space, and near the end of the trip, one guy stood on a table and jumped out and grabbed on to a chandelier. Luckily his grip wasn't that good and he fell right away, but I was surprised he didn't rip the fixture out anyway.
    In all of her 34 years, the NATCHEZ has only had one case of someone jumping overboard, and that young man unfortunately chose Algiers Bend, the deepest point of the river, in which to jump to try to swim ashore. His body was found later about 40 miles downriver.
    We've probably had more trouble at the wharf than when underway, and surprisingly even that has been minimal, considering how accessible the boat is. One Easter Sunday morning I was on the main deck bow. A guy jumped onto the port side of the boat, with harbor police after him. Don Houghton took chase on the boat. I heard yells of "Stop him!", and when he rounded the corner headed right at me, I used my teaching technique(don't put your hands on a kid) and put my shoulder into the guy, knocking him against the bulkhead and down so he was apprehended quickly. When they were doing the police report with Doc, he told the Sgt. to check to see if I was injured since I was the one who slowed the crook up. Negative. Just used good teaching methods....
    Don has also been involved in rescue boat missions when clowns try to swim out from the Moonwalk steps into Algiers Bend. But overall the NATCHEZ can't compete with her elder steamboat sisters in passenger horror stories.


      I remember one time in early January 2008 on the NATCHEZ. We had a large charter of school kids on (996 to be exact), but all of the chaperones were downstairs stayed downstairs in the Mag where there was an open bar I believe. Anyway, I found a small, empty bottle of vodka in the men's room, not the size we carry on the boat. So I took it down to the chaperons and, after finding the person in charge, told him they should be watching their kids better. The guy asked me if I was certain that it was his kids. All I said back was, "Hey, you told me you were the one in charge!" I have to say there have been some interesting stories from Lake George though!


        All the more reason why they should have kept that little jail cell aboard the BELLE. Why did they remove it anyway? The National Park Service is supposed to keep tabs on removal of historic items from National Historic Landmark Vessels like the BELLE. Seems like they would have wanted that left aboard(?). The Historic people come down to inspect the BARBARA H annually to make sure we have made no significant alterations. Do they also visit the BELLE?


          BELLE cell

          I think it was removed to make room for all the extra devices necessitated by that idiot sinking the boat.


            Trivia question for everyone but Phil, Clara and Travis - Where is the jail cell on the AQ?



              Today they lock miscreants in a spare steel "stateroom."

              Doc Hawley said they once locked 5 would-be fighters in the jail together. They didn't come out as friends, exactly, but they had no fight left in them.

              In an effort to trim the Belle we moved the jail to the firebox. It was not a good idea. I went to check on the guy and as I rounded the corner I heard our fireman yell, "If you don't shut up I'm gonna peel yo' skull!" He was brandishing a heavy wrench, but didn't peel the fool's skull. We moved the jail back to the engineroom.

              During my three years on the boat we only jailed about four or five idiots.

              There was a hatch leading to the nastiest compartment in the hull at the stern rake.
              The bottom was slick with a slurry of mud, grease and river water. As soon as a drunk saw that hatch he'd get the idea he could escape that way. Only one tried it. His feet shot out from under him and he landed on his back in the mess.

              Then there was the time the boat's carpenter showed the jail to his girl friend. The hatch cover tilted and down she went. It took five people to get her out of there.
              I think the romance died that day.



                This is my confession...

                Back in the 80's I idolized the idea of a remote keyboard for the calliope on the BELLE OF LOUISVILLE. I had about 12 different ideas on how we'd do it. The strangest was a desk just under the instrument (on the Skylight Roof) with the keyboard at it, attached to a liquor bar (horse shoe shaped) infront of it.

                My idea was...the passengers will love the calliope and get so much entertainment from watching it being played.

                Well, there were meetings, drawings, talks, speculation, interrogation, pictures rendered, and a half dozen other ideas mulled about between the Operating Board, the Captains, the Engineers, and myself and the fruition of this nonsense was moving the keyboard on the 2nd of April 1988 to the aft end of the Texas Cabin where it was on a sliding tray, much like a drawer. This lasted until the begining of the 1989 season when a closet was manufactured at the aft end of the Texas cabin where it is today.

                Here is where this story becomes sequitor to this conversation.....I knew you'd all hold on long enough for this rambling to make sense!

                Be careful what you wish for!

                Contrary to my beliefs the passengers did NOT love the calliope. Once I was in their midst I became alot more than the Calliopist! Passengers come to an excursion boat for many reasons...some have nothing better to do with a couple of hours, some want to spend time with their family and/or friends, some want to learn about their home town, some are reminicing about times past, some are there for the food...but the calliope is not the reason any of them (EXCEPT for Matt Dow, David Morecraft, Jon and David Tchiggfrie, and myself) to be there!

                True, the pied-piper sound of the calliope is a draw. I would go so far as to say it lures many people to the river. However, once aboard, it is a totally different experience!

                One summer day in 1988 I realized the err in my ways. I became a curiosity up there with my little keyboard in a passenger area. Some requested songs (the main reason I thought it would be a good thing), some requested the volume turned down (I added a old VHF tuning knob from a television mid-season and just turning the thing made folks was attached to nothing), and the bain of my existance....people started poking me (oblivious to the fact I eas the source of the music) wanting directions to the bathroom. I once told a captain aboard the BELLE, I want a new uniform shirt with directions to the bathroom stenciled on the back of it! I never got that shirt! One time I was particularly annoyed with one elderly male passenger who had come to me 3 times for directions to the bathroom in one concert. So I advised him we did not have a bathroom, that is what the wire mesh rails were for...he could just stand there like he was looking at the river an no one would be the wiser. I stopped him from taking me up on my offer just in the nick of time and walked him to the restroom!

                Many people became vocally abusive over the volume of the calliope. I got into the habit of explaining the history, meaning, and purpose of the calliope as a way to diffuse them. I would also explain I had only a few minutes left to call passengers to the river and it would be over. This usually calmed them down.

                One time that didn't work.

                There was a particularly aggressive male passenger one day who thought through a process of physically relocating me through the Texas Cabin bulkhead would stop the calliope music quicker. After I did my normal explaination of the time factor and all...he wasn't satisfied. I offered him the possibility of the Captain giving him a refund, the ability to discuss his percieved annoyance with the Captain, and even went as far as to suggest he didn't want me on unemployment on his dime with I lost my job. This was not good enough for our assailant.

                Sadly enough for him, we had Security Patrol aboard the boat this day. He may have goeetn the first lick in...but, in the end, he didn't get a boat cruise, he didn't get a refund, he never met the Captain, and lastly, he never came back to claim the boarding picture Marie (our Photographer at the time...a lovely lady from New Orleans) took as he boarded. His lady friend stayed aboard for the cruise and apologized to me several times for his 'vulgarness", as she called it.

                Passengers...they can make or break a cruise on an excursion boat! Sometimes I think the best excursion boat ride is when you are deadheading between towns. There is nothing like it. Unfortunatly, that doesn't pay the bills!

                Yeah, be careful what you wish for...'.cause you just may get it! I think I want that inscribed on my tombstone.



                  Misbehavior seems to come in phases. When Doc Hawley was captain it was to back out light bulbs, then throw them at passing motorboats.

                  Doc ended that right quick! He sent up the hill for an industrial-sized jar of Vaseline while the crew screwed those bulbs in as tight as they could. They were then given a film of Vaseline. Summertime in Louisville brings out swarms of tiny green insects that look like miniature locusts. They are drawn to lights and soon the bulbs developed a pale green hue of bugs stuck in Vaseline.

                  When a miscreant grabbed a bulb he immediately had a slurry of gooey, green Vaseline on his hand. His next move was to wipe his hand on his breeches. That phase of vandalism soon ended and the light bulbs stayed put.

                  A certain amount of petting between overheated teenagers was allowed during moonlights, so we normally extinguished the texas roof lights soon after departure to accommodate them and to protect the light bulbs. They did not know that "eyes was watching" in the gloaming to forestall what comes naturally. A warning from a watchman was usually enough to restore order.


                    U know me all to well when u say that one of the reasons I would ride the boat is the calliope. I want to say that one of the many reasons the canopies were put on the NATCHEZ (especially in the stern) was that Debbie got sick of people popping up and screaming things at her during her concerts. That, of course, could just be a story.


                      Mates + Misbehavin'

                      The Mate on Watch was often used as the quasi-police on the D.Q. + M.Q. One of the funnier situations that occured several times, was one half of a married couple, usually the husband, would appear at the wheelhouse or purser's office in search of their spouse.
                      This was often at about the same time that the bars closed. The alone party would request, demand, a search of the vessel for their missing partner.
                      Knowing what had happened, that the searching partner was unwilling to accept, a quick check with the bartender would reveal not someone overboard, but rather someone in serious danger of getting in over their head where their marriage vows were concerned.
                      Capt. Dave Rainbolt was the most talented at being able to break the news without causing a boatwide major crisis.
                      He often explained that looking for missing partners, not feared overboard, did not fall under the duties of the ships officers.
                      I do remember him putting one reunited couple off the boat and several others cutting their trip short, the next landing after said situation.


                        We had a similar experience on the Belle of Louisville. The very drunk guy's wife had gone ashore with the headline and gone home in a cab. He insisted that we search the boat so deckhands were dispatched here and there and all reported no lost lady. Captain Paul Underwood escorted the drunk to the stage and applied diplomacy. The drunk, a huge man, looked down at him and said, "You're a smart little s.o.b., aren't you."
                        Paul jumped up and clipped the guy's chin with his fist and the next thing you know the drunk was ashore surrounded by a gang of mate and deckhands. We didn't hurt him. Much.


                          Rain Cloud

                          Cap'n Paul was a scrappy little cuss, but no one matched Big Cap'n Ernie Wagner for soothing the waters when it came to trouble on the steamboat. A virtual human overcast-- why, just looking like he might cloud up and thunder on the miscreant was always, that I saw, enough persuasion for peace to rain upon the scene, instead.


                            There was a pronounced difference between Ernie Wagner and Paul Underwood - size. Paul was about 5'-5" tall and weighed in at about 130 pounds. Ernie stood about 6'-3" and his weight was about double Paul's. But size made little difference to Paul; he would fight. That scar on his upper lip was caused by a tire-iron in a fight.

                            A big fellow like Wagner could often simply overwhelm a person without raising voice or fist, while a small one would feel he must fight.

                            As a mate, I never fought, but gathered my faithful deckhands or watchmen. Even they never laid on fists. We never had a riot or a general fight. Watchmen were quicker and wore weapons.


                              NATCHEZ canopies

                              Originally posted by Matthew Dow View Post
                              U know me all to well when u say that one of the reasons I would ride the boat is the calliope. I want to say that one of the many reasons the canopies were put on the NATCHEZ (especially in the stern) was that Debbie got sick of people popping up and screaming things at her during her concerts. That, of course, could just be a story.
                              That is definitely just a phony story. The canopies were added in 1985. Debbie started on the NATCHEZ in late 1989. The canopies were added to give more shaded area.