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Group wants to buy the Delta Queen and put her back on the rivers

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    Another article based on the press release

    This was in the Cincinnati Enquirer - I'm sure Doc will be thrilled to find out he is now spearheading this purchase! The line about the two Chattanooga groups wanting to keep the boat dockside is interesting, too. I wonder if the reporter talked to them, or if this came from "I'd rather she burn than be a hotel". hmmm.


      The facts seem to be that there are three interested parties in purchasing the DELTA QUEEN. We know very little about two of the groups and nothing about the third. Fact one is only one group has its stated goal as returning the DQ to the cruise trade immediately. The other groups are reported as wanting to keep the boat in Chattanooga. Fact two is, the current operators want to create a non-profit organization to own the boat, but beyond that things are unclear. Fact three: the third group is a total enigma. The final known fact is that one group has a spokesperson that has been known to make inopportune comments at times.

      Not known is how any of the above groups plan to fully finance their schemes. We don't know if any of the groups even have financing or not. We don't know the names of any individual or corporate investors involved, and a bargeload of other questions remain.

      So I reinterate from my first posting, It is way too early to bestow the mantle of savior of the DELTA QUEEN on any one person, couple or group. I too well remember that both Delaware North and Ambassadors International were given that title.



        I have given tours to 3 parties who are interested in buying her. It is no lie that the ones from Memphis want to (remodel) her to make bigger rooms. There is a group in Nashville that want to (remodel) and talked of converting her to diesel not steam, so they could run cheaper. The 3rd was a man in Florida who wants to buy her only if he can install an elevator, either on the laundry entrence to the pilot house or in the smokestake housing. These are highlights of what they conveyed to me while showing them the boat and I don't remember all the details (too many other things happening), Leanne and Randy are putting money into actually preserving the boat beyond the hotel. They are making sure that it stays in her 60+ year form. As far as the owners current are concerned, first come first served. With all the attention I feel they might get stupid and try and increase the price. The hope is to get her in good hands and back on the water, if only for 2 - 3 cruises a year and hotel for remainder. What do I know? Hope for the best and give my energy and love to help see the best outcome.


          Originally posted by Frank X. Prudent View Post

          The current operators of the boat were able to stage a recent media event and mention plans of forming a non-profit corporation to own the boat.

          I strongly believe if the vessel was turned or "sold" to a nonprofit it would be the death of her, it may sound like a world of benefits filled with tax write offs and feeling good helping out, but that does not pay to run the boat. All the same benefits can be gained by running the vessel as a for-profit which also "manages" a non-profit; this is what we do, as well as any large corporation does, so that people who wish to donate to help preserve the vessel or help out have an organization they can turn to.

          Non-profits in my experience (and my fathers words) only last as long as there is a benefactor to foot the bill and qualified individuals who will work without expecting compensation for the time spent, the CBelle lasted for 15 years once the original presidents of the nonprofit stepped down and new individuals took over, gained the majority, and removed the rest of the first generation, and I won't go into details, but as you all know the Chautauqua Belle was just weeks away from the scrap yards before I stepped in and stop it.

          I hope that the vessel someday steams again, I wrote my english thesis on why she should, but becoming a nonprofit almost completely stops her from ever becoming a for-profit again without something just as difficult as her getting the exemption from congress.


            Why are the two groups in Chattanooga not working together? What are their differences?



              the answer to this question is something probably not to be discussed in the public. It's probably the same reason why the originally well working team including Vicki Webster split up ... But again, this is probably beet not to be discussed in the public ... I'll send you an e-mail with some details.



                Originally posted by Jim Herron View Post
                Why are the two groups in Chattanooga not working together? What are their differences?
                Jim, the recent article is the first time any of us working in Chattanooga have heard of a second group, unless it is referring to the first group back in early 2008 that wanted her as a hotel and has since given up on the idea. While there are several different people in Chattanooga with an interest in the boat, I can tell you personally there is not a major divide. In fact if anything we are becoming more united. Be careful what you read in the press as we are all learning, reporters don't verify their sources.

                The other point the same article makes is that neither group has any interest in running the boat again. If that were the case why would the current operators have spent so much money two weeks ago buying fuel, supplies, to run the engines again to ensure they stayed lubricated and in good condition. They even spent a decent sized sum refinishing all the railings and painting the boat. Lets all remember, that since 2008, of the three Queens, only the Delta Queen's wheel has rolled. If the current operators wanted to ensure the Delta Queen never left Chattanooga it would make no sense for them to ensure her engines were kept in good condition. Like I said, be careful what you read in the press. Always go to the source for confirmation.


                  Mat, with all do respect I do not agree. The choice to pursue a non-profit was carefully debated over the past 18 months, and there is an argument for both.

                  However, I think its important to hear the non-profit's plan before making a hard conclusion that its doomed to fail. The Delta Queen Preservation Foundation will be a non-profit that holds the title of the boat. This will allow for any charitable contributions. However we all realize you cannot support it indefinitely on charity as you have pointed out.

                  This is why the operations of the boat, whether dockside or sailing would be leased to a for-profit operator. It would be a win-win for all parties involved. Those of us who have worked on the boat for the past two years maintaining her (several of which are former DQ engineers) know she is going to need a huge amount of capital to get her able to pass a CG inspection, regardless of the exemption. A for-profit operator would have to have deep pockets up front and no hurry to recoup costs if they were to buy her and make the repairs the USCG has been asking for since before the boat went out of service. That is why if a non-profit can buy the boat and cover those sunk costs, she will be more attractive to an operator who wants to run her. All they would have to do is lease her from the non-profit. Meanwhile the lease revenue would be a steady income for the boat, which would go directly back into it.

                  The same thing is currently going on now. The Delta Queen Hotel leases the boat from Ambassadors, except right now none of that rent revenue is going back towards preserving and maintaining the boat. If she was owned by a non-profit, the for-profit operator, whether a hotel or cruise operator, would be paying rent to the non-profit.

                  Many different opinions were sought from businessman, lawyers, tax accountants, former Captains and several DQSC executives. The ending result was this format. I think its a reasonable approach, and in this economy more practical unless you have an investor willing to dump a huge amount of capital upfront on a boat that has no guarantees of legally being able to run again. She has two hurdles to overcome, the exemption and the COI. But as Dale says...What do I know...




                    Although I understand you and your family had the great fortune of saving the CHAUTAUQUA BELLE at a time when no one else was interested please keep in mind this is not always the situation with nonprofits. A big thank you to you and your family for having the insight to preserve her and the history of steamboating on Chautauqua Lake!

                    Many nonprofits have great successes. Speaking of steamboating nonprofits, remember the BELLE OF LOUISVILLE is a nonprofit. Yes, we don't always agree with their vision for and operation of the boat. However, the fact remains the boat IS running in it's 96th year. And 48 of those years have been as a nonprofit.

                    I highly suggest you read the posting Franz made today with a more detailed idea of what the Delta Queen Preservation Foundation has in mind.

                    What I think you are not taking into account is the amount of money needed to get the boat operational again. True, when you and your family got ahold of the CHAUTAUQUA BELLE she was in very bad condition. In the case of the DELTA QUEEN the engines are in perfect operating condition. But, the last two owners ignored so much of the necessary maintenance the boat will need several million dollars to get her back up to what she needs to be if she is ever going to run again. No private operator can afford to put forth this kind of money. With the DELTA QUEEN there are many possible situations you did not encounter with the CHAUTAUQUA BELLE. We are talking several million to get her operational, possible failure getting the COI, possible failure getting the exemption, and then the reality she is a 174-pax vessel. The reality is she will have trouble making enough of a profit to survive if she has to pay her way with this kind of overhead. Not to mention the possibility that after all the money she still may not get the COI or the exemption. The CHAUTAUQUA BELLE was lucky, on the Lake she does not require a COI and of course she does not need an exemption from the Safety of Life At Sea Law, either. Who is going to invest this much money into something which may not make it back for them?

                    The answer, the Preservation Foundation. Although you intonate they may fail - and like any business we have to be real and say yes, they could. If they do purchase the boat and restore her (and they have made great inroads towards just that already) who loses? If they do get the boat, and if they do restore her and she fails...the next owner is the winner! Just like you are so successful with the CHAUTAUQUA BELLE. If the work is done, a person could purchase her and make money with her. With out the work done, anyone who gets her would end up scuttling her. So this is a win-win situation. Anything they do is good and preserves the boat further.

                    I am not involved with the Preservation Foundation. Nor am I interested in or capabel of purchasing her myself. What I am is a former employee and historian who has been involved with the steamboating business for over 30 years. I remember the glory days of the DELTA QUEEN...I also was part of the last two owners operation of the boat and I know what problems they faced with her. I know what the USCG wanted to see for her to keep her COI, I know what battle she faced for a exemption, I know what is going on in Chattanooga and I know what initially happened in Chattanooga. The truth is, the boat is in better shape right now than she would have been if she were left to mold in New Orleans. The hotel is operational with maintenance personnel aboard her 24 hours a day, work is being done to her, paint is being applied, they are putting forth every effort to restore her already.

                    My point...these people have done their due diligence, they are ready to take her on and restore her and make ready to run her again. The worst thing that could happen IF they were to fail is she be preserved and restored and would have the chance to be transferred to a potential owner who would not have this massive overhead.

                    Pardon my sarcasm here...but, how is this a bad thing?




                      Having been part of a not for profit boat operation the past 9 years I can agree with a lot of what your saying. Non profit docked versus non-profit operating are two different things. Boats are not designed to sit still for very long, there are too many examples of this ending badly. I'd certainly like to see the DQ restored but I don't see the income from being dockside plus the donations being enough to restore or eventually even maintain her. Wait until the hull needs replaced again. Not sure who said it but boats are a big whole in the water into which you throw money. I'm not anti-anything if it involves keeping the boat as she is for future generations. Just concerned that there might not be enough money behind the non-profit idea. Not out here to say who's wrong or right I just want to see that danged old boat back out in the river soon!



                        Please understand this situation involves a much larger vessel with a much larger following who have been dedicated to her for many of the last 30+ years of her life. The operation you are involved with is in a low profile location with little promotion outside of the Tall Stacks events. Although I have great respect for the work done in your case, this is a totally different situation altogether. The reason I cited the BELLE OF LOUISVILLE in my earlier post was because she is the closest operation to the one being proposed in these lines. Keep in mind, the amount of public and private funds utilized to operate the BELLE and her sister vessel the SPIRIT OF JEFFERSON is quite small. The vessels have rarely used public funds in their operation over the last 48 years. It is quite highly possible the DELTA QUEEN could do the same thing.

                        This is a very high profile operation with a huge national press following.

                        I understand everyone is very skeptical of this operation. Looking at the last two operators of the boat, and the end of the American Classic Voyages era of the DELTA QUEEN, we are all rather skeptical of anyone who isn't doing things perfect in our eyes. Having worked for the last two operators and having to defend them was hard. Either of them could have been (and should have been) the success the boat needed. Sadly, both chose to go another direction. I know a number of the boat's fans are facing the difficult decision of who to support at this juncture in her life. As you may remember, I was not a fan of this operation last year. Since The Ingrams have taken over things are entirely different. I have been there as have many of our fellow river fans. I can assure you, these people are the real thing! They have the boat's best interest at heart.

                        This can work, because the DELTA QUEEN, unlike so many other vessels, has national recognition. It will not be as hard to get support for her because of the public's knowledge of her and her plight. Notice, in the last 2 days how much national press the boat is getting.

                        Rather than debating who is right and who is wrong, I challenge all who read this to visit the DELTA QUEEN in Chattanooga, visit her website, take the time to meet the Ingrams and see what they have planned for the boat.

                        I think after going to the source and seeing things for yourself, you will come away supporting their vision for the DELTA QUEEN.

                        But all this speculation on here from skeptical people who have not been to the scene or have not met the principal personalities involved is doing nothing but hurting the cause!

                        We need to stop all this negative energy and focus it instead on the positive operation of the DELTA QUEEN.

                        Has anyone on here thought what we must look like to the rest of the world? If we love her so much, why are we constantly fighting amongst ourselves? If you haven't been to the boat, if you haven't met the Ingrams, if you haven't operated your own high profile, nationally respected and recognized historic vessel then you need to go see the operation and meet the people who are before you post things about them and their operation in a public forum which any person, media outlet, or potential owner operator could read 24 hours a day!

                        Lets get back to the reality here...we want the DELTA QUEEN saved, am I right?



                          Preservation Across the Pond...

                          Our friends in Great Britain have a successful model for an organization such as proposed by the Delta Queen Preservation Foundation.

                          P.S. Waverley is owned on behalf of the Society by Waverley Steam Navigation Co. Ltd. (WSN) (itself a registered Scottish charity - SC005832)) and operated by Waverley Excursions Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of WSN.

                          Here is a link to the website.
                          Report and Accounts 2008



                            Phillip, I agree with you. You have "crawled the bilges" both physically and philosophically on the Delta Queen.My three days aboard this week tell me that just maybe there's a sweet old lady somewhere patting her foot and just smiling at all the attention, just waiting to say, "I told you so"...


                              I really didn't mean offend anyone with what I said, and I'm sorry if I did.

                              The Chautauqua Belle is on a much smaller scale and in turn was a much smaller budget. What I can tell you about the pro/non profit is more on the side of my family's businesses and partners. Millions of dollars are nothing when it comes to an investor who is given a well thought out plan, here in Mayville our recent development is well over the tens of millions of dollars when it comes to new expo center, hotel, restaurant, all written from one check book, with a dream to improve the area and the people who are motivated to do, and it's been a success.

                              Our current situation we have right now is leasing a former rr depot, however without at least a 50 year lease we won't negotiate with the board because the risk is too great, you want something not only you can ran as a profitable business, but that can build a legacy and pass on to your children.

                              The nonprofit would be great, IF they did at least a long term lease 25-50 years. With a lease of 10 years, or less, just as we are seeing RIGHT NOW is an individual can come along offer MORE MONEY and take everything away from someone who has worked so hard to preserve and build up a business. If the presidents of the preservation societies little brothers son graduates from business school, puts together a business plan, and because he has had a life long link to the group, loves the river and steamboats, well he can easily step in because his "goals" are more oriented toward the view of the preservation society, the board can kick out the current business owners, etc. Or simply once the business builds up the vessel, the preservation society realizes they now have enough money in the bank to just get rid of the for-profit all together and take over, and make that much more... How well has our elected officials been doing in making the right choices lately, they don't have a self-agenda either I'm sure.

                              But what happens when things start going down hill with the non-profit, are the presidents going to become financially ruined as a for-profit president would be? No they aren't they are going to be idolized as trying to Save The Delta Queen, but unfortunately it just couldn't be done for this or that reason, they walk away with things worse than before. A for-profit business places ten fold financial pressure for a venture to succeed, if the owners of the vessels don't succeed, go threw bankruptcy, well I can tell you what, it's a living nightmare growing up in a family that has been threw 2 of them, but we, my father, got back on our feet and went right back at it, not talking about it, just doing, and being more successful than ever as an entrepreneur.

                              And as for the money goes, as I said before, when it comes to the investor, one million is no different than twenty million, but if the business doesn't end up in the black after three to five years, it's going to end up back at shore.

                              I wish I was old and wise enough to help lead a project like this, but I'm still learning in every aspect, and am already overwhelmed between the RRD and the - - -

                              Sorry if I offended anyone in this post, I truly mean no harm, and my opinions are in no way affiliated with any non-profits I am a member of or USSLLTD



                                I agree $4m is too much. This has been a real education over the last few days.