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A Boat Paying For Itself Without Rolling It's Wheel

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  • R. Dale Flick
    *A boat/s quick payoff*
    Morning, steamboating colleagues,
    Thanks, Jim, for the interesting history from the Howard Yards back in the 'palmy days.' You were lucky to have been in/around Mrs. Loretta Howard and the then emerging Howard Museum and mansion. All of those fascinating old records, letters, documents, photos and photo plates like that first peek inside of King Tut's tomb. But I think we can dismiss those old practices you describe above with a fond farewell. The reality of financing, accomplishing big boat and marine projects today based on piles of legal documents, miles of architectural renderings, tons of money, reams of government regulations, safety requirements, labor issues--even U.S. Public Health and the keen eye of our U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies to do the job--if even at all. Those hard bitten steamboat owners/operators and captains then minced no words. They knew what they wanted, when they wanted it. Years ago I also saw an old letter in the Howard papers RE: building of a big southern cotton packet [Can't recall the name now] in a heavy bond paper envelope simply addressed "To Howards, Jeffersonville, Indiana." No street, no zip code etc. that was obviously carried north on a packet and dropped off at the yard. Other times the post office then knew exactly who the 'Howards' were with all that implied. The short letter inside to the yards simply read, "Begin work on our boat as soon as convenient to you that we discussed." Period. There were no financial quotes, specifications, bids to solicit and sign, detailed drawings etc. Howards knew what their client wanted, how and when. There were bank checks, letters of credit in those days with a number of boats paid for in gold. Up to the Civil War there was a shortage of gold and silver coin in the U.S. with foreign coinage being accepted in circulation. Other boats were built, delivered simply on a letter of credit and the reputation of the owner based on his past known "character." The word and term "personality" had not come into use then until later psychological studies and human profiling. Boat owners/operators today are in for a lot more financially than they ever imagined. What's the old rule? "Sign the bid for work or building and then double it." Our own Capt. Bill Judd, as a marine surveyor, can tell you plenty--and more.

    R. Dale Flick
    Old Coal Haven Landing, Ohio River, Cincinnati

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  • A Boat Paying For Itself Without Rolling It's Wheel

    With our beloved DELTA QUEEN facing a huge rebuild, I imagine the owners would like to be able to roll back the clock to the time when it was possible for a boat to pay for itself before it was built.
    Back in the Golden Days of river transportation, on several occasions, when freight rates were high, owners would take possesion of a newly completed hull from Howard's shipyard. They would tow the hull to Louisville and load it down with freight. They would tow the loaded hull to New Orleans, unload it and then reload it with northbound freight and have it towed back to Louisville. After it was unloaded at Louisville, they would take it back to the shipyard for completion....the boat having completely paid for itself before it made its first trip as a grand steamboat.