Passenger Vessels

Two Paddlewheelers Southbound In Tow

The steamer Julia Belle Swain, which has been dormant in La Crosse, Wis., for a decade, was spotted southbound in the tow of the mv. Laura K with the former Spirit of Peoria, now renamed Capitol, this week.

Both boats are owned by Troy Manthey, president and CEO of Yacht Starship Dining Cruises, Tampa, Fla. He told The Waterways Journal December 7 that the two boats are bound for Steiner Construction in Bayou La Batre, Ala., for refurbishment.

He expects the Capitol to be completed around February or March 2024, with the Julia Belle Swain complete within six months.

“We’re building them to do sightseeing, brunch, lunch and dinner cruises, and private events,” he said.

No contracts are in place yet, so Manthey wouldn’t disclose where they will operate. However, he said, “This will be our first out-of-market operation.” Currently, Manthey operates 14 vessels in Tampa.

The Julia Belle Swain was designed by Capt. Dennis Trone and built in 1971 at Dubuque Boat & Boiler Works of Dubuque, Iowa; it is one of the last authentic steamboats on the inland rivers. The Capitol operated in Peoria as an excursion vessel from 1988 through 2022. It was designed by Alan Bates and built by Walker Boat Yard in Paducah, Ky.