From the Boathouse: New life for the Delta Queen


Many people in the area and visitors from around the world remember the Reuben E. Lee Restaurant later renamed the Pride of Newport as the most famous faux Riverboat in Newport Harbor floating securely attached to shore by the Back Bay Bridge. The floating barge was built with a superstructure to resemble a riverboat complete with a rotating paddlewheel for effect. She ended her life as a nautical museum, but was originally built as a restaurant that served great Chef's specials in her years on the water.


Now, the barge's skeletal remains are sitting in about 2,400 feet under the sea when it was purposely scuttled to Davy Jones' Locker. The Environmental Protection Agency approved location that is a little more than halfway to Santa Catalina Island from Newport Harbor.

Newport's riverboat may still be remembered as a notable sightseeing destination, yet another historic riverboat located over 1,600 statute miles (not nautical miles since this is a nautical column) away might be saved by two Missouri senators. The 285-foot Delta Queen, which was named a National Historic Landmark in 1989 and listed on the 2016 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, was partially constructed in 1924 in Scotland and assembled in Stockton in 1926. She was built to service the Delta region primarily from San Francisco to Stockton, and now, she laid up in port at Houma, La.


Ships of this age typically do not meet current Coast Guard standards to be certified as passenger carrying vessels, especially with overnight accommodations. However, the introduction of Senate Bill S.89, introduced Jan. 10, 2017, is aiming to exempt older vessels that are operating only on inland waters from current fire hazard restrictions. The bill to amend title 46, United States Code, states that any vessel must have annual alterations of at least 10% of the areas not constructed of fire-retardant materials.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) who co-sponsored the legislation with Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) in addition to five other sponsors are pushing the legislation forward as the bill has cleared the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. Now the dual hopes that Congress will keep the paddle wheeler afloat to cruise the inland waterways of the country as in America's past. A new chapter of life for a boat that began cruising the waterways in California.

Tip of the week

Hurry up and get down to the Newport Harbor's Orange County Sheriff Harbor Department Friday morning so you don't miss the abandoned vessel auction. I count at least 43 abandoned vessels will be up for grabs, and pre-auction viewing starts at 8 a.m. until the auction begins at 9 a.m.

The vessels include inflatables, kayaks, dinghies, sailboats, powerboats, and a 24-foot outrigger canoe. How does one lose an outrigger canoe?

Vessels are sold as is, and you can only pay with cash. Vessels must be removed by 5 p.m. on Friday, but the Harbor Department will hold the state-registered vessels for a 10-day redemption period before releasing them to winning bidders.

The Orange County Sheriff's Harbor Department is located at 1901 Bayside Drive in Corona del Mar. Parking is available on the street. I'm waiting for a submarine to bid on someday.

You can contact the City of Newport Beach's Harbor Resources Division at (949) 644-3034 for more information, but your best bet is to go to the pre-auction viewing.

L.A. Boat Show

As a reminder, I mention in my last column (From the Boathouse: L.A. Boat Show coming soon) that the Los Angeles Boat Show is happening this weekend. Keep in mind that the show has moved to its new home port at the Fairplex in Pomona.

The Los Angeles Boat Show is known as Southern California's largest boat show, and celebrating its 61st year of the show. The show goes through Sunday. You can find out more information and purchase tickets at

Safe Voyages!


MIKE WHITEHEAD is a boating columnist for the Daily Pilot. Send marine-related thoughts and story suggestions to or go to