Save the Delta Queen: A private initiative to save the steamboat Delta Queen A private initiative to save the steamboat Delta Queen
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Save the Delta Queen – a status report

Jan 12, 2008

The Delta Queen is far away from being saved, but there is hope. But she needs every helping hand, more than ever before. Stand up and fight for your beloved steamboat. The following status report summarizes recent developments and gives some insight in what’s going on at the moment.

Majestic America Line and Ambassador’s International

We’ve been observing a lot of changes at Ambassador’s and Majestic America line within the last couple of weeks: David Giersdorf is no longer with the company. Former Delta Queen Steamboat Company president Robert P. Mosier from the early 1980s now is a member of the Board of Directors of Ambassador’s International. Ambassador’s CEO Joseph J. Ueberroth signs as Interim President of Majestic America Line

Ambassador’s International has decided to contract the Monaco, Europe, based V.Ships Leisure to manage the vessel operations of Majestic America Line, which includes deck, engine and hotel crew management, procurement, and technical and hotel operations. As of December 31, 2007, many managers and employees of the Seattle office are gone.

From all we know, as of today we’re very sure that Majestic America Line and Ambassador’s International are fully backing the campaign to save the Delta Queen and are working on the exemption heavily in the background.

The Coast Guard

We do have evidence that the Coast Guard is consistently opposing legislation to renew the exemption for the Delta Queen. Officially they’re talking about an “unacceptable risk in regards to fire safety […] because of the use of combustible materials in its construction and its advanced age”, especially expressing the “lack of fire extinguishing capability in the accommodation space”.

We have, with all respect, shown earlier that this is simply not true. We have shown that the Delta Queen is in fact very safe in a case of fire because of multiple escape routes, the very short distances passengers would have to walk or run to reach open decks, the high number of staff available to help elderly people and the fact that almost every cabin has a direct door to open decks. We have shown that wood per se is not more dangerous than other material that is happily accepted by the Coast Guard.

All this makes me assume that the Coast Guard’s opposition has other reasons of political or other nature.

There seams to be a general misinterpretation of the effects of a renewed exemption by the Congress. And the Coast Guard seams to utilize this for their interests, i.e. not taking the responsibility for grounding the Delta Queen but shifting the blame to the Congress. They might also fear legal action in case they deny a certificate of inspection for the Delta Queen. It’s much easier for them if the Congress doesn’t even allow them to issue a certificate.

The misinterpretation of the effects of a renewed exemption

The exemption is needed as the Safety at Sea Act doesn’t allow the US Coast Guard to issue a certificate of inspection (which is required to operate the vessel) when SOLAS requirements are not met. One important fact that usually is being overlooked in the discussion is that the Delta Queen will not be allowed to continue operations by the exemption by the US Congress directly but only through the US Coast Guard’s certificate of inspection which the exemption allows them to issue if they consider the vessel as safe.

The Seafarers International Union (SIU)

The Unions, mainly the Seafarers International Union SIU, didn’t comment the Delta Queen issue for a long time until mid of November they published a harsh press release, the “SIU statement on Delta Queen”. In essence they said that they don’t have any direct influence on legislation but "our [SIU’s] role in helping safely operate the vessel is one reason why the waiver had been granted in years past." Read between the lines …

The United States Congress

Representative Steve Chabot has a bill on the way to save the Delta Queen, rallying for support of fellow representatives as well as the media and people. So far, bill H.R. 3852 has 22 co-sponsors while much more than that are needed to get the bill around the Transportation Committee where Chairman Rep. Oberstar is still blocking anything concerning the Delta Queen. HERE is where EVERYONE can and should help: Send a fax (yes, that’s the best method, besides written letters) to your Representative and Senator and explain to them how important it is to support this bill, and for Representatives how important it is to act as a co-sponsor of H.R. 3852. Let them know that the Delta Queen IS NOT UNSAFE, despite what others are telling them. Encourage them to contact Rep. Steve Chabot who has all the details.

The two key politicians in the process of reissuing the exemption haven’t changed their minds: Congressman James Oberstar, chairman of the Transportation Committee of the US House of Representatives, and Senator Daniel Inouye, Chairman of Commerce Committee at the US Senate commerce.senate.gov/, are still strictly refusing to let a bill hit the floor of the full House or Senate that would give the Delta Queen the desired exemption.

The Save-the-Delta-Queen Campaign

Multiple grass-rooting activities are going on everywhere, some very active individuals have collected thousands of signatures for the Delta Queen exemption, the online petition on steamboats.org now has more than 1.100 so far, many (but still by far not enough!) people have sent letters and faxes to Representatives and Senators, many city councils along the rivers have issued resolutions in favour of the DQ and there was and is huge media coverage, including long articles in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and International Herald Tribune. Not to forget and very important, too: There is a lot of background work going on that’s not suitable for being discussed in the public.

Not enough support, yet!

But there are still too many of our fellow fans of the Delta Queen who just lean back and wait for others to save the Delta Queen for them. THIS WILL NOT WORK! If the Delta Queen is important for you, stand up and fight actively for her. She needs your support, now.

It will be a very tough challenge to get the exemption. We’re fighting political windmills, we need a huge public uproar against these political games that will take us away our beloved Delta Queen if we can’t show massively that the American people is not willing to accept that an important part of their history simply is being dumped.

We will not buy the DELTA QUEEN!

Dec 30, 2007

Not that I don’t love the idea. And what a wonderful rumor that is: “A German family is interested in buying the Delta Queen.”, as obviously told to a visitor this year on the American Queen by a crew member.

Unfortunately we will not even be able to buy tickets for a single cruise on the Delta Queen in 2008, not to speak of buying the whole boat!

If 2008 is her last season (which I’m still sure won’t be the fact), then it’ll very likely happen without us. It’s a simple matter of financials. We just bought a new condo after heavy water damaged more or less forced us out of our old one. The Delta Queen doesn’t have triple occupancy staterooms, so for the three of us, Carmen, Leonie and me, this would be two almost fully paid cabins – check the 2008 rates and you know what our problem is …

We might buy the Delta Queen if …

… well, if we win the lottery (and I try hard, believe me!). When that happens, I’ll give Ambassador’s International a call to talk about the conditions of buying the boat.

We might cruise the Delta Queen if …

… well, if Majestic America Line gives us a generous discount (hint, hint! ;-). Then at least we’d be able to have a cruise on the Delta Queen, possible one last time. And I promise, if it’s not her last year in service, we’ll be supportive and happy passengers in the coming years.

Support from the distance

But as long as we don’t either win the lottery or some financial support from Majestic America Line, we’ll continue to fight to Save the Delta Queen publicly and in the background, but from the far away distance in Germany only.


What a nice rumor. Us buying the Delta Queen …

(just to avoid misinterpretion: This picture of course is a fake :-)

 

DELTA QUEEN Songs – A Sentimental Journey

Dec 25, 2007

From how many steamboats can be said there are at least seven different songs written about them? The DELTA QUEEN can! Let me take you on a short but sentimental journey through these songs. Please let me know if I missed a DQ song.

“The whistle came out, such a deep mellow sound in the night”

 

First of all, there is John Hartford‘s wonderful bluegrass song “Delta Queen Waltz” (from the album “Down On The River”, 1989; at Amazon as CD or as MP3 download). Van Dyke Parks made a cover version of this song played by a country music orchestra (album: “Moonlight – Live At The Ash Grove”, 1998).

“When you go, you take a lot of dreams”

 

There are two songs related to the first Save The Delta Queen campaign of 1970. The more famous one is the “Salute to the Delta Queen” song Johnny Cash presented as part of his legendary “The Johnny Cash Show” at the Nashville Ryman Auditorium (No. 35, Oct 14, 1970, ABC) which literally is a “Good Bye” song more than an enthusiastic “let’s save her” tune. Unfortunately it’s very hard to find a recording of this show. Bootleg DVDs show up at eBay from time to time.

“Mr. Muster called it treason”

 

The other song related to the 1970’s campaign is from a relatively unknown band named CARP which only published one album (simply named “Carp”, 1970) plus this single record “Save the Delta Queen”, a powerful rock’n’roll song in favor of the boat. Unfortunately not many people did hear the song than as it had been banished from all major radio stations: The term “damn” appeared in the lyrics – something unheard of in these days … The singer and drummer of the band Carp was a man who became famous with his second career as actor: Gary Busey.

“This old gal got a lot of soul” (Country Gentlemen)

 

Some more Delta Queen songs are from the famous The Country Gentlemen (“Delta Queen”; at Amazon as MP3 download), Rockabilly Hall of Fame member Bobby Joe Swilley (“Roll on Delta Queen”, album: “Delta Pride”, 2006; at CD Universe as music CD), Danny O’Keefe (“Delta Queen”, album: “So long Harry Trueman”, 1975; at Amazon as music CD; Danny O’Keefe website) and The Andy Owens Project (“Delta Queen”, album: “A Compilation”, 2007; Andy Owens website).

Ragtime Mary Greene

I include Jazzou Jones‘ “Ragtime Mary Greene” to this collection of Delta Queen songs, though strictily it’s not a DQ song. But Mary Greene and the Delta Queen do have such close ties that I think it belongs here anyway. Jazzou published this wonderful piano tune just last year and the premiere performances actually was on the Delta Queen. (sheet music “A Ragtime Trilogy” available from Jazzou Jones, e-mail: jazzou@aol.com, the music CD “Hilarity” can be ordered at Amazon.com).

Back to Colonial Status under England

Dec 3, 2007

The Online Petition on steamboats.org for an exemtion for the steamboat Delta Queen has more than 1,000 supporters as of today. People from all over the country are shocked and feeling very sad about the plans of the Congress not to issue a new exemption for the Delta Queen allowing her to run as an overnight passenger vessel past 2008.

As Tom & Lucy Claggett (Knoxville, MD) are writing it, being the 1,000st supporter of the petition: "To allow politics to take the Delta Queen out of service would be one more American tragedy. If Congress allows this, we should petition to be allowed to return to colonial status under England – we don’t deserve to be an independent nation."

How can one express his feelings more clearly than with this comment? And who doesn’t agree?

Definitely all of the supporters agree in what former Delta Queen Steamboat Company entertainer Laura Sable of Seattle, WA, writes in her comment: "It’s a journey back in time and a connection to the glorious history of our country. Save the DQ!"

The “General Slocum” could still run today, without exemption!

Nov 22, 2007

Rep. James Oberstar has commented an articles by Katherine Kersten in the Minneapolis St. Paul Star Tribune, "Could Oberstar sink the majestic Delta Queen?". He compares the 1904 steam sidewheel excursion boat GENERAL SLOCUM with the Delta Queen today. There is not much to add to this weird idea of comparing these two boats (see Wikipedia for details about the General Slocum disaster in 1904). Just compare it with the safety features of the Delta Queen today …

But there is one fact I’d like to point out as it makes Rep. Oberstar’s comparison even more weird.

The General Slocum won’t be effected at all by the Safety at Sea Law or SOLAS. The Congress won’t be able to stop the Slocum by refusing an exemption even today. That is because she is was not an overnight passenger vessel but just an excursion boat. SOLAS only effects overnight passenger vessels with 50 or more passengers.

Looking closer on the Safety at Sea Law it show how thoughtless Congress has been when making the Safety at Sea Law in 1966. The law effects overnight passenger vessels with 50 or more passengers but it’s explicitly exempting vessels on the Great Lakes. They forgot about exempting boats on the US rivers because there was only one little boat (the Delta Queen) around at this time and they just overlooked her.

Then of course it doesn’t make sense to target such a law only to boats with 50 or more passengers. Is there some significant difference whether 49 or 51 people effected by any kind of disaster? And why applying it only to overnight vessels? Many of the most tragic disasters on steamboats in the (not so good) old times happened to day excursion boats. Why? Because they were much more loosely inspected and often cases of bribary, assuming that the risk on these boats is lower. Overnight passenger vessels rely on their good reputation and on repeat passengers. They can’t afford to be unsafe. This effects their business much more than on a day excursion vessel where tourists do come just once. overnight passenger vessel business is a long-term business and hence safety is much more important to the operators of the boats.

Fact is that the Gen. Slocum would be allowed to operate still today while the Delta Queen might not if the exemption will not be issued.

On the other hand, of course the Slocum won’t operate anyway because she won’t pass Coast Guard inspections. And that’s the other thing with the Delta Queen: She has to pass Coast Guard inspections, anyway, of course. If the Coast Guard finds that she is not safe regardless of an exemption from the Congress they can still refuse the inspection certificate anyway. But then it’s a fair, technical decision and not a political game like it is now when discussing the exemption.

Literally the Safety at Sea Law doesn’t say anything about boats else than that the Coast Guard must not give a certificate of inspection to any boat that doesn’t fulfill the law’s requirements. It does not say the Guast Guard has to give a certificate to any other boat. It’s still the Coast Guard’s decision whether they clear a boat or not. The big difference is that this Coast Guard’s decision can be questioned in court instead of having an obscure political decision for even more obscure reasons.

Congress, Senators and Representatives: Issue an exemption for the Delta Queen and let the Coast Guard do the job as they do on any other vessel.

SIU comments on the Delta Queen

Nov 15, 2007

Eventually, after months of total silence and refusing to comment the case in any way, the Seafarers International Union (SIU) now comments on the Delta Queen  (http://www.seafarers.org/HeardAtHQ/2007/Q4/dqstatement.xml).

In essence, the SIU says they neither "could or would guarantee congressional action on the proposed waiver", but "our [SIU’s] role in helping safely operate the vessel is one reason why the waiver had been granted in years past."

I’d like to remark that the SIU so far did completely ignoring requests for statements and e-mails we sent to SIU officials, not just once. They had the chance to comment, but they didn’t. Several newspaper reporters I talked to personally did contact them for statements and in the best case they got a "no comment" statement. So the question remains why SIU kept silent for such a long time instead of making their position clear from the beginning.

Now that this statement is out, at least their position is somewhat clearer to the public.

 

Save the Delta Queen Video – a must see!

Nov 11, 2007

Jon Tschiggfrie has produced a marvelous video to save the Delta Queen. The video can be seen at Youtube:


Save the Delta Queen Video Part 1
Save the Delta Queen Video Part 2

Don’t forget to add the vidos to your Youtobe favorites, vote for the video and comment it there. This helps to make the video more polular, hence more people will see it and will learn about the Delta Queen’s struggle for a new exemption from Congress!

Added: Jazzou Jones has announced that $1 from the purchase of each of his "Ragtime Trilogy" music books will be donated to the  production costs for Jon Tschiggfrie’s Save the Delta Queen video. See steamboats.org "Book of the Month" for more in this marvelous river buff collectible item.

 

From the Cincinnati Press Conference

Oct 30, 2007

Below are some pictures from the Save the Delta Queen press conference on Friday. Thanks to Tom Schiffer for the pictures!

The local ABC news station, WCPO, has a video about the press conference on its website. And Sentimental Productions, too, posted a video clip regarding the press conference by Congressman Steve Chabot concerning the bill to Save The Delta Queen.

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New York Times, International Herald Tribune about the Delta Queen

Oct 25, 2007

Sean Hamill has published a wonderful article about the Delta Queen and the Save the Delta Queen Campaign in The New York Times ("A Riverboat Could Be Cruising to the End of the Line") which also showed up worldwide in the International Herald Tribune. The beautiful pictures in the article are from Nicole Bengiveno and where taken especially for this article just a few weeks ago when the Delta Queen cruised the Cumberland River.

The author of the Article, Sean Hamill, lives in Pittsburgh, PA, and grew up along the Ohio River, knowing the Delta Queen since he was a kid. He sums up the actual situation perfectly and I like the positive attitude of the article – other than a relatively pessimistic article by Jane Engle in the Los Angeles Times which of course is great anyway as it at least raises attention to their readers but doesn’t help much in supporting the Save the Delta Queen campaign directly.

Sean, I love your very positive article in the New York Times!

Another very positive turn comes from Majestic America Line: According to Modern Agent Ambassador’s vice president-corporate development, Joseph McCarthy, said  they are now "100 percent supportive and will do whatever we can to get it [the exemption bill] through." My comment: That’s wonderful, no matter whether Majestic America Line officials really have changed their minds or whether they just recognized that the campaign is gaining enough momentum to possible being successful and Majestic America Line might suffer from not supporting the campaign. As soon as the DQ’s owner really supports the efforts to get the exemption and is giving up its dormant and passive position, this alone helps tremendously.

“Save the Delta Queen” Press Conference in Cincinnati, Oct 26

Oct 23, 2007

There will be a PRESS CONFERNECE in Cincinnati on Friday, October 26th, at the Steam boat Park, by the Big Paddlewheel, with U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot, of Ohio, at 12:30 PM. Anyone knowing ANYONE in Cincinnati, ask them to show up with a home made sign to Save the Delta Queen, or We Support Cincinnati’s Delta Queen, or other positive signs to let people know we havea lot of support to Save The Delta Queen.

Please call the mayors around Cincinnati, and ask them to call their local Radio Stations, and ask people to show up. You can also call te radion Stations yourself. This will be the first BIG KICKOFF to get National Publicity . This meeting will have feeds to the National Television Staitions and get the coverage we desperately need. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, put on your thinking cap, and think of any and everyone you know in Cincinnati, or across the River in Kentucky and urge them to show up. We need 1,000 or more people.