Sunday, August 14, 2011

Churning River City Waters

Rain doesn’t dampen spirits in Pickwick Belle Decatur debut
By Holly Hollman Staff Writer at The Decatur Daily

The Pickwick Belle’s paddle wheels churned the murky waters of the Tennessee River on Saturday as rain pelted its passengers on the top deck.

Capt. Michael Tyner maneuvered the authentic paddle wheel riverboat through Ingalls Harbor in Decatur and brought the vessel to rest by a gang plank.

Passengers of Pickwick Belle’s maiden Decatur voyage shouted, “Beautiful,” “Very nice,” and “We loved it,” as they ran from the gang plank to their cars in a hurry to dodge an evening rain shower.

“We enjoyed it even though it rained,” said Dave Bennett, of Madison, who took the summer sightseeing cruise with his wife, Karen. “We went under the train bridge, and they pointed out the Meow Mix plant. I didn’t even know that was there.”

The Pickwick Belle has docked for cruises in Florence and its home port of Pickwick, Tenn., since 2007.

It added Decatur to the schedule this year.

The Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau set up a tour in February in an attempt to lure the Belle and give the city an economic boost by drawing tourists.

Pickwick Belle’s Hospitality Director Jimmy Kennedy said the Decatur area has shown interest in the cruises. A reservation list indicated the cruises are drawing visitors from Morgan, Limestone, Lawrence and Madison counties.

Kennedy said Saturday’s “Jimmy Buffett Dinner Cruise” was sold out, so the staff has added another on Aug. 21.

That cruise includes dinner and music by a Buffett impersonator. An Elvis impersonator will be on board Aug. 20.

Kennedy said the slow moving riverboat gives passengers a chance to learn about the area because a tourism official points out interesting spots along the way.

“We only reach a maximum speed of 5 mph,” Kennedy said.

“You can see the beauty along the river. We go down toward Point Mallard and then turn and come back.”

The Pickwick Belle will be docked in Decatur through Sept. 10, and will offer lunch and dinner cruises, music, games and a Civil War-theme outing

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