As a child growing up in Detroit, one of my favorite summer activities was riding the “Boblo Boat” down the Detroit River to Boblo Island. An amusement park created in 1898, it closed for good in 1993. The island is now a residential community and any hope of resurrecting the old-time amusement park is gone, but thanks to a local doctor, nostalgia-seekers may soon be able to take a ride on one of the official Boblo Boats, the Ste. Claire.
After over 80 years in use along the route and a decade spent docked south of the city, the boat was in serious disrepair. For three years, crews have been working on restoring the boat to its former glory. They started by hauling out over “40 dumpsters worth of trash and debris,” according to the Detroit Free Press. Work continues today as they remove paint and rust and take out rotted walls and decking. Crews plan to continue work throughout the winter and hope to have the boat ready for dock-side tours as early as next summer. A few years later, having installed new plumbing and electricity, they hope to offer cruises and special-event sailings on the Detroit River.
Ste. Claire and her running mate, the Colombia, are the “last two remaining classic excursion steamers” in the country. The Colombia is the oldest passenger steamer in the US (not including ferries) and together, the boats are believed to hold the record for the longest amount of time (81 years) spent on a single route. A New York investor plans to restore the Colombia as well, but so far work has not begun.