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Found: Biggus' next boat

Old 05-04-2004, 11:12 AM
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Default Found: Biggus' next boat

What kind of #'s are the Konrad drives going to put up on this beast?

Lakes Region attraction is offered for sale
May 3, 2004

NAPLES, Maine -- The owners of the Songo River Queen II, a longtime tourist landmark in the Sebago Lake region, plan to sell the 92-foot paddle-wheeler for the second time.

Frank Gerrish, 76, and his wife Diana, 62, say they've reached an age where they are ready to try something less taxing. They want to team up with younger partners to operate a dinner boat for Long Lake, where the Songo River Queen travels each summer.

The couple are asking $800,000 for the River Queen. They will offer owner-financing and train the new owners until they are competent.

The Queen is now tied to the dock on Brandy Pond, wrapped tight in winter tarps and plastic. Frank Gerrish plans to begin making runs this spring, he said, and he will keep running the boat if it doesn't sell.

Gerrish and his family built the first Songo River Queen from cast-off materials nearly 35 years ago. After it was destroyed by fire, he didn't hesitate to build a second boat.

The boats have carried 500 passengers a day for 100 days each season, according to Gerrish, bringing the total to 1.7 million.

Gerrish, who came to Naples from the Waldo County town of Troy after World War II to offer float-plane tours, saw potential for attraction-based businesses in Naples.

"Back in those days, Naples' causeway was like Atlantic City's boardwalk," Gerrish said.

When he saw a riverboat tour operation on a trip to Chicago, an idea took root. "I said, 'Boy, that would go good here in Naples,'" Gerrish remembered.

Over the winter of 1970, Gerrish and his cousin spent months building what amounted to a big house on a barge. The townspeople jokingly called Gerrish "Noah."

"It was the homeliest thing you ever saw," he said.

The boat sat on three pontoons -- hollow Navy antennas Gerrish salvaged from Bucks Harbor and refitted for his boat. He used his own design for the paddle system aft and the diesel-powered mechanisms that drove it.

The boat began running that spring, carrying on its first excursion two busloads of senior citizens. That crowd so weighed down the Songo River Queen that the seniors' ankles got wet, Gerrish said.

Later that season he retooled the design. After that, tours ran each summer, one on Long Lake, the other down Brandy Pond, through the Songo Lock and into Sebago Lake. Throughout the tour, he would give a historic presentation, detailing interesting features of the area.

"People are just hungry for history -- especially senior citizens," he said.

The boat tour quickly grew in popularity. People chartered the Queen for private parties, weddings, birthdays and other celebrations.

Everything went well until October 1981, when the boat burned to the waterline after a charter. Fire investigators never determined the cause, but Gerrish suspects a cigarette in a trash can.

"We started the new one right away," Gerrish said. "Once you run the thing ... I wouldn't want to do anything different."

They redesigned the boat and hired a contractor to do the carpentry on the Songo River Queen II. Both Frank and Diana Gerrish ran the red-and-white painted boat until 1987, when they sold it to try something else.

Frank Gerrish threw himself into the water-based construction business. During winters in Florida, he ran a shrimp boat.

But in 2001, when the Queen went on the market, he bought it back without hesitation. At first, his son and daughter-in-law worked with him, but they have since moved on to other ventures. Frank and Diana Gerrish are feeling their years now and want to sell.

In his first week of running the ads, Gerrish said, he heard from about 10 people interested in the business.

"I'd like to see some young family get it. This is an ideal family business; a man and a wife could do 90 percent of this."

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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Old 05-04-2004, 11:25 AM
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I think that guy is a friend of Kurts. Here is a pic.
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Old 05-04-2004, 11:34 AM
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Old 05-04-2004, 12:01 PM
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wow is that nice area. Biggus, how fast can you run on that little river?
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Old 05-04-2004, 02:48 PM
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Old 05-04-2004, 02:58 PM
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Oh man I hope they get some one as cool as those two to run it. They are great people. I had to help pull that thing off the causeway a couple years back when the wind took it.

Put your best foot forward!
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Old 05-05-2004, 07:57 AM
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Originally posted by Ron P
Biggus, how fast can you run on that little river?
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Old 05-05-2004, 08:00 AM
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Originally posted by GLH

Yea, his neighbors love him!!!
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