Two Egg TV was on board as the long-awaited paddlewheel boat Samuel Floyd completed its first overnight journey. The beautiful “floating palace” left Green Cove Springs near Jacksonville and steamed up the St. Johns River more than 60 miles to Welaka, Florida.
The sounds of the boat’s whistle and calliope delighted onlookers who watched from the shore, waved and cheered as the elegant paddlewheel boat churned past on her way up and then back down the St. Johns. It was a triumphant journey for the Samuel Floyd, a boat that many naysayers predicted would never operate again. But operate she did, making remarkable speed as she steamed upriver, even passing through thunderstorms so smoothly that the winds and waves could barely be felt aboard the boat.
The voyage was especially gratifying to the officers and employees of the nonprofit Apalachicola Maritime Museum, which now boasts a growing fleet of vessels that includes not only the 107-foot paddlewheel boat, but also the 58-foot wooden ketch Heritage, the 40-foot catamaran Starfish Enterprise and an array of smaller vessels.
The restoration of the Samuel Floyd – originally named the Jean Mary – had taken 6-years to complete but the patience and determination of George Floyd, Chelsey and the crew, volunteers, and supporters of the project has paid off in grand style. The boat boasts 12 beautiful cabins for overnight guests, a stunning salon, a galley that is more modern and better equipped than many restaurant kitchens and an elegant main dining room. She is equipped with the latest safety features and up to date navigation systems. Air conditioned throughout, she is a definite throwback to the beautiful paddlewheel riverboats that once operated on the rivers of the Southeast.
The boat was originally commissioned by an Alabama family and was designed by the noted naval architect Jack Hargrave. Her second owner was the noted actress Debbie Reynolds of “Unsinkable Molly Brown” fame. She filled it with antiques and movie memorabilia with plans to make it part of the Hollywood Motion Picture Museum in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. She reportedly burst into tears when she learned of the 2008 disaster that sent the boat to the bottom of the St. Johns River.
The sinking – which was blamed on deterioration in an area of the hull – left the boat suffering massive damage. Over $100,000 of Ms. Reynolds’s antiques were reportedly aboard.
That is where Capt. George Floyd and the Apalachicola Maritime Museum stepped in. The grandson of the noted riverboat man Samuel Floyd, he worked with Ms. Reynolds to arrange for the donation of the wreck to the museum. Restoration work began in 2012 and the successful project reached its completion with this week’s maiden overnight voyage. The boat has received a complete structural overhaul and is even more sturdy and safe today than she was on the day she was launched.
The museum will soon announce its long-term plans for the boat, which will carry passengers on unforgettable overnight adventures. Learn more about the Apalachicola Maritime Museum by visiting their newly redesigned website at www.ammfl.org.
The successful trip was chronicled by the cameras of Two Egg TV and will be featured in an upcoming full-length documentary. Until then, here is a short video and some photos for you to enjoy.