Dixie Belle Reborn

Dixie Belle Reborn
Janet Cruz / 08 Jan 2015 / 6 Comments » Comments

A piece of Lake Havasu City history – the Dixie Belle – is set to return to the Bridgewater Channel. Thanks to a local business man, the 68-ton double decker paddle wheel steam boat is undergoing a complete overhaul.

Keith Fernung came to Lake Havasu City in 1976 and never left. Fernung jumped at the opportunity to purchase the Dixie Belle in 2011 because of its link to the city’s history.

Jillian Danielson/RiverScene

Jillian Danielson/RiverScene

“All this boat needed was the hull to be repaired, said Fernung. “ That repair was one of the biggest undertakings.”

Fernung approached longtime friend Aaron Ashbaugh, a friend of more than 14 years, and asked him to assist with the restoration of the Dixie Belle.

Jillian Danielson/RiverScene

Jillian Danielson/RiverScene

“I have always kept in touch with Keith throughout the years and when he called to help, I didn’t hesitate,” said Ashbaugh. “I had retired from aviation was thrilled to take on this project.”

The Dixie Belle was built in 1983 and was owned by the London Bridge Resort. The boat would travel the channel and soon became a well-known tourist attraction. When repairs seemed too much for the previous owner, Fermung decided to take over and keep the boat in Lake Havasu City.

“I didn’t want to see something as iconic as this bought by someone else,” said Fernung. “It is a piece of Lake Havasu and I wanted  it to stay here.”

Ashbaugh, Fernung, along with his father and several part-time volunteers, have been working around the clock to make sure it is safe and ready before its return to the channel. Before the boat can make its comeback, it must pass a series of safety inspections by the U.S. Coast Guard for the final thumbs up.

Jillian Danielson/RiverScene

Jillian Danielson/RiverScene

A fresh coat of paint and repairs on the fire system are some of the restorations being made. Even ad space will be available for companies to advertise their business on the boat.

“I think people who have lived in Lake Havasu all their lives have an emotional attachment  to it,” said Fernung. “I know many people are excited to see it restored.”

Fernung hopes to bring the Dixie Belle back as a tour boat which would include twilight and dinner cruises. It will also be available as a party rental.

“We are taking many baby steps during the restoration process,” said Ashbaugh. “I believe this is a great project. It’s going be better than ever once it is finished. I can’t wait to see it on the water.”

9674 Dixie

Although Fernung does not have an exact date when restorations will be completed, he did say the Dixie Belle is expected to be back on the channel sometime later this year.

6 Comments » Comments:

6 Responses to “Dixie Belle Reborn”

  1. breakwaterdigital says:

    Test comment 1 after directory code update.

  2. Jeanne says:

    sweet 🙂

  3. Jon Henry says:

    The builder and Original owner was Todd Miller and it was called the River Queen.

  4. todd miller says:

    Im Todd Miller … the builder and original owner . Jon H. is right . Her name was originally the “River Queen” Her maiden voyage was Feb. 1983. There were thousands of people under the bridge that day
    for the ceremonies as we commissioned her to ply the waters of Havasu. we ran several trips loaded… 125 passengers around the island. It was a Grand day and the end of a 3 yr. building project and the beginning whats now almost 35 yrs of service to Havasu. Im so glad these men got the vision to keep
    her a float… shes a Havasu Icon second only to the London Bridge. Shes 70′ long , 20′ beam , top smoke stacks are 33′ off the water , 68 gross tons, Coast Guard Approved to carry 125 passengers
    and 4 crew members. I sold the boat in 1986 to the resort and they renamed her the Dixie Belle.

  5. Jim Kelly says:

    I’m a snowbird from Washington’s Puget Sound and have been an avid boater all my life and enjoy taking pictures and videos of all types of boats. Looking forward to seeing your new vessel.

    Any ‘grunt work’ I could help you with? I’ve been around many types of boats.

    My best, Jim

    • Chris Kelly says:

      Hey Dad, I am so excited to see this project you’ve volunteered for come to life!! Way to go, and look forward to seeing your drone pictures soon 😀. Xoxo

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