The price has recently been cut to $250,000 on the 138-foot Queen of Seattle, a steam-powered, paddle-wheel boat moored on Lake Union.
She has worked in three states under three different names. She loves to party, and has her own bar, cabaret stage, dance floor, player piano and 38-whistle calliope.
There’s even a touch of mystery in her background, stemming from the fact that her first owner’s body was found in a California river in 2003 — a death never fully explained.
Call her Queen of Seattle. That’s the name this 138-foot paddle-wheeler used on her most recent job, taking visitors on a 2½-hour loop around Lake Union from 2010 to 2013.
For more information on the Queen of Seattle, contact Lisa Dindinger at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on Alaska Travel Adventures, see www.BestofAlaskaTravel.com.
“I love her. She’s an amazing piece of history,” said Lisa Dindinger of Alaska Travel Adventures, owners of the boat since 2005. “She needs loving care and someone with the know-how to make the best of her.”
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The steel-hulled vessel, which can carry up to 400 passengers, has the classic “floating wedding cake” look of a paddle-wheel riverboat, with its bright-red, 24-foot-diameter stern wheel.
Dindinger said her company decided reluctantly that the boat isn’t a good fit with its Alaska focus, and has offered it for sale for more than two years.
Based on an insurance appraisal that put the boat’s replacement value at more than $1 million, Dindinger said, the company first listed it for sale at $895,000, then dropped the price after about a year to $500,000 and — in the last two weeks — to $250,000.
Any potential purchaser would need pockets deep enough to cover not just the purchase price, but the succession of expenses for moorage, maintenance, fuel, insurance and renovations that will follow.
And there’s this: Anytime the boat is under way, the Coast Guard requires that it have a licensed steam engineer on board.
Dindinger admits only a small slice of the boat-buying public would have a use for a vessel like this. She’s had a couple of recent inquiries, but nothing that panned out.
The boat was built in Sacramento in 1984 as the “Elizabeth Louise” by Harold Wilmunder, whom Dindinger said was a sign maker by occupation and a steam engineer by hobby.
He didn’t operate a consistent tour business with the boat but did some charters and special events, and took friends and family for rides along the Sacramento River.
One day in 2003, the 78-year-old Wilmunder got a call from police saying it appeared a hatch had been forced open near the boat’s bow. Wilmunder went to investigate and was never seen alive again.
After his body was found in the water between a Coast Guard boat and a dock, authorities said the death appeared to be a drowning but were hesitant to rule out possible foul play.
Dindinger said she and her husband learned of the boat online and found Wilmunder’s widow willing to sell. The boat was barged to Seattle, renovated and then steamed its way Ketchikan to begin running tours under the name “Alaska Queen.”
(It still carries the initials “AQ” in gold letters high between its smokestacks, even though the hull identifies it as the Queen of Seattle.)
But Dindinger said the Coast Guard was concerned that the boat, which is tall, narrow and sits high in the water, might not be stable enough for winds and waves in Southeast Alaska, which could be as strong as those in the open ocean.
So the tour company brought the boat down to Seattle and put it to work on Lake Union. But Dindinger said it’s been difficult for the company to give the boat tours proper attention, since its other operations are based in Alaska.
Dindinger said she doesn’t expect the price to drop below the $250,000, adding that it could cost nearly that amount to dispose of the boat.
“We sure hope it doesn’t come to that,” she said.