Shakertown boat breaks loose from moorings, floats down river

jhewlett@herald-leader.comMay 5, 2010 

The Dixie Belle riverboat at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill in Mercer County was knocked loose from its moorings Wednesday morning, prompting Shaker Village employees to scramble and catch it before it hit the Brooklyn Bridge downstream.

Bruce Herring, one of the captains of the riverboat, said he saw a concrete dock that was floating in the swollen Kentucky River hit the Dixie Belle's moorings about 8:15 a.m.

Herring and two others jumped into his truck, to which his own boat was attached, and drove several miles down U.S. 68 to get ahead of the riverboat. They put Herring's smaller boat into the water. Herring's brother, Richard Herring, also a captain of the riverboat, managed to get into and take control of the Dixie Belle. Bruce Herring and Shaker Village preservation manager Mike McGinnis helped guide the Dixie Belle into shallow water from the smaller boat. The men were able to secure the riverboat to a tree in the river, about 21/2 miles above the Brooklyn Bridge, Bruce Herring said.

The challenge now is getting the Dixie Belle, which is 65 feet long, 19 feet wide and about 30 feet tall, back to Shaker Village. Because the locks at the dam that the Dixie Belle went over on its free-floating trip are shut, the boat will have to be moved by land to get back home, he said. Moving the riverboat will take weeks, he said.

"It's going to be a job. If the locks and dams were still open, it wouldn't be a problem," Herring said. "We'll have to put it on a trailer and try and get it back home. We're looking at a couple of options, but it's not going to be easy."

The only damage to the Dixie Belle apparently is a bent handrail.

"It looks like we drove it down here," Bruce Herring said.

Even the chairs inside the boat were still situated next to their tables after the trip downriver, he said.

"We could have faced a major catastrophe," Shaker Village spokeswoman Aimee Darnell said.

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