Louisville Magazine

OCT 2014

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

Issue link: https://loumag.epubxp.com/i/388156

Contents of this Issue


Page 49 of 172

LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 10.14 47 The Belle Turns 100 ELLE CENTENNIELLE z N O n a late-summer's day, with 200 or so passen- gers aboard the Belle of Louisville for a two-hour cruise, 48-year-old captain Mark Doty steps out of the pi- lothouse and onto a steel landing bridge where he can see fore and aft along the starboard side of the 200-foot boat. Doty calls commands via radio intercom to the deckhands, who let loose the thick rope cables that bind the Belle to her moor- ings on the concrete wharf at the foot of Fourth Street downtown. Tey don't just unhitch and toss the lines on deck. Tey run the lines around the "capstan" — a steam-powered roller winch mounted into the front deck's foor. Using steam power, the deckhands balance the pull of the capstan winch against the power of the paddlewheel, easing the Belle away from the wharf and into the current of the river. So smooth you hardly know the Belle is underway. Until, that is, the mighty steam whistle bellows forth a deep-throated shh- WOOOOO! that echoes of the concrete skyscrapers and across the nearly mile- wide Ohio River. Steamboat comin'. Pilot Drew Cederholm, 33, slowly guides the Belle away from shore. A barge slips quietly by, and Cederholm, by telegraph, dials a new speed command to the engine room below. He deftly moves a long, foor-mounted lever a bit to the right, sending the pilot wheel clockwise. "Power steering," Cederholm says. "All by steam," adds Doty, now seated on an elevated "lazy bench" behind the pilot. "Everything works by steam power, including the electricity." Te Belle picks up speed and Ceder- holm swings into the path just left by the barge, navigating between two high con- crete spans of the George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge. Cederholm points to a small green buoy in the river. "See how the current shows, coming of that buoy? You watch for things in the river, to see how the current is moving," he says. Sure enough, a tiny wake angles of the buoy, rather than straight downriver. Te big sliding glass windows of the pilothouse are open on both sides. A breeze comes through gently. Wafting. Not too much. Not too little. Tis is the way to travel. A fascinating world on the river as Mark Twain described in Life on the Mississippi. On the day she was launched as the Idlewild in October 1914, the boat bene- fted from a century of steamboat-build- ing evolution. Tat starts with the Belle's steel hull. Te original steamboats all had wooden hulls that rocky reefs could rupture or sunken tree trunks could puncture. Tis sounds hard to believe, but the life expectancy of steamboats in the 19th century was three to fve years. If they didn't rip up from the bottom, the boilers would blow them up (usually not when passengers were aboard, but sometimes). Steamboats were so lucrative that when one cracked up, they'd just build another — and another. By Bill Doolittle Photos by Aaron Kingsbury

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