You might wonder why a sailboat designer would take on the design of a paddle wheeler. Well, I have always had a soft spot for the romance of river travel. Besides, the Norfolk Naval base was a prime destination for boat tours. We could make the run from our yard.
My experience with sailboat hull forms came in handy with the paddle wheeler hull in that I developed an entrance and run aft that was easy to push through the water at top speed without a fuss. She turned a speed of 10 miles per hour with ease, while her big 16' wheels beat a musical rhythm. I also gave her an ocean going sheer line rather than the usual barge look. The design, as far as I know, is the only paddle wheel design to be certificated to carry 150 passengers 20 miles off shore.
Construction scant-lings are to ABS rules. She is longitudinally framed on thwart-ship frames spaced on 48” centers. Bottom and side plating is 1/4”. Deck plating is 3/16' for the lower and 10ga for the top deck. Stacks serve as ventilation to the engine room.
Paddle wheelers are stern heavy because to the need to cantilever the wheels off the stern. Therefore, the wheels are of aluminum angle, with paddle boards of pressure treated lumber bolted on.
Power is by two 4 cyl 90hp diesels driving two 3,000 psi hydraulic pumps which in turn drive two hydraulic motors mounted in the 40:1 reduction hub. The two 16' wheels, one ahead and the other in reverse can turn the boat in her own length. Great fun to operate her.
The Dixie Rover was renamed the Bonnie Belle and operates out of the Thousand Island resort on the Saint Lawrence Seaway. A sister ship, the Pilgrim Belle sails from Plymouth Mass.