-reported by Gabby McMillen
For 100 years the African Queen has remained an iconic vessel to old movie lovers and history buffs. Perhaps it’s best known as
the rickety boat Humphrey Bogart captained with Katharine Hepburn in the film The African Queen
. This year, a $70,000 project
is underway to get the African Queen cruising
the seas again more than a decade after it was beached as a display in Key Largo, Fla., with mechanical, structural and cosmetic repairs.
Since late April, the African Queen has offered a variety of cruises
throughout the Florida Keys that includes several 90-minute day cruises, plus dinner cruises on selected nights.
Stephen Bogart, son of the famous Humphrey Bogart says, "You know, I've never really been on many movie sets, and this is like being on a movie set, and just the fact that somebody bought it and has taken the time to restore it."
The African Queen's 100-year history began when it was built in 1912 at England's Lytham shipbuilding yard. Originally, the ship was named the Livingstone. It eventually served the British East Africa Rail Company shuttling cargo by hunting parties and mercenaries on the Ruki River, situated in the northwestern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Until 1968, according to Jim Hendricks Jr. Huston, the vessel was temporarily pulled from service for the film.
In 1982, late attorney (and Bogart buff) Jim Hendricks, Sr., discovered the vessel languishing in an Ocala, Fla., horse pasture and purchased the piece of movie history for $65,000. An equal amount of funds was invested to get the boat operational. Hendricks began offering visitors rides in 1983 while the vessel was stationed at Key Largo's Holiday Inn.
According to Suzanne Holmquist, they have signed a long-term lease with the previous owner’s son to restore and operate the vessel again. The Holmquists have overseen repairs and have taken pains to date it as it appeared in the film by replacing steel in the hull, replacing the boiler and oiling the black African mahogany to condition the wood.
"It's important to me because I love old movies and films, and just to see the amount of interest that this boat is still generating, even as dilapidated as she had gotten, it was incredible," says Suzanne Holmquist. She has been highly involved in the restoration of the African Queen.
"I think restoring the African Queen has firmly sealed the tie and connection with the Bogart name to Key Largo."
Costs for sailing
the African Queen vary. It's $39 per person and $25 for children under 12 years old. Dinner cruises cost $89 per person and occur an hour after sunset.
photos courtesy of Calypso Sailing