The SS Natchez in New Orleans
The SS Natchez in New Orleans

The Steamboat Natchez

The Natchez is back!

The Natchez steamboat is an icon of New Orleans. Unlike the diesel powered City of New Orleans or the Creole Queen, the Natchez is powered by a compound steam engine. Well, technically she is diesel powered but instead of a diesel engine, it’s burnt in the boilers. She was built in 1975 and has been cruising up and down the Mississippi ever since. President Ford famously came aboard her on his campaign trail. However, she’s probably most famous for winning several steamboat races against the Delta Queen, Belle of Louisville, and the Mississippi Queen. Much of her equipment comes from other steamboats. Her engine and steering system are from a steamboat called the Clairton, a pressure gauge from the Sprague, and her whistle was salvaged from a sunken steamer. She unfortunately made the headlines a year ago as a fire caused by ignition of improperly stored combustibles while she was undergoing maintenance work. However, I am proud to announce she’s back and better than ever. I will document my experience for you.

We boarded the steamboat at 6:00 pm and were immediately sat for dinner. We enjoyed the buffet of options, the chicken breast was particularly delicious. The atmosphere was wonderful with the Dukes of Dixieland playing lots of lovely jazz numbers. After dinner, the mooring lines were undone and away she went. The captain gave commentary and information over the PA system. The paddle wheel churned furiously for something that weighed 26 tons. I quickly explored the lower decks and came across the boiler room. The diesel fire was burning so hot that it was projecting onto the wall through the sight glass. The two boilers were named Thelma and Louise. I made my way to the engine room. It was lovely and warm, which was important since I had forgotten my jacket at home. The pounding of the engines was monstrous, showing the raw power of steam. The amount of linkages and levers was astonishing but thanks to clever color coding of the rods along with the diagram, it was relatively easy to figure out. The wall of gauges was something to be seen; you could tell when someone used a toilet or a faucet because the water pressure gauge would go crazy. I spoke to the chief engineer for a while before I made my way out. I explored the rest of the ship and saw many sights including the domino sugar refinery and massive cargo ships. While I was making my way back to the engine room, there was an enormous roar, the triple bell whistle had sung out into the night. Echoing for miles around, it signaled we had reached the halfway point and that it was time to turn around. I quickly made my way to the engine room once more and marveled as they turned the mighty beast. I found myself quite parched after that, so I quickly made my way to the bar and got a coke. I also got a book and a captain’s hat from the gift shop. I also reconvened with the rest of the family and invited them down to the engine room. They marveled at the regular beat of the marvelous, mechanical, compound engines. It was like they were alive. After about 30 minutes, we sighted the dock. It was time to dock and go home. The bow thrusters activated and pushed the ship into place. The deckhands tied everything up and we were free to go. We said our goodbyes to the captain, the deckhands, the watchmen, and the engineers as we stepped on dry land.

In conclusion, the Natchez is an excellent attraction to do if you’re looking to do something with family or friends.

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