Private donors keep boat afloat

Published 11:59 am Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Spamtown Belle refuses to be docked.

The City of Austin has completely pulled funding from the vessel due to budget cuts, but that will not stop it from providing rides three days a week this summer.

Capt. Dick Nordin put the boat in Mill Pond a week ago. When it was being inspected Monday, citizens began inquiring about rides.

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“So many people came up trying to ride on it we said maybe we should put it in the water this weekend,” Nordin said.

The first rides of the season were given Friday night, a week before it was scheduled to begin operation. The Belle has four volunteer pilots thus far, Nordin said.

“We are kind of scrambling on pilots,” he said.

Rides are $2 for adults and $1 for children from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday and 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Nordin said the boat is being funded by private donations. He is still seeking a corporate sponsor, although he did not reveal the names of interested parties.

The Spamtown Belle was originally donated to the city by Bill Regner. The diesel engine-powered boat first sailed on East Side Lake before being moved to Mill Pond, where supporters have said it attracts more tourists.