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This sternwheeler has W.Va. spirit

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Forget the Caribbean. The best deal on a cruise is right here in Charleston.

Dick Daugherty, boat owner and captain, has docked his sternwheeler "Spirit of West Virginia" at Haddad Riverfront Park and is ferrying passengers up and down the Kanawha River this weekend.

Daugherty is offering a variety of cruises in conjunction with the Rod Run and Doo Wop event and hopes to be back later this month with fall foliage trips.

A lunchtime, brown-bag cruise this weekend costs $12.50 — less for kids, students and seniors.

The boat even has a theme song, written by Daugherty's father, George, a local attorney also known as a colorful balladeer in the Kanawha Valley for years.

"It's the Spirit of West Virginia," blasts the songster from the boat's speaker system. "Come on board and be happy, why don't you?"

The younger Daugherty has been working on boats since he was a teenager. He was hired by former P.A. Denny owner Ross Tuckwiler as a deckhand and bartender on that sternwheeler.

The "Spirit of West Virginia" is taking up where the beloved Denny left off, giving area residents and visitors a fine river view of the Capitol and the city via an authentic paddleboat.

"There are several sternwheelers here," Daugherty said. "But this is the only commercial boat on the river. It's a way to own a nice boat and be a part of history and all the stuff that promotes our city and the river heritage."

It's not his first boat; Daugherty has owned a tugboat and other sternwheelers. This one was purchased two years ago and remains docked on the river at his Dunbar home most of the time.

Some stats: The Spirit of West Virginia, built in 1973 in Belpre, Ohio, is a U.S. Coast Guard-certified sternwheel paddleboat. It is 85 feet long, has two decks, weighs 49 gross tons and will accommodate 49 passengers plus crew.

The vessel is powered by a 120-horsepower 371 Detroit Diesel engine and has a cruise speed of 7 mph. Onboard electric power comes from a 21KW Kohler generator. The main cabin will seat 36 people. The fuel tank holds 800 gallons.

The boat formerly was used for excursions between Parkersburg and Blennerhassett Island; as a floating bed and breakfast on Ohio's Muskingham River; and for rides from a dock on the Ohio River at Camden Park.

Most recently, it was known as "The Spirit of South Charleston," and its previous owner, Frank Burdette, also used the boat on the Kanawha.  

Daugherty is a licensed boat captain and a former commander of the Kanawha River Navy. He's also associated with the Kanawha Powerboat Squadron, the American Sternwheel Association and was involved with the Sternwheel Regatta from its early years.

"I fell in love with sternwheelers at a young age," he said. "I always had a dream of owning a boat."

His crew consists of longtime boatman Phil Primozic, and frequently Daugherty's wife, Nancy, and sister, Sallie Daugherty.

While he hopes lunch cruises will be popular, Daugherty mainly hosts large groups for parties or businesses. Catering is handled through a separate company.

He is in discussions with the Charleston Convention and Visitor's Bureau to consider ways the sternwheeler can be used to benefit city tourism needs.

"We're thinking about having more of a set schedule," he said.

For more information or to schedule a cruise, go to www.

wvpaddleboat.com or call Daugherty at 304-419-2497.

Contact writer Cheryl Caswell at cherylc@dailymail.com or 304-348-4832.


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