Thursday, February 9, 2012


Treasure Seeker on a balmy St. Thomas day.

Washington Island, Wisconsin -

Yesterday I received two pieces of email with information on the former island ferry C.G. Richter, now mored alongside a harbor boulevard in Charlotte Amalie Harbour, St. Thomas as the Treasure Seeker.  It was spotted by Washington Island property owner and cruise ship passenger Charlie Imig who forwarded the above photo.  Charlie recognized the Walter Haertel designed hull under disguise of pirate facade and tomato-red paint.  The other pertinent email came from David Wright in Washington state, who forwarded a link with photos of the Treasure Seeker from a different angle.

Ten years ago, this ferry was snorting diesel and bucking February ice in the Door passage, making the necessary trip to the mainland and back.  The single Cummins K-19 (500 hp) that powers the Treasure Seeker today worked hard to keep the propeller turning through chunks of ice, maintaining way through fields that sometimes were sliding toward the open lake.   Inside the cabin, passengers visited elbow-to-elbow as the boat sometimes ran freely in open water and other times slowed in deep, rugged ridges, or stews of fine, compressed ice.   Nostalgia comes in many forms, and anyone who thinks of the good old days on board the C.G. Richter will also recall there were many trips that either took hours, or were cancelled, due to overwhelming ice conditions.

Well, you can relive such days in your short sleeves if you sign on to one of the Treasure Seeker's cruises around the harbor to drink rum and cokes and play pirate before going back to the comfort of your cruise ship.  The Hixon family, after fits and starts and a Bahamian grounding that took off the rudder and anchor, motored the final leg in late 2011 from the Puerto Rican shipyard, where repairs were undertaken, to St. Thomas.  (See photos in blog link below.)

Arni, if he were still around, would caution about the exposure to the concrete quay and apparent lack of large fenders.   Its a tough hull, and so we'll wait for more follow-ups to learn how its doing, both pier side and underway with would-be pirates in charge.  It's big, it's red and it's waiting for the next cruise ship to pull in with customers for a pirate ship ride.

For more photos, including some shots of the former Washington Island ferry sitting on blocks in the Puerto Rico shipyard, use this link:

Meanwhile, here's what it looked like a decade or more back in time.  -  Dick Purinton

Life as a ferry:   A load of groceries for the
 island on board  Mann's Store truck.


Ralph Murre said...

I suppose it is good that life goes on, but still, it saddens me to see this once noble little hard-working vessel upon which I made so many crossings, reduced to a sort of cartoon character. Perhaps there are people who really DO get aboard because of her fake rigging and raised poop, but I'd suggest there are as many who would avoid her for the same reasons.

trot2island said...

Personally, I prefer the original paint job to the tomato red. Hard not to see the new outfit as being a bit tacky or garish. (I guess that's the point.) With that said, a ride in the sunny blue waters of the caribbean, drinking rum might not be a terrible way to get reacquainted with her new look!

Kari Sena Gordon said...

Sigh. Kind of like putting a Halloween costume or reindeer antlers on a faithful working can sense the lost dignity! At any rate, the Richter and the Griffin both held wonderful memories for me. Kind of ironic in that when I sold tickets in Gills Rock, the Richter was the 'real' boat....the working vessel, year round, both sturdy and opposed to the 'excursion' boat, for tourist trade alone. Now, the role is reversed. But you can still see her beautiful bones, and if I close my eyes, I can hear Arni, Grandpa, and Alvin in the pilot house.........

Richard Purinton said...

The former ferry C.G. Richter continues to attract interest. Rather than the usual 50-70 hits on this site, we bounced to 170 after the "Tomato" was posted. Other commenters who sent emails to me privately had these comments, in so many words:
..good to have the continued vessel history of your former ferry. Its a long haul to St. Thomas, having experienced it years ago in a sailboat. 1500 miles of open ocean, large waves, a major storm. The owners are adventurers. .. Gary Russell, Madeline Island Ferry

"...they use large tires cabled or chained to the cement there for commercial use..." from sister Martha, who spent many winters sailing among those islands.

I will add that I had typed the wrong year for the voyage to St. Thomas, corrected now to "...late 2011..." for the final leg from Puerto Rico to the new homeport. - Dick Purinton

Barbara Greenfeldt said...

I've read about colorful "encore" careers in retirement, but pirate is usually not one of the choices.