Detroit memories, history lost in SS Ste. Claire fire

- The Boblo Boat ferried families to and from Detroit's island amusement park for 89 years.

But the SS Ste. Claire steam vessel, launched in 1910, was left to fall apart after regular operations came to a halt in 1991. After Friday's fire, Detroiters are devastated from watching such a special piece of the city's history go up in smoke.

"I can't believe what I'm seeing," said Janet Livingston.

"It is sad, sad seeing it look like that," said Kevin Duda.

It was a lot to take in for so many metro Detroiters.

"This is the only vacation we ever had, going on the Boblo boat," said Livingston.

The SS Ste. Claire caught fire while docked at Riverside Marina Friday.

"It's horrible. it's like leaning sideways," said Bridgette, an onlooker. "(My parents) used to take me there and we'd enjoy family day there together."

The owners of the Ste. Claire for nearly a decade were forced to watch years of work literally, go up in flames.

"When we first acquired the boat you couldn't walk on that thing," said co-owner Ron Kattoo. "And we got it to the point where she was very structurally sound. It just breaks our heart."

The owners say restoring the boat has been a hefty challenge just getting insurance, contractors and even dock space has been tough.

"Thank God it was steel, that can be saved," Kattoo said. "I just don't know what to do with the rest of it right now."

The owners have tossed around dozens of ideas - a haunted house in the next couple of years or a restaurant.
"She's a Detroit icon and we were hoping to bring her back," Kattoo said.

Despite the work that needed to be done, the owners say they were planning boat tours next spring.

"The stories are endless and to see her end up like this, it is a sad day for everybody - not just us," said co-owner Saquib Nakadar.

"Dancing on the boat and looking down the main thing and seeing the machinery moving the boat and everything," Duda said.

Royce da 5'9" released a song called Boblo Boat recently, Detroit Police Chief James Craig said.

"It's ironic there is a hip-hop record released maybe 30 days ago about the Boblo Boat, you heard it?" he said.

While so many memories flood back.

"We love this - it's our whole childhood, our whole past," said Livingston.

The owners say after getting more information on the extent of the damage, if this Boblo boat can be salvaged, they will try.

"We'll recover," said Nakadar. "I think it's going to be a tough challenge. We've done it already once and I think we could do it again."

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