Pittsburgh's three rivers get a new sight-seeing boat

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The Gateway Clipper company broke out the champagne -- or rather, broke the champagne bottle -- today to welcome the newest member of its sightseeing fleet.

Her name is the Three Rivers Queen, and with a christening ceremony held today at Gateway Clipper's Station Square dock, she joins a fleet that this year is celebrating 55 years in business and includes five other ships named the Majestic, Empress, Princess, Duchess and Countess.

The marching band from Chartiers Valley High School played and the crowd on shore watched as the Three Rivers Queen traveled along the Monongahela River to approach the South Side just before noon today.

Gateway Clipper Fleet christens the Three Rivers Queen

The Three Rivers Queen was christened at the Station Square Dock.It's a beautiful 110 feet long and 32 feet wide all-steel classic paddle wheel style passenger boat. It's also the Gateway Clipper's 55th Anniversary. (5/29/2013)

Measuring 110 feet long and 32 feet wide, the blue, white and red paddle wheel-style boat has three decks and can seat 250 passengers for dinner or 338 for sightseeing. It also has a calliope that played as the boat neared the dock.

For many on shore, it was their first look at the newest Gateway Clipper riverboat. But Terry Wirginis, Gateway Clipper president, has had his eye on her for years.

"I've known her since her keel was laid, and I've always coveted her," he said after a round of congratulatory speeches by local politicians.

The Three Rivers Queen was built by Freeport Shipbuilding and Repair in Florida in 1994, and spent the past seven years sailing the Arkansas River under the name Arkansas Queen. Once Gateway Clipper purchased her, she traveled down the Arkansas River, up the Mississippi River to Illinois and then on the Ohio River to Pittsburgh by early March, a distance of about 2,000 miles.

She received paint work and some refurbishing, and she's already been out on Pittsburgh's three rivers for sightseeing tours. But today, with her christening, she became an official member of the fleet.

"Christening gives a ship its identity, its name," said Cmdr. Lindsay N. Weaver of Pittsburgh's Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit, who was overseeing her first christening in Pittsburgh since being sworn in last July. "It's the first step in bringing a ship to life."

Pamela Wirginis, the wife of Mr. Wirginis, did the honors, breaking the champagne bottle against the side of the ship.

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This story first appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To subscribe, go to http://www.post-gazette.com/trypittsburghpress/ Kaitlynn Riely: kriely@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1707. First Published May 29, 2013 7:30 PM


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