Coast Guard inspection promising for Dixie Belle’s return, volunteers say
LAKE HAVASU CITY – Efforts continue this month to restore a famous Lake Havasu watercraft, and workers are optimistic after a U.S. Coast Guard inspection on Wednesday.
The Dixie Belle has for eight years been dry-docked at a Kiowa Boulevard storage facility, since a failed Coast Guard inspection prompted its removal from Lake Havasu in 2011. Since then, owners and volunteers have struggled to restore the 68-ton, 32-foot-tall riverboat to its former glory. The ship’s owners have said the Dixie Belle could be seaworthy once more as early as next month, but a little more work is needed.
The Coast Guard’s inspection was promising, according to Lake Havasu City resident Aaron Ashbaugh, who has worked with others for six years to restore the ship. While Coast Guard officials saw great progress made in the ship’s seaworthiness, a few minor additions were needed, Ashbaugh said.
“The Coast Guard’s rules change every year,” Ashbaugh said. “We’re going to have to add a compass to the ship … the Dixie Belle has never had one before, but it won’t be too hard to install. We’ll have to change the plumbing as well. We have plastic pipes installed, but the Coast Guard requires welded metal pipes. We’ll have to change some grates on the back of the boat and we’ll need to re-do the ballast testing on the boat. We’ll be hiring an engineering firm to determine how many people can be on board at a time.”
It might sound like a lot of work, but according to Ashbaugh, the Dixie Belle won’t need many major fixes.
“I came onboard six years ago to help restore it,” Ashbaugh said. “I want to see it back on the water. We can be ready by October, but we’ll have to wait for another inspection. That could take place as early as next month, or it could be in November or December. We’ll be waiting, but the Coast Guard will do its inspection on its own time.”
The Dixie Belle was constructed at Crazy Horse Camp Grounds in 1984, and became a famous feature on Lake Havasu for nearly three decades until it was removed from the water. The ship has hosted parties, weddings, tours and events for Havasu residents and visitors.
“The people who have been here a long time remember the Dixie Belle,” Dixie Belle co-owner Keith Fernung said in a July interview. “There have been roadblocks along the way, but it’s going to be worth it. The Dixie Belle is a great thing for Havasu to have.”