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Federal inspection leads to repairs on Willamette River sternwheeler

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SALEM, Oregon — A sternwheeler paddleboat that plies the Willamette River in the Salem area will be out of the water a while longer for repairs required after a federal inspection.

The Willamette Queen was hauled into a riverside parking lot on March 31 for an overdue out-of-the-water inspection. The Coast Guard requires them every five years.

The vessel is well known in the middle reaches of the Willamette, where it annually carries thousands of people for sightseeing, meals and weddings.

Its co-owner, Richard Chesbrough, told the Salem Statesman Journal (http://stjr.nl/1zDm2IA) the list of repairs includes chores that have to be done while the vessel is out of the water: replacing the boat's steel girder, which holds the weight of the paddles; repairing damage to the fiberglass hull; and replacing rotted spokes and paddles.

Other work, he said, can be accomplished when the boat is back in the water, such as repairing the wooden bumper rail and minor dry rot on the upper deck.

"We will work with him over the long term to complete some things that he has more time to do," said Ben Russell, chief of inspections for the Coast Guard in Portland. "He can complete these items while carrying passengers."

The inspection was due at the end of 2012, but it was delayed by wrangling between Chesbrough and the Coast Guard. Among the problems was the closure of the locks downstream at Willamette Falls, preventing easy passage to Portland inspection facilities.

Earlier this year, the Coast Guard yanked a certificate for carrying large gatherings, limiting the Willamette Queen to a maximum of six people while on the river. After that move, an Alaska boat company was hired to get it out of the water.

By the time the next five-year inspection is due, Chesbrough said, he plans to be "good and retired."

"They always say there are two happy days when you own a boat: the day you bought it and the day you sell it," Chesbrough added. "I've got one happy day coming my way."


Information from: Statesman Journal, http://www.statesmanjournal.com

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