Goodbye to a Star
A once-famous ferry bids farewell
to the Great Lakes.
fter rusting for 12 years along Buffalo, New York’s waterfront, the derelict Marine
Star passenger ferry is now on her way to Europe—but whether she’ll be rehabbed
or sent to the scrap heap is unknown.
Originally built in 1945 for use as a trans-Atlantic troop transport ship, the Marine Star
underwent an $8-million transformation into a luxury passenger ferry after World War II.
Renamed Aquarama, the 520-foot-long day-steamer could carry 2,500 passengers and 160 cars.
Her corrugated stainless steel side panels turned heads, and on board she featured two
dance floors, babysitting services, four restaurants and a cigar shop. Aquarama’s service
between Detroit and Cleveland was popular in the 1950s, but her lack of sleeping accom-
modations prevented the Michigan Ohio Navigation Co. from turning a profit.
Aquarama was laid up in Muskegon, Michigan from the mid-’60s until 1987, when she
was purchased for $3 million. She was first brought to Sarnia, Ontario and then to
Windsor, where she again sat idle.
In 1994, Empire Cruise Lines bought the ship, returned its original name and made
plans to turn the Star into a floating casino. This never happened, and in ’95 the ferry was
towed to South End Marina in Buffalo.
Now the Star is making another trip—to Europe via Quebec. “As far as we know, she’s
not scheduled to be scrapped,” Ed O’Conner of Norlake Transportation, the company
hired to tow the ferry, told The Buffalo News. “It’s possible somebody in Europe has a plan
to do something with her.”
However, rumors have been circulating throughout the shipping community that the Star
is destined for a scrapyard in India. An anonymous source told the News that Empire Cruise
Lines is considering that option. “The price of scrap metal is very strong, and the cost to
renovate is a lot higher,” he said. “She’s got scrap written all over her.” –Kathryn Swartz
12 Lakeland BOATING • April 2008
You could find yourself responsible for damages your marina caused.
efore you sign your annual slip contract with your
marina this year, be sure to read it carefully—it may
obligate you to pay more than just the slip fee. In an
effort to control increasing insurance costs, marinas are insert-
ing language into their slip contracts that shift the marina’s legal
liability to the slip holder.
“What this means in real terms, for example, is if a boater’s guest is
injured due to the marina’s negligence and sues the marina, or a boat
is damaged by the marina and it declines to pay for repairs, the boat
owner could be responsible for defending the marina and paying any
amounts that the marina is responsible for,” said Jim Nolan, BoatU.S.
vice president of underwriting. “In the insurance industry it’s called
Look for terms such as “hold harmless and indemnify” and “defend
and indemnify.” “If they see this language, boaters should check to
make sure that their boat’s insurance policy provides them with cov- Destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina.
erage for these types of contractual liabilities before they sign their
slip or storage contract,” Nolan added. pocket for injuries, defense lawyers and possibly property damage
If the boat insurance policy does not include contractual liability to their own boat. The “hold harmless” provision may insulate the
coverage, boaters could find themselves paying big money out of marina from paying for damages it may have caused.
FLUSHING OUT INVADERS
To prevent the further spread of invasives, all
ocean-going ships must completely flush ballast
tanks with saltwater 200 nautical miles offshore
before entering the St. Lawrence Seaway. “It’s bet-
ter than nothing, which is basically what is hap-
pening now,” Sen. Patricia Birkholz (R–MI), who
sponsored Michigan’s state ballast law, told The
Grand Rapids Press. “But we still have a ways to
go. There are some [exotic species] that saltwater doesn’t get.” Canada has required saltwater flush-
ing since 2006, while the U.S. regulation went into effect in March. Currently, 90 percent of ships
don’t have to flush because they claim to be “no-BOBs” (no ballast on board). These vessels still have
small amounts of water in their tanks in which exotics can live. When cargo is unloaded, the organ-
isms escape to wreak havoc on the Great Lakes. The new legislation will increase ship inspections
and fines, and require crews to test ballast water for salt level. Michigan’s ballast law, enacted last
year, requires ships to obtain permits to enter state waters and notify officials if they plan to discharge
ballast water. However, that law is being challenged in court by the shipping industry.
GAS FROM GRASS Could a common weed solve our fuel crisis? Although the government subsi-
dizes the corn ethanol industry, studies show that it actually takes more energy to create and deliver
than it produces. But research from the University of Nebraska offers a useful alternative fuel that
burns five times the energy it takes to grow—made
of prairie grass instead of corn. This biofuel, known
tank: boatnerd.com • grass: T.M. Woods
as cellulosic ethanol, emits less greenhouse gas
when burned and doesn’t raise corn prices in the
developing world. It can be grown with moderate
amounts of fertilizer on marginal land, but poses
one major problem: “Right now there are no biore-
fineries built that handle cellulosic material,” says
researcher Ken Vogel.
DOWN AND OUT IN DETROIT
historic Spanish-style structure on the Detroit River is falling apart. Friends of
Detroit Rowing cannot find the finances to maintain its home, the Boat Club on
Belle Isle, which it takes care of in lieu of paying rent to the city. Erected in 1902,
the club has a roof riddled with holes, the ballroom is filled with dust, and the pool, pos-
sibly the first built in the U.S., is filled with filthy water. The façade is cracked, the deck
around the pool has grass growing through it, and the former docks are deserted and dan-
gerous. A study estimated the cost of completely repairing the boat club to be $28 million.
“Even at the height of the boat club’s membership, with 400 members or so, we couldn’t
have afforded [the repairs],” said spokesman Joe Callanan. If the Friends relinquish care
of the building, Detroit officials have said there are no provisions in place from the cash-
strapped city. “We’ve had structural engineers in here and yes, it’s salvageable,” Callanan
told the Detroit News. “But who has the dollars?”
RETURN POLICY? When Japan’s Emperor Akihito visited Chicago half
a century ago, he didn’t know that a gift from the city would cause so
many problems. After visiting Shedd Aquarium, Mayor Richard J. Daley
gave the then-crown prince several bluegill. Akihito took the fish home
and passed them on to a research facility near Lake Biwa, Japan’s
largest lake, to test whether the species could be bred for food.
However, the fish escaped into the wild and have now spread through-
out the nation’s waterways, drastically reducing the number of native fish
and wiping out the royal bitterling. “My heart aches to see it has turned
out like this,” Akihito said in his address to the National Convention for
the Development of an Abundantly Productive Sea.
fish: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service • scuba: Desco Corp.
DIVING IN Loves Park, Illinois is now home to the Lockwood Pioneer
Scuba Diving Museum. The museum is named for James Lockwood, a
former Rockford resident, who built scuba equipment starting in the
late 1930s. Most of the museum is funded by Lockwood’s estate, with
Dan Johnson, the museum’s curator and owner of the adjacent Loves
Park Scuba & Snorkel, picking up the rest. Lockwood’s first scuba
device is on display: a rebreather that recovers air and makes it
reusable, developed five years before Jacques Cousteau and Émile
Gagnan created the more famous aqualung scuba system. The scuba
store offers a pool in which kids can try their first scuba experience.
18 Lakeland BOATING • April 2008