A fire damaged the S.S. Ste. Claire, the last Bob-Lo boat on the Detroit River, on July 6, 2018. Detroit Deputy Fire Commissioner Dave Fornell says investigators suspect a welding mishap started the fire.
Drs. Ron Kattoo and Saqib Nakadar bought the vessel in 2008, with plans to restore it. Kattoo says they had already repainted and removed rust from the bow of the old steamer. They were hoping to turn it into a dockside attraction for the public within two years.
“We had plans to bring it out as a haunted house in the next 12 to 24 months,” Kattoo says. “This has been really hard for us.”
Nakadar says they appreciate the public support they’ve received.
“We get people calling us all the time, telling us emotional stories about what the boat means to them,” Nakadar says. “It’s just hard to see her like this right now.”
The boat had been moored at Riverside Marina on Detroit’s east side. Kattoo says a structural engineer will examine the vessel, and determine whether it can be saved.
The Ste. Claire and its sister ship, the S.S. Columbia, were iconic symbols of Detroit’s heyday. For decades, they sailed from southwest Detroit to the Bob-Lo Island amusement park in Amherstburg, Ontario. They made their final voyages in 1991. For years, they sat empty, rusting in a channel of the Detroit River near Ecorse. In 2015, the Columbia was towed to Buffalo, New York. Its owners say they have received more than $1 million toward its restoration and eventual return to service as a steamship on the Hudson River in New York, N.Y.