WEBSTER – The Indian Princess paddle wheel boat arrived at its new home on Webster Lake very early Tuesday morning after a month-long delay caused by a rigging retrofit required by Connecticut State Police to allow safe travel through that state.
The boat's owner, Christopher Robert, said he had been completely surprised that certification for travel through Connecticut had not been properly completed by the company managing the move. “I found out four hours before it was supposed to move from Rhode Island into Connecticut.” Mr. Robert subsequently retained Specialized Machinery Transport, Inc., of Webster, to take over the project.
The boat had been parked at Snow's Clam Box on Rt. 44 in Glocester, Rhode Island, since August 5.
The Indian Princess transport left Snow's at about 8:45 p.m. Monday evening, made its way up I-395 North to Exit 100 in Thompson. From there it traveled to Webster along Thompson Road (Rt. 193), turned east onto Gore Road (Rt. 16), proceeded right on Killdeer Island Road and then turned into Indian Ranch grounds through the back entrance. A turn from Rt. 16 into the front entrance of Indian Ranch was too steep to negotiate easily. The entire route was dictated by the wide turns that were necessary to bring the boat to Indian Ranch.
“I'm very happy that the boat is finally here,” said Mr. Robert, alluding to the recent notification from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection upholding the Webster Conservation Commission's February decision that allowed him to berth the boat on Webster Lake subject to a set of conditions. A group of town residents had filed an appeal with the State.
The Indian Princess is an authentic reproduction of the Mississippi paddle wheel boats of Mark Twain's day. “Mark Twain piloted a paddle wheeler,” said Mr. Robert, “and he wrote a book about the thrill of riding on these boats.” The Indian Princess will provide lake access to the many Massachusetts residents who do not have access to a boat, he noted. The paddle wheeler will cruise the lake at four miles per hour, and is a Coast Guard-certified vessel.
Transporting the boat to Webster was a complex undertaking. “I had no idea what was involved in the logistics of moving a wide load,” said Mr. Robert, who received his permit to move the boat over Massachusetts roads from the state Department of Transportation in late July after two years of controversial discussion about his proposal to bring the boat to Webster Lake. Local state and federal politicians had blocked the issuance of the permit until the Webster Conservation Commission approved the plan to bring the 75-foot boat to Indian Ranch, a campground and concert venue also owned by Mr. Robert.
It will take about two weeks to reassemble the Indian Princess, said Mr. Robert. The paddle wheels, ramp, and top had to be removed and a special trailer was built to transport it. The Indian Princess had been moored in Barrington since May of last year, where it had been brought up from Ft. Myers, Florida. Mr. Robert's continued efforts to bring it to Webster Lake had been stalled since then.
While the Indian Princess is now situated in its new home, the controversy hasn't abated. A state Chapter 91 public hearing commenced in July to ensure that a proposed ramp, pier structures, and expanded marina at Indian Ranch will not interfere with DEP waterways regulations. Opponents who attended the hearing continue their efforts to thwart Mr. Robert's application to construct a berthing dock. They have maintained that the boat is too big for the lake and that it will cause environmental damage.
Once the Indian Princess is in the water, Mr. Robert says he is looking forward to providing educational tours of the lake for students, afternoon cruises for senior citizens, and trips for the handicapped. “There are people who've lived in Webster their whole lives and have never been on the Lake. My vision is to give them that opportunity.”
Indian Ranch is located at 200 Gore Road (Rt. 16) in Webster.