MARIETTA - It's been two years since the historic towboat W.P. Snyder Jr. returned to port in Marietta after undergoing $1.4 million in renovations, mostly to the 94-year-old vessel's hull and paddlewheel.
Now the sternwheeler is scheduled to spend another winter at a shipyard for additional repairs that are estimated to cost around $712,000.
"Last time most of the work was on the hull, below the waterline, which was not visible to the public, but this work will be on the decks, above the boat's waterline," said LeAnn Hendershot, interim manager of the Campus Martius and Ohio River Museums. The Snyder is part of the Ohio River Museum site.
She said the museum staff is hopeful the work can be done while the Ohio River Museum is closed for the season.
"The river museum is open April through October. We close at the end of October because after that we usually begin to have bad weather," Hendershot said, adding that the main Campus Martius Museum on Second Street will stay open all year.
George Kane, director of historic sites and facilities for the Ohio Historical Society, said work on the W.P. Snyder Jr. won't be as extensive as the hull replacement that took 10 months to complete in 2009 and 2010.
"Now that the hull project is done we're looking at the decks and other work, including rewiring of the boat," he said.
"But there are some things that have to be completed before we can move the boat."
Kane said agreements with funding agencies will have to be finalized, and bid documents are being finished up so the society can advertise for a contract on the project.
A federal Transportation Enhancement Grant for $736,000 will provide the majority of the funding. That includes expected contingencies and other costs for the project.
He said a time frame is still being figured out for the project.
"We are dealing with a window of opportunity here. The boat needs to be moved while the rivers are still down because of the bridges she'll have to pass under on the way to the shipyard," Kane said.
Although the deck work and rewiring will be done above the waterline, he said it's likely the towboat will have to be put in drydock during the renovations.
The W.P. Snyder Jr. is the last steam-powered sternwheeler towboat of its kind still afloat in the U.S.
"The Snyder is a really important boat that had a part in the history of navigation," Kane said. "So we want to keep it in good shape."
The towboat will, itself, have to be towed by tugboats when it's moved to the shipyard, as the engines on the W.P. Snyder Jr. have not been used for some time.
"The engines and boilers have been inspected and are in pretty good condition, but they haven't been fired up since 1955 when the boat was originally brought to Marietta," Kane explained.
Hendershot said the vessel is a big part of the museum experience for visitors.
"When it's gone for repairs we really miss it," she said. "And hopefully we'll continue to have the staff to keep it maintained. The boat really needs someone full-time to do maintenance."
Although the Snyder remains moored on the Muskingum River when it's at the museum, Hendershot noted it still takes a lot of work and money to keep it maintained.