Ruble’s sternwheelers raised from Ohio River

Boats sunk by ice floes in 2018

The sternwheelers Blennerhassett, left, and Centennial are shown along the bank of the Ohio River off Fourth Street in Belpre Thursday. The Blennerhassett’s hull was damaged by ice and sank, pulling down the Centennial as well in January 2018. They have been raised over the last week-and-a-half by Marion Hill Associates of Pennsylvania. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

BELPRE — A pair of partially sunken sternwheelers have been raised from the muck in which they’ve been mired along the bank of the Ohio River for more than a year.

Belpre resident Dave Ruble said his boat, the Blennerhassett, sank in January 2018 after ice in the river “knocked some holes” in it. The smaller vessel, the Centennial, was tied to it and also pulled partly underwater.

It took him until recently to put together the financing to get the boats out, Ruble said.

“You’re talking about a very expensive project,” he said, later declining to quote a specific amount.

The boats were part of his former business, Ruble Sternwheelers, which transported passengers to and from Blennerhassett Island for years. He continued to operate it as a charter service after the state of West Virginia contracted with another operation, but closed the business about six years ago.

Dave Ruble talks Thursday about the process of raising his sternwheelers, the Blennerhassett, left, and Centennial, from the Ohio River where they sank in January 2018 along a bank in Belpre. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

The Centennial had been converted to a “live-aboard” boat that Ruble sometimes used for travel.

Pennsylvania-based Marion Hill Associates did the work setting up pumps on the boats and using a crane to lift portions out of the water so the accumulated mud could be washed out, Ruble said. The Centennial came up first, last week, after about 40 hours of work. The Blennerhassett followed on Tuesday, a process that took about 29 hours and also included divers patching the larger holes on it.

Ruble said he’s glad to see the boats back on the water instead of in it and believes they can be repaired.

But he won’t be the one to do it.

“I would like to see them fixed up … and somebody take hold of them that had the money and put them back into their glory,” he said.

The sternwheelers Centennial, left, and Blennerhassett are shown partially submerged in the Ohio River in August 2018. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

Built by his father, Everett Ruble Jr., the Centennital already has a buyer and will likely be taken to Pittsburgh in the next week or so, he said. The Blennerhassett, which Ruble and his father built in the early 1980s, had been up for sale since 2016. For now, it will remain docked at Ruble’s property off Fourth Street in Belpre.

Evan Bevins can be contacted at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com.

A mud-encrusted sign that was once attached to the Centennial sits along the Ohio River bank where the sternwheeler was recently raised after partially sinking in January 2018. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

This refrigerator, mostly filled with mud, was recovered from the Centennial when the sternwheeler was raised out of the Ohio River this week. (Photo by Evan Bevins)