This year's venue is the Los Angeles River.

A view of the Los Angeles River, with rail yards in background.

Our river has friends, so have your people contact our river's people, Friends of the Los Angeles River. FOLAR just held the annual Great Los Angeles River Clean-Up in May. Get involved in your community and make a difference!

The river connects the original parts of the City of L.A. from the Northern San Fernando Valley to Downtown and then straight south to Compton, Carson and Long Beach.

Thank you for joining us on this warm and friendly afternoon in Los Angeles. We've gathered at the L.A. River to see the second annual online steamboat race. The view of the river is beautiful. You can see the trains in the background if you look carefully (above, left).

Yes, you may laugh when we talk about the L.A. River, because as you can see from the photo (above, right), the L.A. River has banks of cement. It's hard to believe that it once flowed year-round with crystal clear water in a wooded flood plain with swamps, lakes and abundant wildlife.

We are holding the race today at Elysian Gateway Park, part of the Los Angeles River located at the corner of Knox and Blake. The street name reminds us of our dear friend, Betty Blake. She did publicity for the Belle of Louisville (when it was called the Avalon, before 1962) and for the Delta Queen, 1962 - 1979. We feel she is here with us in spirit!


The ships in today's race are:

The Belle of Louisville, piloted by Nori Muster, webdesigner for
The Delta King, piloted by Captain Jerry Canavit, webmaster of
The Delta Queen, piloted by Franz Neumeier and Carmen Winkler of, and their daughter Leonie

We have word that the boats have arrived. Let's go out and greet them. They're kinda small, so let's hope we can find them out in front of the park.

The boats are here at Elysian Gateway Park, ready to race. These are not real boats, and nevermind, because the river isn't a "real" river. These are model boats made by James Wong of Heritage Workshop in Hong Kong. James will be this year's judge.

Let the race begin.

The Delta Queen model starts off in the lead with The Delta King model just behind. The Belle of Louisville model is off to a slow start.

It's still a close race between the two sister ships, with the Belle of Louisville model bringing up the rear.

The Delta King now has a slight lead and the Belle of Louisville model is quickly catching up.

The Delta Queen model resumes the lead. The Belle of Louisville model takes second place, with The Delta King model close behind.

The Delta King model inches ahead, with The Delta Queen model just behind. The Belle of Louisville model falls back into last place again.

The Delta King model crosses the finish line in first place. The Delta Queen model is a close second. The Belle of Louisville model must have gotten lost somewhere. We will see if we can locate her.

The Belle of Louisville could be anywhere, it's a big river. She must have gotten lost. We will continue to look for her and meet you at the awards ceremony in Hollywood.

A Few Words about the Los Angeles River

The mightly river was tamed in the 1930s to prevent dangerous floods that that frequently destroyed roads, bridges and entire towns. Although the river has a reputation for simply being a garbage-laden cement canal, parts of the river have a sandy bottom and have reverted to a more natural state. The river now supports a rich wetland of native flora and fauna. Miles of walking paths are currently available, such as this park where we held the steamboat race.

The City and County of Los Angeles, the California State government, neighborhood groups and a large coalition of non-profit groups are designing a master plan to make parkland all along the river. Here's a place to get started if you want to learn more about the effort to improve the L.A. River: Friends of the Los Angeles River. FOLAR holds the annual Great Los Angeles River Clean-Up in May, proving that people can get involved and make a difference!

Recommended Books About the Los Angeles River

If you're interested in this subject, here are two books you might enjoy:

The Los Angeles River: Its Life, Death, and Possible Rebirth
This well-researched book by Blake Gumprecht offers L.A. River history from the earliest European settlements, to the arrival of the railroads and gradual decline of the river until it was ultimately tamed with a network of dams, catchment basins, and pavement. The author also discusses the river revival, even if in skeptical tones.

Rio L. A.: Tales from the Los Angeles River
Amazon reader review, by a reader in Los Angeles: Patt Morrison and Mark Lamonica's book is filled with historical information about the Los Angeles River, plus wonderful anecdotes and a very readable style--I bought it because I saw it on the LA Times BESTSELLER list for six weeks and decided to see what I was missing. The people who put it on the list by buying it know what's great—I love this book.

News Flash   We have located the Belle of Louisville. She floated all the way down the L.A. River to Long Beach and was last seen cavorting with the little paddlewheeler, the Grand Romance in Rainbow Harbor.

We're sending a car for our wayward little model boat now. See you in Hollywood.

Award Ceremony

We're in Hollywood, in front of the Famous Chinese Theatre, and here are the steamboats, trying to do some last-minute sight-seeing before the ceremony.

In the great tradition of steamboat racing, the judge will now confer the Golden Cyber Antlers to the winning boat. Then we will hear from the contestants.

Jerry Canavit, the winner of this year's steamboat race, has disappeared. We think he may be stuck in some good old-fashioned L.A. traffic, so we will broadcast his speech when he arrives and officially accepts the steamboat trophy. Meanwhile, let's hear from the other participants:

A few words from the runners-up, the folks in Munich, Germany, piloting the Delta Queen

"The race shows that the Delta King knows the West Coast Rivers much better than the Delta Queen that has been away for such a long time. But it's still frustrating, that the King beats the Queen, even without engines. Well done, Captain Jerry! Next year you'll have no chance against the great Delta Queen, as the race should be somewhere on the Western Rivers where the Delta Queen is at home as no other boat."
- Franz Neumeier

A few words from Nori Muster, a Los Angeles native, piloting the Belle of Louisville

"It was thrilling to take part in the steamboat race this year on the Los Angeles River. I love Los Angeles and I love steamboats. It was the opportunity of a lifetime to put the two together for an afternoon of entertainment. Piloting the Belle of Louisville online was the experience of a lifetime and, although i lost this year fair and square, it was still one of the most rewarding experiences of my life to see my boat out there competing, falling behind, getting lost, and ending up in Long Beach Harbor! I look forward to next year's race!!!"

A few words from James Wong, the man who provided the model boats (Heritage Workshop in Hong Kong) and the judge in this year's race:

"It was really an exciting race. Congratulation to our winner, the Delta King and Captain Jerry Canavit. Indeed, all participants deserve our praise and high esteem because they have performed a thrilling and fair contest in the Second Online Steamboat Race.

"Without seeing any real steamboat in my life, I liked it at my first sight on the internet. Perhaps it was the reason why I was chosen to be the judge for the online race. In the city I live people do not recognize steamboats but we have other heritages of our own that we are proud of. There are people in our community who are so determined to preserve the old things and pass on for the generations to come. Just like the event of the Steamboat Race, no matter it is virtual or real, it deserves to keep up for it reminds people that steamboat is a historical landmark and the role it played in the history.

"This year we had three models joining the race. Perhaps, the committee may consider to bring in other participants to the race in future. As a matter of fact, I also planned myself to add in new models to my steamboat collection. I remember, when I first started the models, I did everything from scratches. Staying thousands of miles away, it took me several months to search for the pictures, the technical data and even to study about their history. Finally, I located a web-site selling plans for the Delta Queen and Belle of Louisvilles, But due to the mailing problem, I waited for two months before getting them on hand. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile after all.

"I wish to ride aboard a steamboat someday to cruise along the muddy Mississippi. To make my dream come true, steamboating must be preserved till I am old enough to retire and take my cruise. Before then, let's keep up the traditional Steamboat Race together."

The participants in this race have unanimously resolved to hold another event one year from now. Please log on in 2003 for the Third International Online Steamboat Race.

You are invited to an after-awards ceremony party!

Visit Hollywood for your next family vacation - If you want to visit Hollywood, we recommend that you stay in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, a historic landmark across the street from the Chinese Theatre. (The photo above was taken on the corner in front of the Roosevelt.) Click here for an introductory movie about the history of the hotel. Click here to go directly to reservation information. If you stay here, you can walk to many sites of interest along Hollywood Boulevard, including movie theaters, museums, restaurants and shopping. The Hollywood/Highland Kodak Theater and the subway to Universal Studios are also within walking distance.

More links to this famous corner: Walk of Fame & Hollywood Sign (brought to you by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce) and Mann's Chinese Theatre. Also visit Capitol Records at Hollywood and Vine and Capitol Records.

A picnic at the Hollywood Bowl seems the perfect way to bring the second annual online steamboat race season to an end. They actually have picnic tables in a shady grove behind the stage, but our steamboat models wanted their picnic out here in the bleachers.

Next time you're in Hollywood, bring your picnic basket and visit the Hollywood Bowl Shop & Museum. Here's their website:

More information about picnicking at the Bowl: click here.

FOLAR map of the Los Angeles River Greenway.

Disclaimer: The boats used in this race are not the real Delta King, Delta Queen or Belle of Louisville. If you believe that, then YOU should be racing steamboats on the Los Angeles River. But really, friends, you can visit all three of these boats in person or through the Internet.

To find the real boats, click on these links!

Delta King   |   Delta Queen   |   Belle of Louisville

The Delta King and Delta Queen are sister ships built in Glasglow Scotland in 1926 and brought to California to work on the Sacramento River. The Delta Queen moved to the Mississippi River after World War II, while the Delta King stayed in California. The King lives in retirement in Old Town Sacramento as a hotel, restaurant and Mystery Theater. To read about these boats' history click here.

The Belle of Louisville was built in 1915 and was originally named the Idlewild. In 1948 they renamed her the Avalon to grant a death-bed wish of Captain Ben Winters, who had worked on the original Avalon (built in 1898). The Avalon was sold in 1950 to Steamer Avalon, Inc., based in Cincinnati, to do excursions on the Mississippi, Ohio, Missouri and Kanawha Rivers. In 1962 Jefferson County Fiscal Court bought the Avalon and renamed her the Belle of Loisville.

Many of the people who later saved the Delta Queen from Safety at Sea legislation came from the Avalon: Betty Blake, Captain Ernest Wagner, Doc Hawley and others.

Betty Blake and Captain Wagner ringing the bell on the real Delta Queen.

You Can Buy Models of these Boats for Your Own Home!

Authentic, scale models, ready to place on your mantle:
Delta Queen (or King) and Belle of Louisville

International Online Steamboat Race Trophy

The winner of this year's race, Captain Jerry Canavit, will hold the trophy until next year, or until such time as another boat wins the race. This is the second year in a row that Jerry has won.

Jerry Canavit's Acceptance Speech

It was another good race. The boats were pretty evenly matched. The charts of the Los Anglels River that Nori sent me were very helpful - she should have studied them a little better (eh eh). The Delta Queen could have won except she was badly out of trim - she was running 5 buckets in the water and that really limited her rpm's. (Could all of those cases of German Beer in the engine room have been the problem?)

I will post this years' award right next to last years' award and keep the "Take 'em If You Can" sign posted on the pilothouse in anticipation of next years' race. Let me also say that I think the scuttlebutt about handicapping my boat with a governor on the paddlewheel for the next race is certainly not in keeping with the spirit of fair competition.

Jerry Canavit, ASN
Master, Steamer Delta King
San Antonio, Texas

P.S. I think the 15+ inches of rain I had in my back yard last week would have made for better racing than the Los Angeles River.*

* Jerry's acceptance speech was delayed - not because he was trapped in L.A. traffic - but because he had to attend to matters back in Texas, where his region experienced flooding and he was off line for several days. We're glad Jerry's out of harm's way now. We also had some "real world" incidents in Los Angeles over the holiday weekend, so we have to account for those things too (although steamboating is more fun). We take part in this race in a spirit of peace through international fellowship.

Nori, Franz and Carmen add that we hope Jerry Canavit can get on line soon, so that he will do more than just sneak up and steal the antler trophy each year! "Take 'em If You Can," indeed!! All that German beer in the engineroom and a governor on your paddlewheel would seem like fine excuses for losing races, but you are not invincible! One of us will get that trophy next year!

So ends another year's steamboat race. No hard feelings were lost on this bunch!

Final Acknowledgements

We would like to thank our graphic artist Kyle C. Kyle for creating the steamboat race trophy in 2001.

Special thanks to our past steamboat race judge, Paul Motter, editor of, an independent online magazine for cruise enthusiasts.

We also thank our sponsors at Click here to visit the steamboat bookstore.

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