The River: Sure, there have been as soon as mouth-watering perks on riverboat on line casino; then, Vienna sausages
By Capt. Don Sanders
Particular to NKyTribune
(The riverboat captain is a storyteller, and Captain Don Sanders is sharing the tales of his lengthy affiliation with the river — from discovery to a manner of affection and life.)
“Wager you ate nicely on Thanksgiving aboard these gamlin’ boats,” was a press release typically repeated by curious onlookers regarding the groceries served within the EDR (Worker Eating Room) of the GRAND VICTORIA II, and 4 different riverboat casinos, throughout the November vacation.
“I reckon we did,” I’d reply, “should you name turkey loaf with canned gravy, candy potatoes, peas, and sage dressing that got here out of a field ‘good consuming.’”
I’m not complaining. The grub was scorching; plenty of it – with no cleansing up afterward. All I needed to do was swipe in with my gaming badge, replenish the tray, eat, and scrape and place the soiled dishes into the bus tray — and all for under two bucks taken out of the following paycheck.
These curious outsiders failed to comprehend that the flamboyant meals and vacation gildings the casinos famously touted aimed to please the rubes streaming by means of the entrance doorways with visions of jackpots dancing of their heads. The staff, group members, crew, or no matter they have been known as, have been merely the “employed assist.” Which additionally contains me, the SENIOR CAPTAIN of the 330-foot paddlewheeler the place all of the on line casino magic occurred.
However that wasn’t all the time so.
When the mammoth riverboat first paddled into the tiny riverfront city on the Indiana facet of the Ohio River throughout from Rabbit Hash, Kentucky, the Louisiana-built sternwheeler solely mesmerized everybody unfamiliar with working such a behemoth inside the slim confines of the Hoosier portion of the river. Consequently, nothing belonging to the Company was too good for the Captains and the Chief Engineers. It was just like the “fits” feared we’d mess up if we weren’t regularly being happy. So, with all the additional consideration raining down, we savored our movie star standing whereas it lasted.
If I recall, in addition to the superb wages, advantages, and an annual bonus, we loved VIP parking in entrance of the Pavillion, free meals within the buffet, membership to the pool, scorching tub, sauna, and gymnasium, plus beneficiant comp privileges, and some extra perks I’ve forgotten. Sadly, as 5 years shortly handed, we began shedding the extras when the continued protected operation of the mammoth riverboat turned routine and anticipated with out further compensation.
First went the VIP parking, and never lengthy after, the annual bonuses glided by the wayside. Little by little, the extra privileges pale one after the other. However, as I by no means used the pool, scorching tub, sauna, or gymnasium, I didn’t miss them when our badges now not opened their doorways.
After the ultimate cruise of the GRAND VIC earlier than going “dockside,” someday in late summer time 2001, we Captains assumed extra obligations past the operation and security of the vessel. We turned extra like managers as a substitute of captains. As I stated earlier than, I’m not complaining. The on line casino continued growing our salaries for a number of extra years till the property modified house owners. Inside a pair extra years, the brand new house owners eradicated the licensed marine officers and the paddlewheeler’s Certificates of Inspection. Thereafter, the riverboat on line casino turned one other floating “warehouse” alongside the Ohio River. Fortunately, at our separation, we Captains and Chiefs loved a beneficiant severance allowance — sufficient in my case to buy the sternwheel Rafter CLYDE and begin a brand new section in my life that I’ve written about extensively.
Earlier than the GRAND VICTORIA II, the GRAND VICTORIA I used to be on the Fox River in Elgin, Illinois, about 35 miles west of Chicago. The GVI was the primary of the Limitless Tonnage playing boats I captained. “Limitless” refers back to the private mariner’s certificates he, or she, must crew on board as a U. S. Coast Guard licensed officer. An infinite license is for a ship or ship of over 1,600 gross tons. Because the DELTA QUEEN suits inside that specification, I’ve all the time held a ticket for limitless tonnage. In all the United States, there are solely about 12 to 14-hundred license holders for “All Gross,” or “Limitless” inland vessels. Consequently, the pay scale jumps proportionally with the “heavier” license.
Whereas I’m mentioning perks, in addition to doubling the wage from my earlier on line casino boat of lower than 1,600 GT, the GRAND VICTORIA I supplied the Captains a free condominium with phone and maid service. Included within the bundle have been free meals within the luxurious buffet. And if that wasn’t sufficient, we every obtained a $16,000 sign-on bonus — an quantity equaling extra like $28-thou in at the moment’s almost nugatory script.
The buffet was spectacular, that includes all of the steamed lobster claws one might gorge at dinner between journeys on the “mighty, however tiny” Fox River. As nice because the Elgin fling was, it took only a temporary deliberation to simply accept the Sr. Captain’s slot on the Ohio River, merely 35 miles from my folks’s residence in Northern Kentucky – limitless steamed lobster claws, or not.
Inside a span of almost a quarter-century, I used to be both the Captain, First Officer, or each on 5 gamblin’ boats on the Mississippi, Fox, and the Ohio Rivers and the Captain of the EMERALD LADY on the Mississippi Sound at Biloxi, Mississippi. Lately the EMERALD LADY is the flagship of BB Riverboats in Newport, Kentucky, the BELLE of CINCINNATI. My different gamblers have been the DIAMOND LADY in Bettendorf, Iowa, and the PLAYERS RIVERBOAT CASINO in Metropolis, Illinois, close to the place Ohio meets the “Father of Waters,” the Mighty Mississippi.
These three riverboats have been of lower than 1,600 gross tons and, thus, allowed smaller licenses. Accordingly, the pay and the advantages have been lower than the limitless vessels, however I used to be thrilled to be a member of their crews, the place I met some most-interesting peeps working the boats. Captain Kenneth “Ken” Murphy, Sr., the “Large Captain” on the DIAMOND LADY and the PLAYERS boat, could also be known as the “Dean of On line casino Boats Captains” for not solely being the primary Grasp of a on line casino vessel but in addition as a mentor and buddy to many youthful women and men beginning anew within the playing boat commerce. The record of these Murph mentored would fill a pocket book.
Captain David L. Franklin typically advised the story in regards to the time he had an appointment within the pilothouse of the PLAYERS RIVERBOAT to audition for a pilot’s place. As he crossed over the Merv Griffin Touchdown Barge to the boat, the aroma wafting from the Grand Buffet almost made his mouth water. Capt. Dave recalled it was arduous to maintain the ideas of all that positive meals out of his thoughts as he answered Captain Murphy’s questions regarding his piloting background. Cap’n Dave was certain, he later confided, that the Senior Captain would definitely invite him to lunch within the buffet after the interview.
When Captain Ken reached out and shook Cap’n Dave’s hand, congratulating him for profitable the pilot’s put up, as certainly as anticipated, Cap’n Ken requested Dave if he was hungry. Remembering the scrumptious delights ready on the buffet desk, Captain Franklin assured his new boss he was “able to placed on the feed bag.”
With Dave’s assurance he was ravenously prepared for lunch, Murphy unexpectedly reached into a cupboard drawer and withdrew a tin of Vienna sausages and a pack of saltine crackers and positioned them on the desk between them. After pulling the tab on the little weenie can lid, Captain Murphy generously invited the newly employed pilot:
“Don’t be shy, now, Cap’n Dave. Dig on in and eat all these sausages you need.”
“Don’t be shy now,” Captain Dave laughingly repeated each time he retold the story. “Don’t be shy, now…”
Captain Don Sanders is a river man. He has been a riverboat captain with the Delta Queen Steamboat Firm and with Rising Star On line casino. He realized to fly an airplane earlier than he realized to drive a “machine” and have become a captain within the USAF. He’s an adventurer, a historian and a storyteller. Now, he’s a columnist for the NKyTribune and can share his tales of rising up in Covington and his tales of the river. Cling on for the experience — the river by no means appeared so good.