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Spamtowne Belle's leaky bottom is fixed

By Tim Ruzek

truzek@postbulletin.com

After three weeks on dry land because of a leak, Spamtown Belle entered the waters of Mill Pond this week and restarted tours.

Trips began again on Sunday, after water tests showed the leak was fixed, said Dick Nordin, one of the boat's three pilots. A private charter cruise also happened Sunday night for about a dozen people, he said.

"We're back on track," Nordin said on Tuesday.

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Today, the Belle renews its schedule, offering rides from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. It also operates from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fridays and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. Cost is $2 for adults and $1 for children.

The paddlewheel boat had to get repairs for a leak on its bottom, Nordin said. Now the Belle needs more certified pilots to steer it.

Three to four more pilots are needed to develop flexibility with the Belle's schedule and possibly expand its operating hours, Nordin said.

Those interested need to spend at least 15 hours on a passenger-carrying vessel, such as the Belle or Pelican Breeze in Albert Lea, Nordin said. They also have to pass a test in St. Paul to get their pilot's license.

Belle captains now are using a speaker system borrowed from the Spam Museum to tell riders about various things, such as the boat's history and information about the Mill Pond area, Nordin said.

Three weeks without the Belle hurt the boat's mission as a tourist attraction, Nordin said, especially during the city's five-day Freedom Fest earlier this month, but the boat had success prior to the leak with about 600 riders during the Spam Museum Jam in June.

Nordin said he expects the Belle to keep offering tours through late August, but he hopes the operation will continue into September.

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