African Queen – a trip on a movie icon in Florida Keys

Posted on: 02 August 2012 by 50connect editorial

The iconic original vessel from John Huston's classic 1951 film "The African Queen" has been restored and plies Key Largo's nearshore waters and canals again

Registered as a national historic site, a major restoration has cost around $70,000. Work has included repairing cosmetic as well as mechanical details, making the boat once again fit to carry passengers.
A "re-launch" party featured Stephen Bogart, son of film star Humphrey Bogart.

"To be able to ride on the African Queen and to be able to have it back in operation is absolutely tremendous," Bogart said. "You know, I've never really been on many movie sets, and this is like being on a movie set, and just the fact that somebody bought it and has taken the time to restore it."

The African Queen's 100-year history began when it was built in 1912 at England's Lytham shipbuilding yard. Originally named the Livingstone, it served the British East Africa Rail Company shuttling cargo, hunting parties and mercenaries on the Ruki River, situated in the northwestern Democratic Republic of the Congo until 1968. Huston saw it and the vessel was temporarily pulled from service for the film.

Last year, Captain Lance Holmquist and Suzanne Holmquist signed a long-term lease with to restore and operate the vessel again. The Holmquists have overseen repairs and have taken pains to date it as it appeared in the film, replacing steel in the hull, replacing the boiler and oiling the black African mahogany to condition the wood.

Plans for the African Queen include offering daily 1.5-hour canal cruises for $39 per person ($25 for kids) and six-passenger dinner cruises on selected nights from the Holiday Inn Key Largo, mile marker 100, oceanside, on the Florida Keys Overseas Highway. Cost for the dinner cruise is to be $89 per person, including a cruise to the restaurant, dinner at a special "African Queen" table and a cruise back to the African Queen dock.

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