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Sweet Breeze canal boat’s first season on Fort Wayne rivers called a success

The local Friends of the Rivers group's 1840s-era replica canal boat, Sweet Breeze, floats beside the public boat dock in the St. Marys River at Headwaters Park West. The boat provided river tours from that location this past summer. (News-Sentinel file photo)
Dan Wire, standing at rear, leads a Sweet Breeze canal boat tour in July that focused on riverfront development plans and Fort Wayne history. (By Lisa L. Esquivel Long of The News-Sentinel)
The local Friends of the Rivers organization unveiled the name of its 1840s-era replica canal boat, Sweet Breeze, during a christening event in early June at Headwaters Park West. (News-Sentinel file photo)

The local Friends of the Rivers group reports the first season for the Sweet Breeze replica canal boat was a success, with more than 650 people taking rides on more than two dozen boat tours on local rivers, said Dan Wire, who helped the organization obtain and operate the boat.

High water delayed the initial launch of the boat in the spring, so it didn’t begin offering cruises until about mid-June. The Friends group pulled the 54-foot-long boat from the St. Marys River on Thursday to put it in winter storage in a local warehouse.

Friends of the Rivers raised more than $600,000 to buy and retrofit the Sweet Breeze for local use. The boat is designed to look like an 1840s-era canal boat similar to those that may have traveled through Fort Wayne on the Wabash and Erie Canal.

Friends of the Rivers works to promote the St. Marys, St. Joseph and Maumee rivers in Fort Wayne as sources of recreation, community involvement and economic development, it said on the group’s website, http://forfw.org.

The Sweet Breeze furthered that goal by offering 45-minute and 90-minute river tours that also featured information on local history, river water quality and local riverfront development efforts. Tour reservations and boat operations were handled by Fort Wayne Outfitters and Bike Depot, 1004 Cass St.

The number of people interested in taking a river tour kept increasing all through the summer, said Ron Menze, a Friends board member who also served as a volunteer docent on Sweet Breeze river tours. That helped create more awareness about local rivers.

“Probably 95 percent of the people who got on the boat said they had never been in a boat on a Fort Wayne river before,” Menze added.

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