The Princess Donna was built in 1934 . Just imagine the stories she could tell....
She's the oldest operating U.S. flagged commercial tour boat in Florida. A true piece of Florida History.
The average Cost of a new house was $5,970.00 Average wages per year $1,600.00
Cost of a gallon of Gas 10 cents
Average Cost for house rent $20.00 per month
A loaf of Bread 8 cents
A pound of Hamburger Meat 12 cents
A new Studebaker Truck $625.00
These boats were one of the first tourist attractions in the state and people came from all over the country for a boat ride and to view the beautiful pristine natural springs. At the time, Silver Springs was perhaps the most successful and elaborately displayed single tourist attraction in America.
At almost 88 years old, she has proven her longevity. Many fiberglass vessels have failed or needed major restoration at a fraction of her age. The reality is that a properly maintained wooden boat can last well over 100 years, and still look beautiful for your great grandchildren. You can’t say the same for fiberglass boats – they just haven’t been around long enough to prove it. The ‘Princess Donna’ is currently and from her original build, fiberglass over wood, so the best of both worlds.
She’s powered by an electric motor just like she was in 1934 except now with a modern electric outboard. At one time this wood boat had 15 sister ships. They were all being phased out beginning in 1961 for aluminum boats that a few still operate to this day at Silver Springs Florida. She's the only operational early circa boat remaining. On 27Sep2021 I made the decision to voluntarily deactivate our USCG COI which allowed us to operate with 12 passengers on the 'Princess Donna'. Obtaining the COI was an arduous process and something I will always be proud of receiving. However, the compliance rules and regulations to maintain the COI was becoming more burdensome every year for a small business like ours. We will now operate with a maximum of 6 passengers per boat which is known as an OUPV or aka 6-pack.
This boat operated for nearly 30 years and then left to rot for over 50 years before I found her as an unexpected barn find. It had to be totally rebuild, cost more money that I ever expected and an arduous process to get her approved to operate once again as a US Coast Guard licensed small passenger vessel.
Sadly not many records can be found about these old boats. I don't have any record of the boats original name, just the year. When I found her, someone had her named 'Princess Anne' which was definitely not the original name. Carl Ray and W.M. "Shorty" Davidson leased the Silver Springs property for 50 years from Columbus Carmichael starting in July 1924 and records show the following names are all the glass bottom boats Ray & Davidson had listed with the department of commerce between 1930 and 1960 (Merchant Vessels of the United States Publication).
Over the years some of these boats had their names changed and some went on to serve at Paradise Park which was a recreational facility "for colored people only" founded and run by the same management from 1949-69 adjacent to the original park.
Bonnie Ray, Hannah, Harriet, No Name, Ocala, Ocklawaha, Old Sawannee, Seminole, Silverliner, The Madden, The Richey, Uncle Dave, Walter Ray, Wenona, Bill Blue and Jane.
Our boats original name from narrowing down closest by year built is most likely:
Harriet, The Richey, Bill Blue or Walter Ray
The picture above is what the boat looked like the day Capt. Paul found her. She was retired from service for over 50 years at this point and left to rot, and rot she did.
Above is our boat operating in December of 2019 with a
boat load of passengers at our prior home in beautiful Bokeelia Florida.
Our second boat is a 20 foot fiberglass pontoon built by A&M Manufacturing and then customized into a glass bottom tour boat.
The boat is fully covered with a double bimini top for your comfort and fitted with 3 individual glass bottom tanks to view the beauty below the surface.