The Princess Donna was built in 1934. Imagine the stories she could tell....
She is the oldest operating commercial tour boat in Florida.
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 attractions in America.
She’s powered by an electric motor just like she was in 1934. At one time this wood boat had about a dozen or more sister ships. They were all being phased out in 1961 for aluminum boats that still operate to this day at Silver Springs Florida. Sadly, our boat is the only operational early circa boat remaining.
This boat operated for nearly 30 years and then left to rot for over 50 years before Captain Paul found her as an unexpected barn find. It took several years to rebuild, lots of money and an arduous process to get her approved to operate once again as a commercial passenger vessel. (12 passengers max. per tour) We don't have any record of the boats original name. When found, it was named 'Princess Anne' which was most likely not the original name. Archives say some of the boats were named after the park owners’ children. The book 'Shrine of The Water Gods' by Carita Doggett Corse published in 1935 shows pictures of the early circa boats had numbers on the hull and a name on the hatch. The one in the picture from the book pg. 28 has the name 'Bonnie Ray'. Carl Ray and W.M. "Shorty" Davidson leased the property for 50 years from Columbus Carmichael starting in July 1924 pg.44. Our boats original name is a mystery. They had over a dozen of these boats at the time so who knows. I named her after my wife Donna and we run the business as a mom and pop shop.
We always welcome unknown history about the boats. If you have some, please feel free to share.
The little girl in the picture on the left shared this picture with us. She and her family were on a boat tour and saved this picture all these years. Her name is Linda.
Thank you Linda for sharing.