100-year-old yacht is full steam ahead, offers dinner cruises in DL
Last year, Rocky Ballinger brought his 100-year-old yacht to Detroit Lake. It garnered enough attention that this year, he's making it available to private and public parties and cruises.
"Minnesota people like their lakes. We do too, but we have homemade lakes there," Ballinger said of North Dakota, where he resides.
An over-the-road hauler for several years, Ballinger said due to some route changes, he decided to sell his semi-truck and trailer and move on to something else. He ended up selling both with little problem, and decided to make a profit from his vintage boat.
"Every inch got paint and varnish," he said of the "100 percent facelift" on the outside of the boat. For the inside, he purchased a few more antiques.
"I'm still trying to get that floating museum," he said.
Besides giving the boat a facelift, he also commissioned to have a website created, www.vintageyachtcruises.com, and got his license to take the public aboard and out on the lake.
Ballinger said although he bought the vintage yacht for him and his wife, Brenda, for whom the Miss Brenda Dae is named for, there's always been a part of him that's planned for a bigger future for the boat.
"When I put it on the water, it was always in the back of my mind, just a speck back there," he said of giving cruises to other people.
Last year, his life consisted of trucking during the week and boating on the weekends. That's changed this summer.
"I'm here as a fixture now."
Ballinger parked the boat on the lake out front of Holiday Inn last year after having special equipment installed for it. The Holiday Inn then runs electricity out to the boat. The two, Holiday Inn and Ballinger, took their partnership one step farther this summer and are offering dinner cruises.
Reminiscent of the Island Girl years, Ballinger said Holiday Inn staff was eager to work with him. In fact, he said, Manager Jeff Jasperson, "put his hooks into me" and convinced him to offer the dinner cruise portion.
"We've had a lot of good support," Ballinger said.
There have been a couple donated cruises and food pairing through the Holiday Inn, too, Ballinger added. But, the one recent cruise that sticks out for him was over WE Fest weekend. Willie Nelson's tour buses were packed at the Holiday Inn, and Ballinger happened into Nelson's bass player, Dan Edward "Bee" Spears, and his daughter, Lana, and ended up taking the group -- minus Willie though -- out for a cruise.
As a thank you, the group asked Ballinger and a guest to come to the WE Fest performance, where they got to sit on the stage -- off to the side behind the curtain of course -- while Willie Nelson performed.
"That was pretty exciting to do that."
Though he's getting a later start on the season than he had hoped, Ballinger just about didn't get a start at all this summer thanks to the state shutdown.
A Department of Labor and Industry staffer provides charter boats and their captains with licensure. Just as he was about to make a stop with Ballinger and his vessel, the state shutdown services in July, and that put it on hold. Since then, the state has been playing catch-up, but Ballinger said he should have his license this week and then he will be able to get charter insurance and be open to the public.
In the meantime, Ballinger has been giving private cruises for weddings, for example, and he has allowed people to come tour the boat for a nominal fee.
Once he's in full swing, Ballinger will be offering four public cruises a day, and people are welcome to bring food and beverages on board unless it's one of the dinner cruises, which is catered by Holiday Inn.
"Holiday Inn is the home of the Miss Brenda Dae," he said.
While Ballinger said he enjoys hosting the public and wedding parties and such, it's the kids he enjoys the most.
"My main enjoyment is watching kids enjoy themselves on the boat."
And speaking of children, Ballinger has a special one he named the lifeboat after. He purchased a late 1920s wooden boat that he is refinishing to pull behind the yacht next season. He has named it the Sir Lane Matthew, for his grandson.
"It's been really fun," Ballinger said of his experience with the vintage yacht and showing it off to others.
For more information and prices, visit www.vintageyachtcruises.com, look them up on Facebook or call Ballinger at 701-210-0295.