October 4, 2023

A dilapidated duplicate nineteenth century paddle-wheel riverboat with a colourful historical past burned in a fireplace Saturday that despatched billowing black clouds over the Vallejo waterfront.

The Vallejo Fireplace Division reported on social media that there have been 4 individuals on board the Grand Romance when the blaze began. Two escaped underneath their very own energy, and two have been helped off by “good samaritans” earlier than fireplace officers arrived.

The boat, a three-story vessel with a paddlewheel and tall smoke stacks, is anchored off Lemon Avenue in Carquinez Bay, about 2 miles north of the Carquinez Bridge.

The boat initially had a two-story excessive grand ballroom with a pink velvet stage, a marble dance ground, polished brass fittings and stamped tin ceilings. Its paddlewheel is 16 toes in diameter, and it boasted a mahogany bar.

Initially in-built 1993 in Fort Bragg, the vessel was first referred to as the Petaluma Queen. Proprietor Invoice Barker arrange a enterprise providing dinner cruises in downtown Petaluma. After an unsuccessful try at making it a riverboat playing parlor, Barker modified its title to Grand Romance, in accordance with information stories on the time.

He moved the boat to Lengthy Seashore in 2001, the place he hosted dinner and homicide thriller cruises, toga events and different paid occasions. However ultimately, the social gathering ended when Lengthy Seashore revoked its allow attributable to “quite a few well being and issues of safety,” metropolis officers mentioned on the time.

Lengthy Seashore officers additionally had been sad when a 40-foot duplicate pirate ship Barker owned sank within the Lengthy Seashore Harbor in 2017.

Barker sailed the riverboat again north in 2019 and moored the boat about 50 toes from the Vallejo shoreline.

The Grand Romance has fallen into disrepair since then. Its home windows have been boarded up. It has been painted with graffiti. In a single incident, a pair broke into the boat, the Lengthy Seashore Press Telegram reported in 2021, and placed on the survival swimsuit that was onboard in addition to lifejackets, then lashed a trash can and an assortment of empty liquor bottles to it and floated away. Coast Guard officers discovered the thieves attributable to a radio beacon within the swimsuit.

On Saturday, video of the stricken vessel confirmed its first ground largely underwater, and fireplace gutting the inside.

Neither Barker or officers from the Vallejo Fireplace Division may very well be reached Saturday night for remark.