For the love of Boblo: Collector buys historic ship that traveled Detroit River for 81 years

By Alex Atwell - Photojournalist

DETROIT - Kevin Mayer is more than just a fan of Boblo Island.

"My whole home and yard, people are teasing me always, it's a Boblo museum," Mayer said.

He's got his own miniature replica version of Boblo Island in his basement.

"It's got a lot more rides then Boblo, so I call it my future Boblo or what Boblo could've been," Mayer said.

His house and basement are loaded with Boblo memorabilia. He was even allowed to bring his car to the amusement part on two occasions after it closed to fill it up with Boblo treasures. He also has a functioning ride similar to one that was on the island and one of the swan boats in his backyard.

That was just the beginning. His collection recently got MUCH bigger.

He bought a Boblo Boat.

"Oh boy, basically my dream come true," Mayer said. "I'm part owner of one of the Boblo boats."

Now that's taking the collecting to the next level.

"That's right, I mean the next level would maybe be buying the island, but yeah," Mayer said with a chuckle.

The S.S. Ste Claire sailed between downtown Detroit and Boblo Island for 81 years. That's a record record of service shared with the S.S. Columbia for a single run unequalled in U. S. history.

"I see the beauty in her, you know the inside steel structure is still secure," Mayer said. "We're adding more steel to her to make her even more secure she's going to be back to her beauty."

He owns the boat along with Ron Kattoo and Saqib Nakadar.

The Ste Claire has been named a national historical landmark and a national treasure, but there's another reason that Mayer sees as more important.

"Why do we need to bring back this dilapidated boat? Because it's part of our history," Mayer said.

When Mayer looks around he sees potential.

"This boat, even though she may or may not be sailing again, she has so much potential. No matter where we are, all we hear is stories of people that were on the ship, their first kiss, or how they were engaged on the ship."

He worked on the Columbia for 2 seasons running the concession stand on the back of the ship.

"There are so many stories about the ships. These ships are alive. You know, it's got all the souls and everything of all the people, the happiness that it is brought to so many over the years. All that is locked in the ships," Mayer said.

"Anytime you saw photos of DETROIT from The river these boats were there. We need this boat back. This is Detroit."

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