River Rat

Author Poore releases book
about ‘Bonnie Belle’

The Poores once operated
The Wharf restaurant in Madison

By Lela Jane Bradshaw
Contributing Writer

(July 2012) – Bonnie Poore started out with a very personal mission when she began writing her book, “Welcome Aboard...Meet the Captain!” She wanted to record for her family the story of her adventurous husband, Lloyd Poore, and the life that she shared with him on their paddle boat the Bonnie Belle.
“I have grandchildren and great grandchildren who weren’t around when the boat was running. I wanted them to know about their grandpa,” she explains.
Lloyd Poore died in 2000, and Bonnie says that the book is really “about him, his love for the river.”

Bonnie Poore

Photo provided

Bonnie Poore says her book
details her and late husband
Lloyd's life on the river.

She describes him saying, “Nothing was ever enough for him. He was always wanting more – not in a greedy way.”
Poore explains that he was constantly seeking new adventures and experiences, not more things. As she continued working on the project, she began to feel that others might be interested in her stories of life on the river and the challenges of running a small business.
Poore, 73, of Bethlehem, Ky., estimates that she spent about a year working on the book and says that the stories flowed very easily and naturally.
“When I would start typing I would just type like a crazy person,” she said, laughing. “I’ll probably never write another one, but I loved it!”
In May, Poore took part in the Jeffersonville Chau-tauqua when the Howard Steamboat Museum held a book signing for her. Yvonne Knight, administrator at the museum, explains that “The Bonnie Belle was a local boat and people here in town remember the boat.”
Many people throughout southern Indiana have enjoyed the river with the Poores, and while Knight believes those readers will have a special connection to the stories, she believes that the book can be enjoyed even by those who are unfamiliar with river life.
“It’s the story about her husband and their relationship and their family,” Knight says.

Bonnie Belle

Above photo courtesy of Jim Massie; photo below by Don Ward

The Bonnie Belle sails into
Cincinnati for the 2006 Tall
Stacks festival. The paddle
wheeler once plied the Ohio
River while based in Madison
and Jeffersonville. Gary Gillespie
bought The Wharf restaurant
(below) and took it to Prestonville,
Ky., in 2005. Gillespie and his wife,
Charlene, now operate the Madison
Lighthouse, a floating restaurant
and boat dock in Madison.

The Wharf

The Poores operated a riverboat business for 19 years along the Ohio River, including many years in Madison. Poore recalls that her husband caught sight of the paddle boat, Julia Belle Swain, and announced, “‘I’ve got to have one of these!’”
She explains that becoming a captain involved much more than simply writing a check and buying a boat. “It took quite a bit of preparation,” she says. But in two years her husband had obtained his captain’s license and they purchased the boat that would be become the Bonnie Belle in 1978. As fate would have it, the couple bought their boat from the very man who had been the captain of the Julia Belle Swain.
During their time with the Bonnie Belle, the couple offered dining cruises, sightseeing tours and charter cruises.
“We lived on the boat for many years and finished raising three kids on it,” she reflects. She describes the river life saying, “Never two days the same, you never see the same thing two days in row.”
She vividly recalls how the fury of a storm could make the Ohio River roll so that it looked like the ocean while on other days the water could be so serene that it resembled “a sheet of glass.”
In 1990, the Poores moved their business from Jeffersonville to Madison, where they operated The Wharf, a floating restaurant, until 1997. Poore’s experiences in those years were colored by the changing of the water.
“The river is very treacherous there. In Louisville if it rained all night the river might rise six inches; in Madison it might rise 13 feet.”
While the river conditions proved challenging, Poore has fond memories of the people in Madison describing it as “such an interesting place to be a part of – very artsy.”
Poore believes that her book will be appreciated “by anyone who enjoys river stories – anybody who just enjoys the true story of a river man.” She also thinks that those just starting a small business can gain insights from her family’s experiences as she shares the rewards and hardships that such work entails.
She hopes that readers will be inspired by her husband, a man who “came from nowhere and found a way to have what he wanted – to stay with it and see it through.”

• For more information, visit www.bonniesbook.com. For more information on the Howard Steamboat Museum, including upcoming riverboat cruises and children’s camps, visit: www.steamboatmuseum.org.

Back to July 2012 Articles.



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