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More on the Marine Star

I decided to take my interest in the newly found Marine Star project a step further and contact the project to see if I could get an update on their status. I also extended an olive branch on behalf of the CTRC, since us large-scale preservation projects need each other’s support as much as possible. I very quickly received a reply:

Dear Derek,

Thank you for your interest in the Marine Star Project. We do have the option from the vessel owner, to market the ship, purchase the ship, and versee its restoration. The ultimate goal is the University at Sea School Project. We have not yet reached agreement, with any schools to oversee or to be the funnel for accreditation of the administartive portion of the program.

At this point all we are looking for is a University that is accredited that will say “Yes to sanctioning and marketing a University at Sea Program aboard the Marine Star.” Money to restore the Marine Star is not the issue. If we can secure a University Agreement, we are certain that the bond financing will be an easy step to restore the ship. We have the full and complete support of the owners in this endeavor. This has never before happened in the last 20 years.

With the vessel looking unsightly, it is hard to market the vision, and yet it is structurally sound. This is a ship that has not even found its purpose

We are looking at an interim plan to secure a Ferry Agreement for Marine Star for a line across Lake Erie or Lake Michigan. The primary pupose being to have an economically viable reason for its restoration, and then in Phase II, in the off season implment the Seas School Project. We are in discussions with four different cities at this time in this regard.

In our view, any person that has ever seen this ship sail would tell you it is the grandest thing the Great Lakes has ever experienced. A tremendous ship that was 50 years ahead of its time.

Thank you for your support, and feel free to write anytime,

We may need your concurrence, if we start moving the ship towards federal grants. The United States should not lose this ship. IT is a rarity. We only have a short time to bring a project to the table, otherwise we could lose it.

God Bless,

Larry Lallo

Their plan sounds pretty solid to me. I don’t know the difficulties involved in gaining accreditation, but it can’t be much more difficult than trying to raise the money needed to actually do the restoration, and they don’t sound very concerned about that.

I wish the project the best of luck, because it’s a win for everyone – a win for Buffalo to have one more blight removed from the waterfront, a win for the ship as it gets to continue to serve it’s purpose and not be destined for a scrap yard, a win for all the people who have sailed on it in the past who’s memories of the ship won’t end with a vision of a rusting hull, and a win for all the future occupants who get to build off that history and add their own experiences to it.


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  1. Great job, Derek! I’m a fan of the Aquarama (Marine Star) and feel much the same about it as I do the terminal. I’m anxious to hear more from them about their project!

  2. This is very cool…

    As an aside…it amazes me to no end the lack of water based large scale entertainment or amusement….Miss Buffalo and the like are cool….but we have such an awesome asset in the River and the Lake…I’d love to see more…I think we (Buffalo) are missing the boat…(pun intended)

  3. Just yesturday my family saw the Aquarama on our boat and it was very sad to see the Aquarama(Marine Star) not being used because it is a beautifull ship, and it is not doing its purpose which is sailing. For years and years i have passed by this ship and always wondered about it and what they were going to do with it. I hope that some day some project will go in effect for the Aquarama because it deserves it.

  4. Derek,
    Very interesting piece on the Marine Star/Aquarama. The only time I saw it was about two years ago while visiting my wife’s grandparents in Buffalo. I saw the forlorn hulk just sitting out there and had no idea what it was or why it was there. I just recently discovered the story behind the ship and am now very interested in seeing what happens next (if anything). The Marine Star Project and the University at Sea project sound hopeful at least. I hope the ship manages to outgrow its history and reputation as a mostly less than successful entity.

  5. I love this ship and totally agree that it was a great and beautiful ship and it still has it in her. I was on this ship in 1962 and not only was that a great and memorable ride, but I have always treasured this ship. This ship deserves to back on the great lakes and any effort to save it from scrap would be a great and sensible act. Please do it before it is too late to turn back.

  6. This ship has sailed!!! It left the Buffalo Harbor on Saturday, July 14,2007. Rumor has it, it is going to Canada

  7. I am sorry to hear that the Aquarama has “left the building”…….and on her way to Turkey or India. I used to see her at the 3rd st. dock in Cleveland when I was small. Wondering what ever happened to her, I started searching the net several years ago and found that she had been in Buffalo. I had hoped to go see her soon. I have quite a collection of internet photos and she is a beautiful ship.

    I have an aquaintance from Turkey… I am going to see if she lands there and see if I can get some pics…if so I will share them….


  8. Thanks, Jim, for your post. It would be interesting, if sad, for all of us to have images of the scrapping once it starts.

    A few more dust-covered facts from the 1950s about the Marine Star. The ship conversion project was the pet and brianchild of Detroit Industrialist Max McKee, founder of Sand Products Corporation, a name well-known to true Aquarama buffs. Sand Products dealt in foundry casting sand used by the “Big 3” back when they WERE the “Big 3”. In 1975, as a young television reporter in Cleveland, I got knee deep in S.S. Aquarama history and lore.

    Our station’s talented young special assignment film cameraman, Tom Polk, was paired up with me to produce a documentary on “Whatever Happened to the S.S. Aquarama”, for a weekly feature TV5 called “Part of Your Life”. Tom and I were really revved up about this, since we both had traveled on the ship the same summer, 1960, as kids. Did we each remember? How could either of us forget?! So away we drove in a WEWS news car to Muskegon, Michigan, where the mothballed ship had been a waterfront fixture since just before the J.F.K. assassination.

    By prior arrangement, we met the late Brad McKee in Muskegon. He was one of Max’s sons and, at the time, was head of Sand Products. A quiet and unassuming businessman, Brad did not seem given to flamboyance or shows of his position. I had expected him to drop in from Detroit using a small company plane. In fact, he met us near the ship in his trusty pickup truck, which he’d driven all the way from Grosse Point, where the McKees resided.

    I think Brad felt quite some trepedation. On the one hand, he could see that our film story might possibly come to the attention of a prospective buyer of his ship. On the other hand, he had nightmare recollections of the negative news coverage of the Aquarama and media joking about it’s operational mishaps. And who were these kids from Cleveland? Why, they were the news media! Brad McKee was congenial and gracious but not the easiest subject to interview. He shied away from doing a sound on film interview.

    It might be said the Eisenhower Administration played a major hand in the Aquarama story. Brad did explain to me that the “…government had allowed up to write off our investment in the ship very quickly. Maybe 2 or 3 years. That helped make it possible.” Was the Aquarama the ‘mother of tax write-offs’ for it’s owner?

    If we look closely, we see what must have been some fundamental design issues. Does everyone realize that this ship had a fuel range of 14,000 miles? Do you think that much fuel would act as ballast, bringing it down in the water? In fact, she was designed to draw about 30 feet. That would have had the ship scraping bottom in Cleveland and perhaps elsewhere. Apparently, so little fuel was carried that the Aquarama needed to be refueled about once a week. In passenger use, she drew only about 20 feet. Could that be why her propeller was always seen above the water line? Could that also have been a reason why she became so well-known for her signature wake?

    It’s time to wrap up this post, perhaps the longest one ever posted on Punaro.com. I hope it’s been of interest to those who just can’t forget …the legendary S.S. Aquarama.

  9. I love the Aquarama and was lucky to have gone from Cleveland to Detroit on it once. This ship was such a beautiful ship and it could have been used for so much. It could have made a great restaurant, cruise ship, maritime Great Lakes museum, something. I would LOVE to have any pictures sent to me at runningzone@yahoo.com Please put “Aquarama” in the suject of the email or it may get lost in the spam. If you would send any pictures for my collection I would greatly appreciate it.

  10. The summer of 1968 I was a musician playing on the Milwaukee Clipper which shuttled people and cars between Milwaukee and Muskegon. We’d pass by the Aquamarine in Muskegon harbor on our way to our dock. By 1968 the Clipper was tired. It had been in service since 1941. The word was the Aquamarine would someday replace the Clipper because it was newer and bigger. What a shame it never saw service again, and the Clipper only had a couple more years before marine safety laws precluded its operation. Moving to California in 1972 I seldom reflected on the fate of the Clipper or the Aquarama. To my surprise I discovered and visited the Clipper three years ago, docked once again in Muskegon. What a sad experience it was to walk that ship. Only a few years of neglect lead to a ship that was almost recognizable, a sad remnant of a robust past. My feeling is that the Aquarama had fallen into such a state that rehabilitation would have been so costly and unrealistic that it’s seen a better end than to be viewed as a rusty relic.

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