Voyager Floating Classroom To Relaunch On Pittsburgh-Area Rivers
27 January 2016
By Don Hopey
After negotiating for 18 months, Rivers of Steel Heritage Corp.
and RiverQuest have found a way to keep a unique, 90-foot boat
operating on Pittsburgh-area rivers.
Rivers of Steel has acquired RiverQuest’s assets, which consist
primarily of the Voyager, a custom-built, hybrid-diesel-powered
boat that has hosted educational programs for thousands of grade
school, high school and college students since 2009.
The environmentally friendly floating classroom will relaunch
later this year with a retrofitted propulsion system and an
expanded role, said August Carlino, president and chief executive
of Rivers of Steel, a nonprofit that manages steel industry
“We should close on this acquisition — it’s not a merger — by the
end of June, and we should begin operating boat tours by sometime
this summer and certainly by the fall,” Mr. Carlino said.
RiverQuest, a nonprofit that began in 1991 as Pittsburgh Voyager
Inc., will cease to exist. It provided educational excursions on
the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers for 20 years, first
aboard two converted Navy training boats, then on the custom-built
The boat has been tied up at its dock, next to the USS. Requin
submarine, behind the Carnegie Science Center on the North Shore
of the Ohio River, since RiverQuest suspended operations late last
Jim Roddey, RiverQuest’s president, said the organization’s
educational programming that attracted more than 100,000 students
was a “real success story” but became unsustainable as school
budgets for such field trips were reduced.
“We became much more efficient, but we couldn’t continue. We
didn’t want to be a nonprofit that had a lot of debt,” he said.
Before the boat ownership is transferred, RiverQuest will perform
an extensive retrofit of the engine that will cost about $200,000,
Mr. Carlino said. The hybrid engine can run for an hour off a
large bank of on-board batteries that can be recharged at the dock
or while cruising with an engine powered by a fuel mixture that is
up to 20 percent animal or vegetable biofuel.
Rivers of Steel will continue to provide school-focused programs
but also plans to significantly increase its charter and
sightseeing tours, Mr. Carlino said.
“We’ll restart the educational programming, but our business plan
shows us narrowing the funding deficit over the next three to five
years by adding corporate and charter events and regular tours,”
Don Hopey: 412-263-1983 or firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter