Last December, Captain Lance and Suzanne Holmquist announced that they would restore the African Queen and put her back to work doing inland water tours.
The steamship, built in England in 1912 then used by the British East Africa Railway Company to carry cargo and passengers in the Belgian Congo and Uganda, had been deteriorating in dry dock for ten years. The Holmquists could see the Queen sitting forlorn on her dock as they operated their charter boat business. The restoration was challenging, but not as hard as some of the other restorations Captain Holmquist has done.
Also salvageable was much of the original black African mahogany used for flooring and siding. Starting at the end of the month, the African Queen will be taking passengers on two-hour canal cruises several times a day, and for six-passenger dinner cruises around Key Largo on select evenings. This is a 10 HP steam engine which runs at about 200 RPM, propelling the boat fully loaded at an easy 10-12 knots.
A romance set on a ramshackle boat in Africa of 1914, The African Queen is a classic tale of attraction slowly developing between opposites under extreme stress.
An agitated German army unit soon arrives, torches the village, rounds up the natives, and hastens the demise of the ailing Reverend. Bogart dominates the film with his sweaty, dirty, but resourceful performance as Charlie Allnut. Katharine Hepburn's Rosie puts on an aura of cold colonial detachment, but it does not take her long to reveal a calculating mischievous personality, followed by a willingness to passionately surrender to Allnut's charms.


The third star of the movie is the African Queen herself, a river supply boat beautiful in her ugliness. John Huston directed most of The African Queen on location in Africa, a risky proposition in 1951, and one of the earliest major productions to venture outside the safety of the Hollywood studios.
After three and a half months of work and almost $70,000, the 30-foot riverboat used in the iconic 1951 John Huston movie starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn is officially back in business. Her previous owner, Jim Hendricks Sr., had rescued from her a land bound horse farm in Ocala, Florida in 1982, then used her for tours and took her around the world twice for special events. Captain Lance, who has a passion for restoring boats, noticed that even decrepit in dry dock the African Queen was still a hugely popular stop for tourists.
The Key Largo Chamber of Commerce is throwing her a party and fundraiser dockside at the Holiday Inn Key Largo.
Humphrey Bogart finally won a deserved and long-overdue Best Actor Academy Award, while Katharine Hepburn and director John Huston were nominated. The British Reverend Sayer (Robert Morley) and his sister Rosie (Katharine Hepburn) have established a mission at a tribal village deep in the jungle.
Abandoned in the village ruins, Rosie has no choice but to team up with Charlie to find a safe shore. Not quite as self-centred as many of Bogart's other characters but still looking mainly after his self-interest, Bogart plays Allnut as none-too-sophisticated but world-weary enough to know which direction his boat needs to point in. Rosie is always several steps ahead of Charlie in her thinking and plotting, but she is also patient enough to allow him to catch up, knowing that she needs him in more ways than one.


Huston masterfully confines most of the action on-board Allnut's boat without allowing claustrophobia to creep in. Their only contact with the outside world is through the uncouth Canadian Charlie Allnut (Bogart), who captains the African Queen, an ageing river supply boat. The prim and proper Rosie and the unkempt Charlie awkwardly navigate around each other in the confined quarters of the African Queen, and Rosie increases the tension by suggesting that they travel down a dangerous stretch of river and use their on-board explosives to ram and destroy a large German gunship patrolling a strategic lake. Allnut is repeatedly manipulated by Rosie into doing what she believes is right, but he always eventually comes around to her way of thinking, several hours or days later.
The boat chugs along, hosting the drama unfolding between Charlie and Rosie, navigating through and around the dangers posed by the river, and doggedly making its way to a date with destiny, and movie immortality. Last up was a new paint job, which lasted just a few hours before Captain Holmquist took a rag and some brown paint and messed it up so it would look like it looked chugging through the jungle with Bogie and Hepburn. The first ride on the Queen with Stephen Bogart will be auctioned off at the event, as will the original steel pieces from the hull that were replaced. But slowly, Rosie and Charlie find the common warmth below their incompatible exteriors, fall in love, and jointly continue their implausible mission.
Only 20% of the steel panels were corroded enough to need replacing, but that 20% took three weeks of welding to fix.



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