MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Thanks in part to Mother Nature, Montgomery's Harriott II Riverboat won't be home in time to whisk couples away for a romantic Valentine's Day cruise up the Alabama River.
"Unfortunately this year the weather is not cooperating. The river is not cooperating with us..." Ken Reynolds with the City of Montgomery's Special Events Department explained.
Not all is lost, however. Reynolds said each of the nearly 80 couples who booked the cruise have been contacted about the delay, as have those for other cruises in the coming days.
"Those folks will have another city venue available," Reynolds said of the Valentine bookings. "They're still going to get a great meal. They're still going to get their live music. And we're going to do everything that we can to make sure that they still have the best Valentine's Day experience that we can possibly give them short of a ride on the riverboat."
On Jan. 3 the riverboat was sent to Mobile for dry-docking where it gets annual inspections by the U.S. Coast Guard. It takes about a week to make the journey south and about a week and a half to two weeks for the return. It was supposed to start its return voyage to Montgomery on Feb. 2, but didn't finish inspections until the 7th.
The return voyage has seen strong river currents and high water levels that have put the riverboat well off her schedule. Coming back, the crew has to navigate 360 miles upriver, against rapid currents.
"With a boat that size, it's making very little headway," Reynolds explained, saying that at one point the boat was only able to travel 14 miles over a 17 hour period.
Reynolds said debris in the water makes it more dangerous and higher water levels can make passing under numerous spans along the river impossible. At this point, Reynolds says it's tied up at one of the designated points along the river.
According to Jackie Gifford, wife of Harriott II Co-Captain Steve Gifford, Harriott II is currently tied up at Dixie Landing in Little River, Alabama. That's not far outside Mobile.
"Hopefully by Thursday the water levels will have dropped down, the rate of flow will have receded, and the Harriott II can recommence her journey..." Reynolds said.
Harriott II should return to her dock at Montgomery's Riverfront and be ready for a regular schedule starting on March 2.