There’s a little hole in our hearts and at the foot of Dock Street in Wilmington, NC. The Henrietta III, Wilmington’s beloved riverboat, has moved on.

Since 2000, the Henrietta III has called Wilmington home. Built in 2000, the 156-foot ship can carry 518 passengers. For 15 years the Henrietta III has offered sightseeing cruises, dinner cruises, Murder Mystery Cruises, and charters along the Cape Fear River.

Off to a New Home

The Henrietta III was sold in January to a Florida company, Pleasure Boat Cruises Corp. out of Fort Myers. The company has facilities in New York and Florida, Capt. Carl Marshburn said. The ship has been up for sale since 2011. Learn more about the sale.

The familiar red-and-white sight will be missed. In its place, expect to see the 48-passenger Captain J.N. Maffitt and the 31-passenger  John Knox, two smaller riverboats that serve Wilmington residents and visitors. The ticket booth and The Barge, a floating bar and snack bar, will also remain at the Water Street dock.

A Storied History

The original Henrietta, built in 1818, was the first steamboat built in North Carolina. It was owned by James Seawell and named for his daughter. That Henrietta ran between Fayetteville and Wilmington for 40 years. Wilmington was a large trade center and port in those days.

Steamboating ended after World War I, but the romance and lure of the water lived on. The Henrietta II was built in 1988 as a tour boat for Cape Fear Riverboats. That boat was sold in 2000 and replaced by the Henrietta III.

“I love to entertain people and this seemed like something good for Wilmington,” Capt. Mashburn said.

It’s All About the Cape Fear River

The Marshburn family loves the Cape Fear River and will continue to offer cruises –the best way to see Wilmington. Cape Fear Riverboats will continue to offer sightseeing cruises and private charters aboard the Captain J.N. Maffitt and the John Knox. Cruises on the Captain J.N. Maffitt are expected to resume as the weather warms up in March.

Even though our largest riverboat is gone, expect a brisk business for the J.N. Maffitt, because there’s nothing quite like getting out on the water downtown. Whether it’s for Azalea Festival, out-of-town visitors, or a pretty Saturday after the Farmers Market, step down to our dock on Water Street in downtown Wilmington and book a river cruise on the Cape Fear River. Call (910) 343-1611 for more information.

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