About Cape Fear Riverboats

Cape Fear Riverboats is Wilmington NC’s longest continuously running cruise line. We’ve been in business since 1987 and are celebrating our 29th year on the Cape Fear River.

Our Story

Cape Fear Riverboats, Inc. was founded in 1987. It is the brainchild of Captain Carl Marshburn. “I was running scuba dive charters and quite frankly was scared of the liability involved. That, coupled with some bad weather, made me rethink my line of work. I went to the Caribbean for a vacation and on the way back I saw an article about Stone Mountain Boats in an airplane magazine. I guess that’s what gave me the idea. I love to entertain people and this seemed like something good for Wilmington,” he said. Although it took three years to get it started, his enthusiasm for the project was unwavering.

From 2000 – 2015, we proudly sailed the HENRIETTA III on the Cape Fear River. HENRIETTA III is named for HENRIETTA, a trailblazer for steamboats on the Cape Fear River, which enjoyed a long and financially successful life. James Seawell at his plantation at what is now Fayetteville, North Carolina built her in 1817-1818. Seawell named the boat for his daughter HENRIETTA. HENRIETTA was launched April 30, 1818 under the command of Captain Charles Taws. Her first run from Fayetteville to Wilmington was in July 1818. She ran the river between Wilmington and Fayetteville for forty years. When she was retired from service, she had run at least one and one-half million miles on the Cape Fear River and had earned no less than 1.5 million dollars for her owners.

Under the ownership of Cape Fear Riverboats, Inc., construction of HENRIETTA II, North Carolina’s only true sternwheel riverboat, began in mid-September 1987 in Greenville, Mississippi. She debuted in Wilmington on April 2, 1988 – almost exactly 170 years after HENRIETTA debuted into Wilmington. HENRIETTA II operated as a sightseeing and dinner cruise boat until she was sold on March 23, 2000. She is presently in Baltimore, Maryland and is functioning as a dinner riverboat under the name of the BLACK-EYED SUSAN.

Cape Fear Riverboats, Inc. currently operates CAPTAIN J. N. MAFFITT, JOHN KNOX, and JACOB’S RUN.

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Phone: (910) 343-1611


Cape Fear Riverboats
101 S Water St. #1
Wilmington, NC 28401

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