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--- Issued July 16, 2012

Fifty-one seniors and persons with disabilities, all public housing residents, took to Presque Isle Bay and Lake Erie this summer to escape the heat and to sight-see the city and Presque Isle on Erie's Victorian Princess.

Residents from Ostrow Apartments, above, were among those who enjoyed a day on the water aboard the Victorian Princess.

The residents were from the Ostrow, Curry/Schell, and Friendship developments.

"We wanted to give our residents a chance to enjoy the water," said John E. Horan, executive director of the Erie Housing Authority, noting that some of the residents had never been on a boat before.

"With the beauty of Presque Isle Bay and Lake Erie, it doesn't get much better. It's what Erie is all about. We wanted to make sure our residents got out on the water to experience what makes Erie the great city that it is."

The Victorian Princess cruise is an annual event for Erie's senior and disabled public housing residents. Last year, the event was called off because the Princes was not in service due to a fire on the boat. The 112-foot paddle boat, which docks at Dobbins Landing and offers a variety of cruises during the warm-weather months, billowed thick smoke that could be seen from the Bayfront Parkway when it caught fire while undergoing repairs shortly after 8:30 a.m.

Workers welding on the steel hull from the outside heated up the engine room inside until the paint caught fire, and the heat and smoke spread extensively before the fire was discovered and extinguished by the Erie fire department, said owner Dan O’Neill. No one was hurt in the blaze.

Fomerly named the Rosie O’Shea, the sternwheeler paddleboat, built to resemble the classic “Huck Finn” riverboats, used to take excursions out of Marco Island and Naples, Fla., from 1986 to 1998. For over a decade since, renamed the Victorian Princess, the vessel has performed a similar function on Lake Erie.