The Barbara-Lee

The Rivership Barbara-Lee is an authentic sternwheeler that sails the St. Johns River.  The Barbara-Lee has had several owners since she was built, and has gone through one name change and docked in multiple locations throughout Florida.

  • The boat was built in 1986 by Patti Marine enterprises in Pensacola to provide dinner cruise service in Clearwater, Fl and adjacent areas. She was named Starlite Princess.
  • In 1995, Starlite Princess was moved from Hamlin’s Landing in Indian Rocks Beach to the Tampa Convention Center for local operation.
  • In 2009, Starlite Princess is documented to have operated in Daytona on the Halifax river from dockage at 721 Ballough Rd.
  • In 2012, Starlite Princess moved to the St. John’s Rivership company in Sanford with new ownership, upgrades and name changed to Barbara Lee.
  • In 2023, the boat was acquired by the Wyatt Family.

The ship measures 105 feet from stem-to-stern.  Featuring ornate wrought iron railings and wooden paddle wheels, the Barbara-Lee exudes the elegance of historical steamers on the St. Johns River.

The ship has five decks and can accommodate up to 194 guests, making it suitable for hosting events of varying sizes. All enclosed decks have climate control.

  • Grand Salon Deck
    Seats 94 and features an elevated Main Stage, dance floor and well-stocked bar
  • Mezzanine Deck
    Seats 40 and offers views of the paddlewheel and Main Stage
  • Lookout Deck
    Seats 68 and features its own dance floor with a “lookout” through to the Main Stage.
  • Paddle wheel Deck
    A covered open-air deck overlooking the wheels allows you to stay out of the sun while enjoying unobstructed views of the river and its wildlife.
  • Captain’s Deck
    The topmost, open-air deck featuring benches and the captain’s steering cabin

The Barbara-Lee uses diesel engines for the twin paddlewheels, ensuring safety and reliability compared to traditional steam engines.  The St. Johns River has a rich history, dating back to the early 1500s when it was explored by Europeans.  Steamboats were first known to sail the St. Johns River in the 1830s, becoming a vital link between north and central Florida.  Tourism to Florida boomed in the late 19th century, and Jacksonville became a gateway to the warm winter retreats in Central Florida.

General Henry S. Sanford purchased land on Lake Monroe, creating a river port city that eventually became the City of Sanford.  By the late 19th century, approximately 150 steamships operated on the St. Johns River, carrying significant freight and passengers.

Today, the St. Johns Rivership Co. revives the traditions of historical sternwheelers and celebrates America’s great sternwheeler heritage.