Former Paddlewheel Captain Writes Book Commemorating 44 Years on the Red River

From Pierre Elliott Trudeau to Colonel Sanders to thousands of Manitoba graduates, Captain Steve Hawchuk has welcomed people from all walks of life aboard during his 44-year career at the helm of the MS Paddlewheel Queen and other ships.

It’s a career at sea that Hawchuk has turned into a new book, recounting the romance and glamor of the riverboats that once sailed the Red River.

“It was a Winnipeg tradition,” recalls Hawchuk. “People liked it because it was something different in Winnipeg. You can get on the boat, sit by the window, have a nice dinner and watch the scenic shore go by, and you always see something different.”

Hawchuk began his driving career after working as an accountant.

When a number of boats came up for sale in 1969, his half-brother Joe thought they should go into the boat business together.

“I said, ‘well, I’m really tired of being an accountant.’ So we bought the boats and I plunged in with cold feet. On July 26, 1969, that’s when we started operating,” he recalls.

For 44 years Captain Steve Hawchuk navigated the Red River at the helm of the MS Paddlewheel Queen and other vessels. (Image source: Steve Hawchuk)

From there, Hawchuk embarked on a decades-long career on the Red that included hosting royalty, jets and bombers, rock and roll cruises, punches and couples creating lasting memories.

The highlights and memories have been turned into a new book, telling many stories from Hawchuk’s career on the river alongside a series of glossy photos taken aboard the paddle wheel.

Hawchuk hopes the new book will bring back fond memories for the many passengers who had the pleasure of taking a ride on his riverboat.

“We’ve had nearly three million passengers over those years, and thousands and thousands of school kids, graduations, weddings, birthday parties, you name it, we’ve had it on the boat,” he said.

– With files from CTV’s Rachel Lagacé

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