The Queen will ride again.

The vessel, formerly known as the Cherokee Queen, and its companion vessel DockTails, will return to service in some manner, hopefully by the 2019 summer season.

That's the plan for Larry and Carla Steckline. The couple, who sold the Cherokee Queen, and the Queen 1 [DockTails], as well as the marina and the theatre and restaurant known as Royal Bay to the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe in March 2012.

The couple, according to Larry Steckline, have control once again of the vessels and the marina.

This comes, he said, after a federal court ruling earlier this year reverted ownership of those properties back to his family after tribal officials reportedly failed to meet the payment obligations. 

Since the purchase

In November 2013, tribal officials closed the property known as Royal Bay. At the time it was unknown if the Cherokee Queen would operate again.

In June 2014, tribal officials brought the vessel back with a new name - The Queen - and new management.

During that summer Captain Terry Fowler and then manager Joanna Hadley, operated The Queen for a selection of weekend cruises and two Independence Day holiday cruises.

The Queen has not left the dock since the conclusion of the summer 2014 season.

Since at least July 2015, the property and the sale, which dates back to January 2012, has been disputed in court.

The contention, according to tribal officials in a July 2015 statement, was that former Chief Leroy Howard misled tribal members about the purchase price for the property obtained from the Stecklines.

Information released to The Grove Sun at the time stated a tribal resolution dated Jan. 12, 2012, signed by Howard and four of the committee's six members, approved the memorandum and gave Howard freedom to sign all legal documents related to the purchase of the properties.

A memorandum of agreement dated March 8, 2012, and a promissory note dated March 16, 2012, show Howard and Larry Steckline signed the documents approving the $8 million price tag [including interest] if the repayment schedule went the full 10 years.

Land deed documents filed in the Delaware County Courthouse indicate the official land purchase price - before interest and financing - came to $3.9 million.

Steckline said the tribe made payments on the first $1 million, before tribal leadership changed. Current tribal officials have refused to make subsequent payments, which led to the court action.

He said following multiple appeals, the February 2018 court ruling reverted ownership of all of the equipment - which includes the the two vessels, and the marina, back to its original ownership.

Looking ahead

Now that the property is back in his control, Steckline said he has people working to make repairs to the marina and The Queen. 

"It's in such bad shape, it will take quite a little while to get it back into service," Steckline said in a phone interview. "When [the tribe] did make fixes, it was bandaids."

Steckline said ownership of the former Royal Bay, which includes the theatre and restaurant, will not revert back to him.

In the original purchase agreement, Steckline gifted the tribe the property "free of charge" so tribal officials could begin proceedings to place it into trust for future gaming options.

While Steckline initially sold the property to retire, he has a desire to see "the hottest piece of property on Grand Lake" become a tourist stopping point again. 

"We're up and running full steam on repairs," Steckline said. "We're trying for next spring to have the Queen roll and get her back into business."

Steckline said he is also working on the marina, which he said is in dire need of repairs to the slips, docks and the lake wall.

While he believes The Queen will once again cruise on the lake, the smaller vessel known as DockTails, will most likely be repaired and made into a museum of some sort.

He said the vessel has "too much history for Grove, Oklahoma and Grand Lake," to junk it. 

Ultimately, Steckline said, he hopes The Queen will return to the water by May 1, 2019 - but he said the date could change.

"It will not take out unless it feels safe," Steckline said. "It will never sail under my ownership in an [unsafe] way."