Whether to get a unique view of North Dakota’s natural beauty – or just to relax – the Lewis and Clark Riverboat is a big hit when the weather is nice.
But perhaps no one is more happy out on the Missouri River than the riverboat’s captain.
“My whole world is right here on this stretch of the Missouri River in Mandan and Bismarck,” says Jeff Bathiany.
And that’s the way he likes it. “I’m more comfortable on the water than I am walking on land,” he says.
Indeed – since the moment he was able to, Bathiany has had his sea legs.
“I bought a boat and was living on a boat in northern Kentucky, across from Cincinnati on the Ohio River,” says Bathiany. “Bought a big house boat.”
These days, he captains a dive boat in the Florida keys in the fall, winter, and spring.
But from May through September, Bathiany calls North Dakota home — and directs a 90-minute joy ride down the Missouri that thousands of people enjoy each summer.
“The weather’s just so beautiful now,” he says as he begins another voyage down the river. “There’s no wind.”
While the passengers make memories on the water, Captain Jeff – and his first mate, Nina – keep their eyes on the water. “Boaters, jet skis, wave runners, people in kayaks… The captain is responsible for everything that happens on the boat, no matter what it is, they’re responsible.”
Of course, he gets a little help from time to time, too, allowing kids aboard the riverboat into the captain’s quarters to steer the vessel for a moment or two. “As soon as you touch it, that means you’re driving!”
Bathiany recently underwent spinal surgery (thanks in part to fundraising done right on the riverboat) and he has another surgery coming up. But as long as he’s able, Captain Jeff will be right here on the water.
“I’m gonna do it until I can’t do it anymore,” he says.
Jeff Bathiany has been the captain of the Lewis & Clark Riverboat for six seasons now.
And by the way – the riverboat is holding public cruises on the Missouri River through September. Click here to learn more.