Company History of Diamond Jack River Tours in Detroit

Company History

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Captain Bill Hoey of Grosse Ile, founder of Diamond Jack’s River Tours and the Gaelic Tugboat Company, was born in Ferndale, Michigan. As a youngster he spent summers at his uncle’s cottage in northern Canada, which nurtured his interest in boats. The great old steamboats that plied the Great Lakes captured Hoey’s imagination, and led to his decision to pursue a career in the maritime industry.

In 1961, Hoey was working for the Fuller Marine Towing Co., which was owned by Elmer Dean and Warren Fuller. In 1964, Capt. Fuller retired and sold his business to Hoey. The business grew with the towing of salt and oil barges and with ship assistance — moving the giant Great Lakes freighters into and out of small areas. Success allowed Hoey to purchase more tugs, and at one point he ran a fleet of 14 tugs. Being of Irish/Protestant descent, but also having a good Irish/Catholic friend, Hoey selected orange, green and white as his fleet colors. The smokestacks of Gaelic’s tugs, which traditionally represent the vessel owner, are orange.

With the change in the economy in the late 80’s and early 90’s, Bill planned for the future. Harbor tours worked in other cities and Detroit was ideal for this type of activity. In 1991, he purchased a 65 foot former Arnold Line Mackinac Island ferry, the Diamond Jack, outfitted it as a sightseeing vessel, and launched Diamond Jack’s River Tours. The company’s two hour tours present highlights of the Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, Canada skylines, along with historical anecdotes about both cities. A big bonus of the tours is when a Great Lakes freighter blows her whistle as she glides by the Diamond Jack.

In early 1993, Hoey purchased another Arnold Line ferry, christened the Diamond Belle. This 91 foot mini-ship is now used exclusively for group charters. These charters had become so popular that Bill added yet another Arnold Line vessel to the fleet, the Diamond Queen. Hundreds of corporate parties, wedding receptions, fund-raisers, family reunions, and senior citizen outings have taken place aboard our vessels. Also, longer cruises to Port Huron, Toledo, Sans Souci and Wallaceburg, Ontario are popular destinations of customers chartering the Diamond Queen each summer.

The tour business has become a family venture. Bill’s daughter Patricia Hoey-Carrothers is now President. Patty’s husband, Steve, is a Captain and the Operations Coordinator.

Captain Bill Hoey was committed to sharing his love of the Great Lakes and its lore by offering the public a family-oriented fun and affordable way to enjoy summer on the Detroit River. Although Mr. Hoey died in December, 2013 his legacy lives on in the thrill and excitement of cruising the Detroit River on a Diamond Jack River Tour.

Brandon Cowan
20:19 03 Jan 18
Great organization, great owners, dedicated workers that will bend over backwards to take care of you. This place is pleasant to work with and highly recommended. .read more
Atalie Schwartz
17:08 26 Oct 17
My school has used Diamond Jack's for our annual Detroit field trip for several years now and they have been WONDERFUL each and every time! They are quick to respond, flexible, and helpful in every way. I highly recommend them!read more
Jennifer Hendricks
13:38 03 Aug 17
We took a group of Seniors (15) down and we were a little apprehensive with the gangway being so steep, but the crew was EXTREMELY helpful. They totally managed our scooter and wheelchair residents. The tour itself was wonderful. Very informative, giving both history and current details. I would DEFINETLY recommend this activity with Diamond Jacks River more
Bill Watt
09:54 21 Jul 17
Another Detroit hidden gem. Very informative narration of Detroit's rich history. Bargain prices and very family friendly. Looking forward to a return voyage. Crew was helpful and courteous with senior more
R L.
11:44 09 Jul 17
Pretty unorganized. You can't buy tickets except while in line. Single board and exit ramp which makes for long times. Could cut time off the tour by not going past connecting bridge to Canada. Oh and they take credit/debit even though the website and brochures onsite say cash only. Could've saved ATM fees. Anyhow the information on the tour was okay and the boating near Canadian border was unexpected and welcome. The tour guide was actually clear and seemed to actually enjoy his job which was nice. A few tweaks and this tour could be even more more
Donnie Robinson
10:22 09 Jul 17
Going on my 3rd tour this afternoon. I think it's very nice... 2 full hours of touring is well worth the price.
Brett Wilson
14:41 15 May 17
Went on a field trip with my son's class - had an excellent time - very nice tour of Detroit and Belle Isle. The crew was well organized, informative, and overall it was a pleasant more
Carolyn Witt
16:58 28 Apr 17
Loved the boat trip & all the great information!
Sue Schweihofer
11:54 03 Sep 16
Great alternative way to see Detroit and Windsor, narration was informative,we had a great time! Recommend this for everyone!read more
Donna Murray
01:06 18 Aug 16
loved, loved ,loved this boat ride
Danielle Thomas
14:12 02 May 14
Great informative tours of the Detroit River. Great experience especially for private parties!
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