A man who has traveled over 13,000 miles of waterways in eastern America is highly impressed with Frankfort’s potential to become an epicenter for recreational boating and tourism.
Ted Swartz decided to spend his retirement as many dream of doing: giving up his stationary home in Chicago to live on his boat.
Swartz was raised on the banks on Lake Michigan, where he learned to love boating from an early age.
"I guess I've always been a nautical soul," he said while lounging on the deck of his Endeavor TrawlerCat 36 on the Kentucky River. The three-stateroom catamaran is a major upgrade from his first purchase — a rubber raft with a motor — when he was 27. Swartz spent 40 years in downtown Chicago working in advertising.
"We would take out on my little raft and cruise the Chicago River among all the yachts and skyscrapers," Swartz chuckled.
Three boats and a career later, Swartz began looking for a boat that would suit his retirement plans. He'd need the full amenities of a home on a boat he planned to spend 48 weeks out of the year on. He purchased "My Bluegill Heaven" in 2007 and christened his retirement in 2013 by sailing the circumference of Lake Michigan.
"It took three months," he said. "I've been to every port in all of Lake Michigan."
Since, he has been to 12 states by boat. He spends his winters in the South and his summers in the North. His days begin with coffee on the top deck and light reading. He's kept company by his rescue dog, Vala.
"A lot of mornings I'll wake up anchored in a little cove somewhere," he added, looking at his boat tied to the Frankfort Boat Dock with a large rock quarry behind him and the Singing Bridge sprawled out in front. "I anchor for the night more than I stay in marinas."
He launched his journey April 29 from the port of New Orleans and came north by way of four major rivers to the quiet capital of the Bluegrass.
"It took me 11 weeks, but I only traveled for 43 days," Swartz said. "I don't rush things. I like to stop and look, travel, explore the different scenery and geography."
Swartz's 1,402-mile voyage was made possible by the reopening of the Kentucky River locks by the Kentucky River Authority.
"I spent the winter in New Orleans and I was looking for some new place to go in the summer," he said. "When I read that they had reopened the locks on the Kentucky River, I said, 'That's it! The Kentucky River can be navigated.' "
Swartz believes the river holds untapped potential for a charming city. Since the Kentucky River became navigable for pleasure craft, Swartz has noticed an outpouring of cruisers across boating community Facebook pages taking interest in the route.
"Frankfort is a great destination," he said. "When you combine a beautiful river with a great destination, you can bring in a lot of traffic. Boaters will come down for a day or weekend trip and boaters usually spend money on gas, food, attractions."
One issue that Swartz noted, however, is Frankfort's lack of docks. Many boaters will not make the trip if they cannot secure docking in advance. Swartz believes a large boat dock would help bring more tourists to "a beautiful and interesting city."
During his week in Frankfort, Swartz took advantage of the free downtown trolley, toured Buffalo Trace Distillery and museums, visited Daniel Boone's grave and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and explored shops and cafes downtown. His favorite attraction was the Old Capitol building, which he said intrigued him because he had never seen a city with two gorgeous capitol buildings before.
Swartz headed back south on Friday and plans to retrace his route until he reaches the Bahamas, where he will spend the winter.
"I want to emphasize what a beautiful trip Frankfort and the Kentucky River has been," he added. "I've heard a lot of talk about it, and it wouldn't take much advertising to create a flood of traffic."