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Wendella river cruises start up Friday

The company said it is starting up gradually, operating just one of its 10 boats.

A Wendella boat on the Chicago River, Friday, March 12, 2021.
Wendella Tours and Cruises kicked off its 87th season Friday. It hopes to have its 10 boats and water taxis operating by Memorial Day.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Wendella Tours and Cruises, forced to shut down about this time last year due to the coronavirus, starts its 87th season Friday — with a gradual reopening.

“We’ve operated through depressions, world wars, bus strikes and now a global pandemic,” said Andrew Sargis, a Wendella spokesman.

Wendalla has 10 boats, including five water taxis. To begin with, only one tour boat will operate, offering 45- and 90-minute architecture cruises, Sargis said.

“By the time we get to the Memorial Day weekend, we will have most of the the fleet — if not all of the fleet — in action, doing architecture tours, sunset tours, private events and Chicago Water Taxi service,” he said.

Sargis pointed out that, unlike the tour boats, not all of the water taxis have open-air upper decks.

Tour boats typically accommodate about 300 people, but now, due to the pandemic, capacity is limited to one-third of that, Sargis said.

He said he expected crowds about half that size on Friday.

“For opening day and weather in the 40s, that’s a great sign for us,” Sargis said. “These boats are a sure sign spring is here.”