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The Hannes Family Legacy with the Gateway Clipper and a Daughter’s Nuptial Voyage

In the heart of Pittsburgh, where the three rivers meet and history flows as steadily as the currents, there exists a legacy that spans generations. At the helm of this maritime tale is John Hannes, a dedicated maintenance worker whose roots with the Gateway Clipper run deep. His story is not just one of routine maintenance and hard work but a tale that echoes the footsteps of his father, who once stood proudly as a captain with the Gateway Clipper in the 60s. From the wheelhouse to the maintenance deck, the Hannes family became synonymous with the very essence of the Gateway Clipper Fleet’s family operated business. Fast forward to this past November, when the riverbanks witnessed a momentous occasion—the marriage of John’s daughter, Jess Hannes, on the very decks her grandfather once commanded.

Let’s dive into a Q&A session with John that unveils the behind-the-scenes tales of this riverboat legacy.

How did your family initially  become involved with the Gateway Clipper, and what roles have they held over the years?

My dad started at the Clipper back in the early 60s and worked his way up to being a full-time captain up until his death in 1981. As a kid I would go down whenever he had a short day to ride the boats. I was steering the boats at a very young age (pretty cool for a kid).

a cake sitting on top of a table

Mid 1980s: During high school I worked at John Connelly’s house as a summer job for several years as well as 1 year after high school (Terry’s grandparents).  That being said I got to know a lot of the family pretty well. I also went to high school with Shawn (Terry’s brother) although he was a few grades ahead of me. After high school Mr. Connelly wanted me to come down the boats but I chose a different path. I didn’t want to work the scattered hours boat crew worked. When I quit to start another job Mr. Connelly told me I always will have a job with him if I ever wanted or need one. Terry honored that not even knowing it..LOL.

2017/2018 my son Matt worked there for 2 years as a summer job.

2021 My daughter’s boyfriend (now husband) worked there with Shari, Beverage Manager, for a summer.

Nov. 2023 My daughter, Jess, was married on The Princess. (pictures below!)

2013 to present I joined the Clipper in the mechanical department and became the mechanical guy we all know and love today!

Did you always have an interest in the mechanical/technical part of the business?

Whenever I started taking him broke for quarters for the video games they had back then he would send me with his friend Rege Connelly (Terry’s uncle) who ran the mechanical dept. to go explore the engine rooms. Seeing those big engines was fascinating to me even at that young age. Never thought I’d be working on them years later..LOL.

Can you share any memorable experiences at GCF? 

My favorite memories are pretty easy; my daughters wedding and going down there with my dad as a kid. Lots of memories though…I’ve been down with my mother and fmaily several times when my kids were y0ung.

a group of people posing for a photo


As the we stand as a testament to the enduring spirit of family, the Hannes legacy intertwines seamlessly with the river’s gentle currents. From John’s father’s captaincy in the 1960s to the joyous union of Jess & Darrin aboard the same fleet 60 years later, the Clipper has been a steadfast witness to the Hannes family’s maritime journey. As spring whispers promises of renewal, we ar eagerly preparing to embark on our 2024 season, inviting all to join in the legacy of family, love, and timeless traditions. With weekend sightseeing cruises set to commence in April, the Clipper awaits new and returning passengers, ready to weave another season into the rich tapestry of its familial history.


a woman standing next to a man in a suit and tiea group of people posing for a photoa group of people posing for a picture




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