This is Home: Island Belle Boat Captian has special ties to Blennerhassett Island

Boat Captain's dad and uncle owned the island
Published: May. 5, 2023 at 6:28 PM EDT
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PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) - As Blennerhassett Island opened up for the season on Tuesday and we talked with one worker who has a unique family tie to the island.

Island Belle Boat Captain Jason Sands has had his pilot license for over 30 years, which allows him to operate boats.

He used his experiences with boats to fix the Island Belle several years ago.

Little did Sands know at the start that is was going to propel him closer to his family’s history.

“My wife and I have the Valley Gem in Marietta. There were some issues with the drive of the boat (Island Belle), the paddle wheel and keeping it running. We stepped in and helped them reengineer the drive of the boat, and that turned into operating the boat as well,” said Sands.

“In 1959, a couple of brothers ended up purchasing the island,” said Sands as he gave some background on the island.

If you ever ride the Island Belle and hear Captain Sands telling this part of the island’s history, he’s actually talking about his family.

“Before they owned it, it was owned by several different people. My uncle, who was a General in the Air Force, and my dad meticulously bought all of the different pieces, and assembled it under my uncle’s ownership. Then they sold it to Dupont, which is who owns it now,” said Sands.

While the brothers owned Blennerhassett Island they had a working farm on it.

“Well I wasn’t born yet, so this was before my time, but it was neat; they had a lot of really interesting stories. My dad farmed it, he grew corn over here and he had 1,000 head of cattle at the advent of the farm on the island. It was really interesting to hear the stories, and the struggle they had with this. It was ultimately successful for both of them,” recalled Sands.