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We Just Keep Rollin’ Along

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The trip down the Mississipi and up the Ohio was grueling, fascinating and a little scary in the low-water year, but never really dangerous.

The problem all Loopers with slower boats face (and we are probably the second-slowest boat in our group) is that the anchorages have simply dried or silted up.  There are only  two good anchorages, and two okay anchorages in a 280 mile stretch and ONE marina where you can get diesel fuel.  The deep water channels are getting so narrow that the barges can’t pass and in several situations have gone aground.  When a tow 220 feet wide and 1000 feet long with 24 barges strung together hits a sandbar at 8 knots and stops, it breaks apart and the free barges take off downriver on their own.  In the day, they’d be pretty easy to manuever around, at night at anchor your dead UNLESS you are in a protected area.

This is a dangerous situation, because some day a boat is simply going to run out of daylight or have a tired crew, go over by the bank and anchor (which is possible) and get destroyed in the night.  With a couple of days of dredging, the Corps of Engineers, which runs the rivers, could carve out a couple of good anchorages, but apparently they are 99% interested in serving commercial interests and recreational boating just isn’t a priority.

Is it worth it to run the rivers, for all the problems?  Absolutely since 1) it’s the only route; and 2) the rivers are unique — big tough, majestic, challenging.  And we, and everyone else out here right now, are very safety conscious and cognizant of the situation.  The tug captains are on the radio with info all the time, and I actually felt safer around them than on the Illinois, because in 99% of the spot there’s more room, and everyone is just taking things slow.  Of all the Loopers we’re with now, I’d say there is only one slightly shakey crew in the bunch — if you’ve come this far, you’ve probably gotten to know your boat and your crew pretty well.

Anyway, after St. Louis we ran down to “Hoppies” the only “marina” on the river — three giant barges tied together.  These are terrifically nice people.  Fern Hopkins gives a daily briefing on downstream conditions, and we call her up with news as things change — and they do since the Corps is out moving buoys constsantly and the anchorages get good and bad as the river flows. Fern’s is at Kimmswick, MO, a well-preserved little river town kind of trapped in the time of Lincoln.

Then just grind, grind, grind — 102 miles between achorages in one day — helped by the current that got old Memsahib up to 10.2 knots — about 12 miles per hour, a speed she will never again equal.  As we headed up the Ohio to get the Cumberland and start running south in a big way, another challenge — too much water.  They are desperately trying to get water down into the lower Mississippi, so the dams are open and we had so much current that 4.5 knots was average.  So I did the safe thing and forgot about our planned stop and pulled into a spot that folks and the guidebook had been talking about behind the Harrah’s Casino in Metropolis, IL.

Finally, Green Turtle Bay Marina in Grand Rivers, KY complete with pool, spa, golf carts to get to town, and all the trimmings.  At least 15 Loopers, since everyone is beat, and no one wants to leave even though the rest of the trip clear to the Gulf isn’t bad.

For any prospective loopers, I think the four good anchorages are:  Rockwood Island, Angelo’s Towhead, Harrah’s Casino and Cumberland Towhead.

The Mother of Waters

Hoppies — keepin’ that electrical right up to code

 

Kimmswick, MO — cute town, well-preserved, but 12 places to buy Halloween decorations, and no place to buy milk

 

Kimmswick — log house

No, this is wood John, not plastic like Disney World

I bought John soul food at the Blue Owl in Kimmswick — chicken and dumplings and coconut cream pie

First night anchorage — all that sand is supposed to be water

At one point in a 12 mile stretch we were going, north, south, east and west

Our post 102-mile day anchorage, Angelo’s towhead

Confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers at dawn — Ohio to the left. We had to leave at first light every day — not popular with the crew

 

Final night’s anchorage on the Ohio — casino boat kicks the current (and barges away) and the mud holds like iron

 

 

 

I Don’t Want To Wake Up

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Thirty-seven (37) years ago I stopped in St. Louis on my way to graduate school in New York  to visit my sister Sue, brother-in-law Bob (also my best friend in high school) and baby Brian.  Of course, we went to the Arch.

If I had said to her, “Sue, in 37 years, I will be sailing down that river in a 51-year-old wooden motorsailer built in Hong Kong with my strong, kind, terrific 18-year-old son,” she would have immediately taken me off Mexican food and martinis. (There was no Thai food then and I had already learned martini-drinking from a dissolute group of assistant district attorneys and newspaper ad salespeople in Salinas, CA.)

The Arch is not only a symbol of the great American West where I grew up, it is also a symbol for Loopers — start down that Mississippi and the only way to get back home is to keep going around, because there’s no way to get back up the Mother of Waters.

On the way to the arch, we did another symbolic act and ducked up the Missouri in honor of my friend Bjorn, a student (from Sweden, no less) of the Lewis & Clark Corps of Discovery.  So three great rivers this week — the Mississipi, Missouri, and Ohio.  More on that later, but once again, we are in the middle of nowhere in the middle of America with a weak wi-fi signal.

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