Wednesday, April 30, 2008

OK Boat Trip, Day 6, 4/30/08

That was pretty cool last night having our own L&D. We left at 5:50 hoping to get out before the FBI, CIA, Homeland Security, or whoever enforces the law there showed up. How’s this for a nice shot of Olmstead L&D at 6:00?

And how’s this for another nice shot? Bet you think it’s the sunrise, huh? Actually, it’s a barge right behind us just as we left Olmstead with the searchlight still on from running at night.

Cairo, Il at the junction of the OH and MS Rivers. Notice the flood walls surrounding the entire city, just in case. If I understand it correctly, if the rivers do rise, they just close the gates to the city and wait it out. At least they don’t start out below sea level like New Orleans.

The last bridge on the OH River. We'll enter the MS on the other side.

As we entered the MS River, there was lots of turbulence, lots of floating debris, the water turned to the color of my coffee in the morning with one creamer, and we immediately picked up about 3 MPH. Later, the debris cleared up, the current stayed about the same and sometimes added 4-5 mph to our cruise speed, the turbulence remained, and the water still looked like coffee all day long. Take a look – our boat is a cream/off-white color for comparison.

We appreciated the comforting welcome on the hill after entering the “Mighty Mississippi.”

About the turbulence. Part of that was due to very strong wind all day long – 20 to 25 mph gusting to 30. But we finally figured out (actually it’s our theory at this point) that it is because of the constant irregular depth of the river. Constant swirls in the river, some looking just like a whirlpool, might be a better description than turbulence. We saw depths today ranging from 20 to 120 feet and they constantly change. The only time the water was smooth was when we had a flat river bottom contour. There are also man-made underwater dikes that stretch from shore way out into the river – these also create lots of turbulence.

One surprising thing about the MS was the frequent and almost white sandy beaches, sometimes for great stretches. We’re assuming the water is not always this dirty. If it is, how do you get the clean white shoreline?

Another interesting change on the MS is the size of the barge tows. For example, they are normally 2 or 3 barges wide and 4 to 5 deep on the TN. Here’s the largest we saw today, 6 deep and 5 wide. Sorry for the distant photo, tough to get a good shot of these huge tows.

By the way, we’ve had some questions about barges. The key is to always remember how much bigger they are than you and you feel compelled to stay out of their way! Seriously, a general rule on the waterways is that the least maneuverable boat in any combination has the right of way. With the barges, they all monitor channel 13 on the radios. We hear them coordinating with each other frequently and we call them if there’s any doubt where they want us in relation to them. Before the advent of radios (I believe this story is correct), they used whistles to signal each other how to pass. For example, 1 whistle for port to port, 2 whistles for starboard to starboard, etc. Those “whistles” have continued with the radios. For example, if we are approaching a barge and we are not sure which side the captain prefers, we will ask and if he wants us to pass starboard to starboard he will say something like “give me 2 whistles.”

While it was a tough and tiring day, there was time for some relaxation while cruising down the river. By the way, there's a reason only the cats and Wayne are in the pics - Rhonda likes taking pictures rather than having her's made.

We cruised into Caruthersville, MO at 3:15, mm 850 on the MS River, having covered 123 miles today! There’s no marina here and we had planned to anchor out in a slack water harbor (no current) where they load, empty, and sort out barges. The wind was so strong, we asked the barge service if we could just tie up to a barge. He said yes, at our own risk. So, last night we had our own L&D, tonight we have our own barge, fully loaded with corn.

We need to make Memphis, TN tomorrow as there is a big front rolling in with storms, possible hail, etc. forecast for the evening. That’s 115 miles so it’ll be another long day. Rhonda’s Dad asked today “When are you going to slow down and just enjoy the trip?” There are a couple of answers to that. We moved quickly on the TN River portion because we were already familiar with it. On the OH and MS Rivers, there are very few anchorages and almost no marinas so you have to take what you can get. You don’t want to end up in the river after dark without a secure home for the night. We plan to rest up in Memphis for 2 days, let the storm pass, resupply, refuel, maybe even go out for dinner one evening. We’ll have one more night out on the MS River in Helena, AR, and then we join the White River at MS mm 599. After 10 miles on the White River, we will finally be on the Arkansas River. We are going to slow down and try to visit all the marinas on the Arkansas so we’ll be knowledgeable for our customers at Three Forks who might be interested in traveling it as well.

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