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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sept 20th-23rd

Leaving Little River Diversion Channel came with its challenges. We had dropped the dinghy when we arrived and must return the dinghy to its position onto the boat. A lift is attached to the boom with a line and hook used to raise the dinghy. The dinghy is pulled over it'scradle and dropped into place. Not difficult, but is about a 20 minute process.

Next were the two anchors to be raised. The Channel is extremely muddy and it was difficult to snag the anchor. All five boats were in the Channel questioning the holding power of the anchors. We chose to drop a stern anchor (heavy bugger!) so that we would not swing during the night. Fortunately, it was a quiet night and there was little movement by anyone. As we raised each anchor, the mud rose to the surface. Crawdad has a short water hose located next to the anchor for hosing off the mud as the anchor is raised. What we really needed to do was hose each other and the boys off after our trip to the shore!

These were long days along the Mississippi as this is probably the least pleasant part of the trip. The current is swift, up to 4 1/2 knots and wing dams are placed around most legs that create turbulence. These underwater stone walls extend perpendicular to the shore and divert water into the middle of the river to maintain the depth of the river for the barges. Turbulence is created that can literally swing the bow of the boat around 90 degrees in a few seconds. Recovery is not a problem, but the whirlpools are avoided after one experience with the wing dam! Rather than traveling 8 or 9 knots, we could easily travel 10-12 knots with the current.

The barges travel up and down the river. It is not unusual to see a tow with 12 or more barges in front of the tow, always being pushed. The tows on the Illinois River have a cab that can be raised when not under bridges, so the Captain of the tow can see in front of the barge. On the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, the tows are huge machines. Usually two huge engines, but occasionally as many as 3. The turbulence created around the barges is to be avoided.

We entered the Ohio River and traveled UP the Ohio River. Now the green cans (flat on top) are on the starboard and red nun cans (shaped like a nuns cap on top) are on our port side. (The saying is "red right returning", which means when traveling from the mouth to the head of the river, the red nun cans are on the right- got that!) When traveling down a river, the cans are reversed. We have resorted to moving a piece of red and green tape to designate the appropriate side for the cans and nuns so as not be confused!

The Ohio River is mild and traveling upstream diminished our speed was significantly to about 7 knots of boat speed. Since we were traveling 85 miles that day, we felt we could anchor at Fort Massac State Park. We were fortunate to have in our group of 5, a couple who were completing their loop in Grand Rivers, KY, only a few miles from Fort Massac State Park. They suggested we anchor in about 10 feet of water directly across from the State Park. We were the last to arrive and lowered our muddy dinghy into the water. As we motored to shore, the ground looked relatively solid (thank goodness, we thought!) and we pulled up onto the shore. When I stepped in....up to my knee in mud, I knew my favorite sandals were under terra cotta, to be discovered in 500 years. My second step produced a similar experience. Finally after great struggle, I was able to pull the dinghy to a safe place for the three boys. I think I have a new nickname, Mudpuppy!

We pulled anchor at 7AM and moved toward Lock 53. The first two boats passed into the Lock. After 3 hours of waiting, it was our turn to pull into Lock 53. As we listened to the tow captains, we could see the lineup was significant. The priority of usage of the locks is commercial craft first, then pleasure craft. We were fortunate to move through in 3 hours as we listened to a tow being assigned #28!.

The first two boats had called the Kentucky Lock and found there was no traffic, so they chose the shorter route on the Tennessee. Typically a pleasure craft would choose to continue on the Ohio (extra 25 miles or so) to the Cumberland River so as to avoid the Kentucky Lock. The Barkley Lock is not used commercially as much as the Kentucky Lock. This shorted our trip, but the lift is 57 feet, which is significant. We are learning how to handle the bollards and wrap our line around the bollard which rises with the water level. The boat is protected with fenders (everywhere!) and we must keep the boat parallel to the wall. The water is turbulent, so the process is definitey a balancing act. Most of our learning has come through the assistance of our friends on Present Moment. They had shown us and advised. Extremely helpful. They are pictured above.

Out of the Kentucky Lock we could see gorgeous Kentucky Lake. Shortly thereafter we cruised up the Barkley Canal to Lake Barkley and the Green Turtle Bay Marina. Heaven! Long showers, clean clothes, restaurants! Crawdad will be at Green Turtle for a week of rest and catching up.

We are headed to Paducah (confluence of Ohio and Tennessee Rivers) this afternoon for "BBQ on the River and Old Market Days".

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