09-17-09 Lock 52 Ohio River

Betsy speaks (seems like I always get the bad days!) What a long and miserable day this was! It started out OK, as we unrafted at the appointed hour 0700 and headed down the Mississippi. We enjoyed a gorgeous sunrise as we left our quiet anchorage in the diversion canal and entered the swift flowing river. Still staying closely to trawler Meander and sedan Still Busy, and not very far from the rest of the pack of nine boats total, we were cruising downstream at the breakneck speed of over 12 MPH…a record for Meander. We had approximately 5MPH current pushing us along, and we were easily getting well over 3 miles to the gallon of gas.

(Pictured to the left is "Still Busy" with newlyweds Jack and Pia Griffin from Charlotte, NC)

We met or overtook several barges along the way, the biggest of which was 6x6, for a total of 36 barges being pushed by one tow boat. After a slight altercation between one of the pleasure boaters and a tow captain yesterday, today’s tow pilots were super friendly and in fact complimented us on our professionalism as we headed down. As the caboose of the pack, we generally would call the barge to let them know we were the last pleasure craft in this bunch and they were all very appreciative.

We hit the junction of the Ohio River and the Mississippi at about lunch time, and our speed was cut in half immediately. We have to travel upstream on the Ohio for about 70 miles altogether, and did about 45 miles of that today. Now we are heading into a current of about 2 MPH, and also into a strong headwind. We’ve had a little trouble with the starboard throttle ever since the beginning of the trip, and in fact had it adjusted while we were in Virginia. Over the past several days it has really started acting up again, and at times I had to use both hands full strength to pull it back. We planned to have it looked at again this coming Friday once we arrived at a full service marina, but in the meantime it had gotten so bad that I tried to make an adjustment on it today. The last guy that worked on it showed us how to simply adjust a screw to loosen it up, so I tried that today.

At first I couldn’t tell adjusting the screw made any difference, and all seemed well. Then we entered a lock and things went bad. This locking experience would have been bad even with a good throttle, though. The lockmaster had all nine boats come into the lock, but he told us to just drift in the lock rather than secure ourselves with lines. He assured us there was plenty of room to maneuver…wrong!!! I don’t think anyone ran into anyone else, but it was extremely nerve-wracking trying to hold position in a very confined area with the wind blowing and a boat in front and one in back of us also trying to maintain position. We all started out in a straight line as seen in the pictures here, but by the end it was chaos. It seemed like it took forever for us to rise the 6 feet…we didn’t time it but surely it was 30 minutes. About midway through I realized that the starboard throttle was doing basically nothing, so I was maneuvering with only one engine.

As we finally pulled out of the lock and tried giving it gas, nothing happened. We turned it on and off several times, made sure nothing was fouling the prop, made sure water was pumping through it, tried readjusting the screw in the throttle, all to no avail. Finally we turned it off and went the rest of the way to today’s anchorage, about 20 miles, on one motor.

Up until then, we were confident that we did have enough gas to make it this 250 mile run we’ve been concerned about. Staying with our two companion boats at trawler speed, we would have had a range of at least 400 miles. Now on one motor it looks like we will just barely make it to our next fuel stop, 40 miles away tomorrow. We have two gas tanks, and with only one motor working, we are only drawing out of one tank, with no way to siphon gas out of the other tank. Fortunately there is a Towboat US operator at our next fuel stop, so if we don’t make it we will be towed at no charge, since we are members of Towboat US as well as SeaTow.

So much for that bad news. Now let’s talk about Beamer! It was such a pain to get her to shore yesterday that we decided not to try that again. She would just have to go on the boat. We’ve learned that dogs can go for up to 72 hours without relieving themselves, and that they will never hold it in so long that they cause any damage. So Beamer went all day long today with no bathroom stop, and the amazing thing is she never showed any distress…no whining, nothing. Finally about 5 o’clock this afternoon we came upon a tiny floating dock at a state park, so we pulled over to it and let her off the boat. Needless to say she was relieved (as were we). We knew about this possible stop thanks to one of our cruising guides, and it was just a couple of miles from our final anchorage for tonight so it worked out well. The cruising guides aren’t always right, so we were glad to see this was a good stop.

Tonight we are rafted up again, though not as tightly as last night. There are still nine of us, but we have a lot more room than we did last night Several boats are individually anchored, and several are rafted up just two or three boats. We are rafted to Meander, and were pleased to have a home cooked meal on their boat tonight…Chinese, delicious. Thanks Marji! Meander is pictured at left.

Our anchorage is right before our 2nd lock on the Ohio, and we will plan to go through that lock hopefully about 7:15 tomorrow morning. The lockmaster is expecting us and unless there is a pile up of barges during the night we should be able to go right in. Unfortunately it’s going to be another float around the middle type again. This time we’re going to insist on being in the back so we’ll have more room to maneuver with our one engine. I think all the other boats that have only one engine have bow thrusters, so we’re definitely at a disadvantage.

So as you read this Friday morning, say a little prayer that we make it to the marina safely tomorrow afternoon. We have about 50 miles to go.

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