Heading upstream on the Ohio River means burning more fuel and also traveling at a little slower speed in order to conserve fuel. We left Paducah, KY, on Monday July 30th after another day of being a tourist attraction. We shared the pier with PlayPen, a Carver out of St. Louis, crewed by four guys who were having a wonderful “boys only” vacation. They headed downstream just about the time we headed out ourselves, and we each wished each other “Safe Journey.” That seems to be the standard good bye on the river systems. Almost all the lock masters say that as their parting words, and, when we monitor the tug and tow traffic on Channel 13, each of the Captains will finish off their passing arrangements with “Safe Journey.” That exemplifies the kindness and respect shown to each other on the rivers, and we like it.
We passed the mouth of the Tennessee River almost as soon as we left the dock and saw the Paducah Landing location for Ingram Tug and Barge as we looked upstream. We see a lot of that company’s boats and they are always gleaming white and well operated. About 12 miles after that, we passed the mouth of the Cumberland River. We will be returning to take that river system to Nashville, TN, later on in our journey.
As we entered the Smithland Lock and Dam at Hamletsburg, IL, a torrential rain shower opened up on us as we were handling the lines. Unfortunately, we had left the hatches over the dinette and galley open. We felt so helpless watching the water pour in and knowing we could not leave our stations forward or aft in order to do anything about it. As soon as we cleared the lock, we closed the hatches and used copious number of micro fiber towels to mop up. Fortunately, our laptops only got a little damp, but we made a new rule that they are stowed on the V berth as a part of getting underway.
Golconda, IL, Marina was our stop for the night. We were assigned a covered berth, and, as we were making our final approach, Lenny shouted, “We won’t make it. The roof’s too short!” He had to skillfully maneuver in the fairway to get us out of there, and we found another unoccupied covered berth that was much taller to accommodate our mast and electronics. Because it was unoccupied, it was full of spiders and webs, so we called this the Marina of the Spiders. It continued to rain, sometimes really hard, throughout the night, so we were glad we were undercover.
Tuesday July 31st was a long run to Evansville, IN, 112 miles, all upstream. We passed the oldest hotel in Illinois and the Pirates’ Cave, where Ohio River pirates used to hide out. There are not a lot of places to dock in this stretch of the river. We had planned to stop at Mt. Vernon, IN, and Louise had gotten permission from the Mayor to tie up at the courtesy dock. However, we reached there about mid-day, and, taking our previous lessons about moving on while we had daylight, we decided to press on. Inland Marina was a very fun place to tie up. Although the marina has piers, the transient berthage is on the fuel dock, which is actually one of two barges at the entrance to the marina. On the other barge was the Tiki Bar, and we got to know the staff very well during our 3 day stay. Evansville was a provision and laundry stop for us. The city has spent quite a bit of money redeveloping their downtown waterfront area, and it is actually quite beautiful. We met some of the locals who had never seen what it looked like from the River, so we were happy to share our pictures with them.
We left Evansville on Friday August 3rd and headed to Owensboro, KY, to dock at the Owensboro Marina, LLC. This is not a municipal marina but a private one, and one of the residents told us, “This is the Red Neck Yacht Club.” We are not sure of the business arrangements among the slip holders, but one of the things we liked was free, unlimited ice. The weather has been extremely hot and no wind in the evening to cool things down very much, so ice was most appreciated.
We first had to go through the Newburgh Lock and Dam, and that one was only operating one chamber because the other one was down for maintenance. Louise had called the day before and was told to just stay put and try early on Friday. As we got closer, the lockmaster said he would take us, provided we could get in there to ride it up as soon as the downstream tow cleared. Lenny navigated us into the chamber almost before the lockmaster knew we were there! He kidded us about taking so long, but, when another tug “complained” that he took us through, he told them, “Now these folks have been waiting two days to get through, and I told them to stay out of your way until I said to come up, and they did that. Now, what number in the queue did you want to be?”
We had also been alerted to be on the look out for the replicas of Columbus’ ships the Nina and the Pinta, as they were also sailing up river, and we caught up to them in Owensboro. At first, we thought they were pirate ships, but, as we got closer, we could see their names. You can encounter just about any type of craft on the Ohio River.
Lenny had been studying the charts carefully, because places to tie up continue to be scarce in this part of the river. Places to get diesel also become further and further apart. We had planned to tie up at Rocky Point in Cannelton, IN, on Saturday August 4th, but when we got there a little bit after lunch, the pier was rickety and exposed to all the wakes of the sports fishermen. As we began fueling, we found the nozzle was larger than what we were expecting, and our fuel cap dislodged and fell into the river. The spare one was located at the very front of the cave, in a bin, and we had to unload just about everything to retrieve it. At least we had one! Frankly, we didn’t like this place or the dockmaster, so we were happy to move on.
So, where to go? Lenny had identified that there was a free dock in Derby, IN. He managed to come into contact with Pam Spinner, who has charge of the Derby Community Center, and therefore the dock. So, he texted her that we were coming in a day early, and she said Great! She and her “crew” brought their pontoon boat out to meet us, greeted us with waves and bows and led us to the dock. We felt like visiting royalty! We had a wonderful meal at Snackwaters, the local restaurant. Louise says Best Fried Chicken Ever. Although the dock was crowded when we arrived, we had the place to ourselves by the end of the evening.
We left early Sunday August 5th because we wanted to get to Louisville, KY, early in the afternoon, and did not know what the queue at the McAlpine Lock would be. We had been dodging river debris for several days, and at about noon, a piece of debris went through our propeller. A horrible bang and shudder went through the boat and Lenny immediately slowed to neutral. When he tried to get back up to speed, the vibration began at 700 rpms. We knew we were in trouble, and we were about 45 miles away from Louisville with no options to tie up, or even to anchor, since the river was at least 50 feet deep bank to bank, and full of tugs and tows. Boat US dispatched a tow boat out of Louisville to come get us. Gene Foster of Boat Assist, and his partner Ron, showed up about three and a half hours later, and we began the laborious journey up river at 5 miles per hour, which was towing speed. Although the sunset was pretty, we were just sick at heart and worried about what sort of damage there was.
An unexpected problem turned up when Lenny tried to restart the engine to help go through the McAlpine Lock and it wouldn’t start at all.
Gene got us through the McAlpine Lock at about 10pm and to a berth at Riverpark Place Marina at about midnight. We had already planned to stay there for about three days, and Troy, the dockmaster, was able to put us on an end so that Gene could easily guide us to tie up. Gene’s houseboat was across the pier and Ron’s houseboat was next to us, so we had some company as we ate a very late snack. Chip and Dayle were very happy to go ashore, since it had been almost 16 hours in between pees.
We stayed tied up at Riverpark Place Marina until Monday August 13th. Riverpark Place Marina suffered from the spring floods and the slips at Docks D through G are silted up. We were at Dock A, which is behind Towhead Island. This meant a quiet ride for us. This channel is also used by the University of Louisville rowing teams and community events, such as a triathlon. The swimming portion of that woke us up on Sunday morning the 12th, since we could not figure out what all that splashing at the end of the pier was.
Pantaenius Insurance Company assigned a surveyor to assess the damage, and he recommended a haul out. We know the prop is damaged, but we don’t know what else. We identified Marine Sales and Service as the place to go for repairs. Right now, Then Again is on the hard there, and we are staying at Staybridge Suites for the foreseeable future. The prop was removed and is being repaired, but we are not sure when it will be ready for remounting and testing. We have a 5-year warranty on the engine, but Marine Sales and Service cannot work on the engine since they are not a certified Volvo diesel dealer. The nearest one is in Evansville, IN, and he will arrive the week of August 20th to diagnose the engine failure.
Now, we had planned to stay about 3 days in Louisville anyway. Monday was spent recovering from the late night and the events and taking Chip and Dayle to boarding at The Station Country Club. Tuesday, we went to the Louisville Slugger Museum and Bat Factory. What a wonderful tour and we even have a souvenir bat. They have a vault that has models for every major league player’s bat and told us that, on average, a major league player orders 100-120 bats per season. They turn out over 1.8 million bats a year, with most of them completed on their automated machine systems. This museum was a planned stop.
Other unplanned sights we have seen include The Falls of The Ohio state park, which is actually on the Indiana side of the Ohio River. This park features up-lifted sedimentary rock that was once sea floor, complete with marine (not riverine) fossils. The interpretive center was extremely informative, with exhibits geared to both adults and children. The walk through the geologic eras explained how the falls came to be, and the river transportation history showed how the locks changed which city along the Ohio River would become dominant in commerce. (Hint: it was Louisville, KY that succeeded while the others were submerged.)
Also on the Indiana side is the Howard Steamboat Museum in Jeffersonville. This is a beautiful Victorian mansion that was built for the Howard family, who were famous for building over 1,100 steamboats from 1834 to 1941. The first-floor rooms are restored with the original furniture, and the second-floor features exhibits detailing the history of steamboats and models of some of the well-known boats built by the company. We saw a model of a river tug boat that could have been Then Again’s great-great-great grandmother.
Our third museum on the Indiana side is one we stumbled upon while trying to find the Steamboat Museum: The Vintage Fire Museum, also in Jeffersonville. We had a personalized tour by an active duty firefighter who was on his day off, and he was very knowledgeable about every piece of equipment that was there. This museum is nationally known (just not to us). It features beautiful restored fire engines (hand pumpers, chemical engines, horse-drawn steamers, early motorized engines) and other equipment dating back to 1756! Virtually every piece of apparatus is still capable of pumping water.
On the Kentucky side, we thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Louisville Water Tower. This neoclassical structure is next door to Marine Sales and Service and had piqued our interest every time we drove by. Tours are not given every day, so we had to patiently wait until Wednesday the 15th. WOW! The exhibits detail how the tower was made, the history of sanitation in Louisville, lessons learned, and the architectural style. It is the oldest ornamental water tower in the world. The company decided that the people of Louisville would be more accepting of the sanitation system if the water tower actually looked like a monument. (As an aside, Louisville has been voted Best Tasting Tap Water in the US many times).
All these museums are off the beaten path, and we would not have found them if we weren’t here for an extended period of time. They are bright spots in this part of our trip.
We have also enjoyed eating well in Louisville, especially some of the neighborhood establishments like Highland Breakfast and The Eagle. Again, people are very friendly and willing to help us out however they can. Louise’s birthday was Saturday August 11th and we had a wonderful meal at The Levee, complete with some live soul/blues music.
We don’t know how long we will be in Louisville. We made a quick trip by truck (thank you, Enterprise Truck Rentals) to Cincinnati to pick up our Portland Pudgy dinghy that we were going to have mounted at Washington Marine when we were in Cincinnati. We decided that as long as we were on the hard anyway that we would have Marine Sales and Service do that work.
One of the stops that was eliminated prior to coming to Louisville was Pittsburgh, PA. The places last year that sold diesel are not selling it this year, so we just can’t get there from here. We don’t know yet if we will be calling at Cincinnati or not. We will be making other adjustments to our trip once Then Again is on the mend. Now, what was Lesson One? Oh, yeah, “No dates are certain.” Well, Lesson 1a is “No itineraries are certain either.”
Our Trip So Far
As of Friday August 17, 2018…
- Days: 62
- Locks Passed Through: 33
- Miles Sailed: 1,295
- Engine Hours: 158
- Gallons of Diesel: 468