Saturday, June 23, 2012

Ohio River Upbound, Part 1 (Jun 14 to Jun 23)

We made the turn onto the Ohio River and were happy to see the heavily forested banks right down to the water, with occasional developed breaks and one stretch of unusual homes.  The Shawnee National Forest runs along much of the Illinois side.  The tow traffic in this area was fairly heavy, but as we approached the first lock we were told to keep it coming as they were just locking someone down.  Nice start!

As I may have mentioned, there are not many guides covering the Ohio for boats of our size – not that Carolyn Ann is that big – but most of the boats here are smaller, trailerable types.  Actually, mostly we’ve seen bass boats and pontoon boats.  Joe decided that we’d stop at a marina the first night to see if he could get some local knowledge.  The Golconda Marina was described in one guide as well protected, large with good services.  It was well protected, had lots of covered slips (mostly empty) and not much in the way of services.  Joe also didn’t find much knowledge of the Ohio beyond the immediate area.

The following day was eventful – for the first time Carolyn Ann was overtaken by a tow pushing a loaded array of barges up stream!  He was really moving.  Joe mentioned his speed and he said he had to hurry up so he could get there and wait.  

When we reached the next lock, there he was – waiting.  Fortunately, this lock, as do many of these locks, has a smaller chamber that we were able to use with no wait at all.  
A side note here:  when we saw our fast friend Betty Brent waiting, the pilot house (it's on a hydraulic piston so it can be raised and lowered) had been retracted to the lowest position.

We’re never sure how far we’ll make it in a day, so the night’s stop is often planned as we cruise along.  We made a pretty long day of it and planned to anchor behind Slim Island.  As we approached we could see a tow starting down the back side of the island.  Joe called and the operator informed him that the tows normally go behind the island even though the marked channel is on the other side.  Ooops!  Then we checked Paul and Marty McGraw's Anchorage's of the Ohio River and found that they had noted the danger, when our other guides had not.  Guess which guide we are relying on heavily now!  Following the McGraw's and the tow operator's advice, we switched sides and found a nice spot to anchor.
As we cruised along we passed lots of small towns with big boat ramps, but most only had small docks which were often restricted to 15 minute tie ups.  No place for us to stop and visit the towns.

 A few bigger cities have built nice waterfronts, but have not added dockage to them.  We've been doing some research for the trip back down and Owensboro, which I want to visit, is supposed to be adding dockage by the end of the summer.

We'd had some fairly long cruising days, so we decided on a relatively early stop at a nice sounding anchorage in Sinking Creek.  We entered the creek slowly as there was a bridge across it that looked low.  As we approached the bridge, several men standing on the bank assured us that we were fine.  One was very insistent that we could go past the bend in the creek and the next little bend - but "don't go past where you see two docks together!" 
 Next thing we knew, he had jumped in his pontoon boat and was showing us where not to go.  Turns out he lives where the two docks are and wanted us to tie up to his dock.  The dock was very small so Joe dropped the anchor and we tied the stern to the dock to prevent swinging.  

Mike, couldn't do enough to make us comfortable and later his wife came to take a picture of Carolyn Ann because no one was going to believe her that a boat that big had been at their dock.
It turned out to be a beautiful little creek and our early stop gave me lots of time to explore in the kayak.  Mike's advice about not going up any farther turned out to be right on.  There were many stumps and "dead heads" in the creek sometimes making it an obstacle course even in the kayak.
A side note here:  Several days later, Randy and Barb (Lazy Dolphin) entered Sinking Creek to anchor.  They hadn't gotten too far when Mike showed up in his pontoon boat to lead them to his dock to tie up!

Mike had suggested that we stop in Derby to go to a restaurant there, even though it would make a short day for us.  The dock was okay, very few cleats, but they had this nice sign so we tied up.  I walked around the area a little.  The restaurant was no longer open on Sundays, the gas station/convenience store had closed (although they were inside painting, planning to re-open soon), the fire station and an old church looked neglected.
There was a telephone pole with signs marking the water levels for four different floods.  The pole was a good bit above the river level to begin with, so the marked water levels were really impressive.

The park area was very nice with an overlook high above the river.  There they had an extensive written history of the town and the river.
Since it was early in the day and we had finished touring the "town," we decided to continue on to another anchorage in Blue River.  We spent a quiet night, anchored, with the stern tied to an over-hanging tree.
The following day we arrived in Louisville.  This is one city that has nice public docks with power very close to the downtown area - not one but two.  We stopped at the one closest to downtown and tied up.  As it turned out that area is the more convenient, but it is also the less protected.  By less protected, I mean that every time a tow goes by you are hit with a pretty good wake, and also that three police boats are docked at the other location.  Our dock was in the middle of a big park area and Joe didn't feel too good about some of the folks wandering around after dark.  Rather than moving to the other docks the next day, we decided to put Louisville on the agenda for the return trip and keep moving along.
As we left Louisville, we again saw a building marked with the 1937 flood level.  Just past it, the white tower is the oldest existing decorative water tower in the world.
This next leg of the trip was one that had us concerned.  We were coming to the Markland Lock in Warsaw, Kentucky.  More than a year ago there had been an incident, that we've recently heard was caused by lock operator error, which resulted in a lock door falling off.  This lock, like other's I mentioned has two chambers, so one is still functioning.
Unfortunately, it is the small chamber.  "Small" is a relative term in locks.  The small chamber is only 600 feet long, while the large chamber is 1200 feet.  That's certainly no big deal to us, but it means that the tows cannot fit all their barges in the lock at one time; they break the load apart, put some through, secure them at the other side, then lock the rest through, re-attach all the barges and move on.  This photo shows the AIS marking the tows.  Each yellow flag with "A" and a number is a tow.  We are the green boat.  You can see that there is lots of tow traffic and they all have to go through the lock.  When we arrived, the lock operator said it would be at least two hours before he could get us locked up, so we found a place to anchor where we'd be out of the way.  We're not sure exactly how it was worked out, but right about the two hour mark we could hear on the radio that they were fitting us in.  Joe raised the anchor and we threaded our way past some barges that were parked in front of the lock and into the chamber.  We were up and into a nearby marina well before dark - and feeling very fortunate as we'd heard predictions of waits up to 6 hours.
While at the Turtle Creek Harbor Marina, we got to meet Paul and Marty - the ones who produced the guide that we have come to rely heavily on.  They helped us with some grocery shopping, fed us dinner and gave us more tips on traveling the Ohio.  Joe and Paul also had some heated discussions on how to solve all the problems with the world.  What a good time we had - and plan to have again on our way back down the river.  Thanks again, Paul and Marty!
After a three night stay, we continued up the river and stopped at the town dock in Rising Sun, IN.  They have put some money into their waterfront - or maybe the casino in town has.  Anyway, there is a good dock that allows overnight stays if you register at the police station.  We registered and then found the tourism office on Main Street.  Along the street are lots of gift/antique/art shops and several restaurants.
Rees Harps is also on Main Street.  They make harps there that are sent all over the world.  Often you can watch the harps being made, but it was late Friday afternoon and the workers had left for the day.  We were treated to some music by one of the staff - who hadn't even thought of touching a harp until she started working there 12 years ago.  The harps are beautiful - some with hand painting or intricate wood overlays done by the owner's son.  They also make a small size harp - called a harpsicle - that is 33" high and only weighs four pounds.  In our short visit we learned more than we ever thought there was to know about harps.  Definitely the high point of our stop - not even topped by the Graeter's ice cream at the casino.
But under that patina of small town serenity lies a big source of controversy.  The centerpiece of the waterfront park is a fountain - a scary looking tree fountain.  Is it art or not?  You be the judge.  There have been many opinions put forth in Rising Sun, we didn't hear what the people across the river in Rabbit Hash think about it, though.  Rabbit Hash - which we couldn't get to - has repeatedly elected a dog as mayor of the town.  A cat ran once but was defeated.  Joe says the mayor's wife must be a real bitch (get it?).
After touring the town we returned to the boat to find the activity really picking up at the boat ramp.  Lots of small boats were being launched and even a small plane!  It taxied up the river, turned and took off for a short flight, returned to the ramp to change passengers and did it all over again.
Once it got dark all the activity tapered off and the air cooled down giving us a great night's sleep.
The next morning we awoke to a boat covered - literally covered! - with mayflies.  They were everywhere!

We cast off the lines in spite of them and set off toward Cincinnati.  Along the way Joe let out a "woohoo!"  We'd made it halfway up the 981 mile Ohio River.  Well, yeah, he celebrated at 491.5, a mile early, but math never was his strong point.

Anyway, we're docked on the up river side of Cincinnati so we're definitely more than half way now.  So far we've been surprised at how often the banks are not developed at all, even though we've seen heavier tow traffic that most places we've been.  We'd expected it to be much more industrial.    It's been beautiful and has really reminded us of the Tennessee River.

There are more pictures on the picasa site:

1 comment:

Patrece said...

Hey Joe and Punk -- just read your last post. Sounds like you are having an interesting cruise. We are presently in NH, just up the river from Portsmouth. Happy sails!