We checked the AIS for tows on the big river and seeing none pulled anchor at 0630 and were off and running. It was another day of speeds in eleven mile per hour range, while meeting tows and even passing another one. When calling the tows for passing guidance it is often very difficult to understand what they are saying. It seems that most tow captains are from the south and have heavy drawls with southern accents. This northerners ears are not accustomed to the sounds and I am often saying, in my head, huh? Then doing the best I can to interpret. The one important thing is usually clear and that is either a “one” or a “two”.
The last few miles before the Mississippi River meets up with the Ohio River is in the form of a big “S” so you cover a lot of territory without advancing your southerly distance much. The river moved rapidly through most of this area and there was significant turbulence on the corners.
The Ohio! There is a big wide mouth on this river where it meets the Mississippi. I checked tow electronic charts and two paper charts and none of them showed shoaling where the two rivers meet so I went down river about a quarter mile and then turned into the Ohio watching the depth sounder closely. I guess all of this water moves to swiftly for shoaling as the depth was always between 20 and 30 feet. The mouth of the Ohio is line with barges/tows for several miles up river. Some were parked in the middle of the river so winding our way through them was a challenge as they are so long it is sometimes difficult to tell which side is best to pass. Almost all of these tows were stationary.
What a difference in speed. After the exhilarating speeds on the Mississippi it was difficult to buck a one and a half to two mph current. Instead of doing 12 we were doing six. We slogged our way upriver for 18.4 miles to the Olmstead Lock under construction and then Lock 53. We were told we couldn’t pass through Olmstead until the work shift was finished at 1700 hrs. Then they would send a guide boat to lead us through the unfinished chamber of Olmstead and to Lock 53 where we would go over the wicket dam instead of through the lock.
When the river is high enough the wicket dam, which stretches across the river from the lock can be lowered so boats can go over it. This time about 10 percent of the dam was lowered on the northern bank right next to Lock 53. Water makes its way through the wickets all along the dam but where the dam was lowered it runs through freely.
We anchored along with seven other boats to wait the two plus hours for the OK to proceed. Namaste rafted alongside Sea To See and we socialized nearly the whole time. Finally the call came on vhf channel 12 that we would be able to proceed so all boats hauled anchor and lined up single file to follow the guide boat. He took us through the new lock chamber and over the wicket dam where the current was running about 3 mph against us.
We had about 12 miles to go to the nearest anchorage and about two hours of daylight to make it in. When we were making 6 mph against the current I was encouraged that we could make it before dark but when we were going 5.4 mph I was thinking we could be anchoring after dark. We kept slogging along and pulled in at about 1930 when it was almost dark. There was plenty of room in Bean Branch Anchorage and even though Reunion, Gemini and Blue Haven had arrived before us we were able to see well enough to put our anchor down with confidence. As we were anchored in the river the current kept our bow heading into the current nicely all night and since I had backed down on the anchor I felt comfortable we were “stuck” well enough to get a good nights sleep.
It was hot once again but we found the area infested with bugs small enough to get through our bug screens so we turned the lights out as soon as we were able to discourage their attraction to infiltrating the cabin space. Rather than use the generator to run the air conditioner we used the fan operating off of the inverter to move air around and make us comfortable. We had to leave the forward hatch only partially opened as the forecast was for rain in the early morning hours.