Wabash & White Rivers in Indiana....
2013 River Adventure
Title to this trip shall be TRULY BLESSED and through-out this true short story, I believe, you will see just how much I was blessed, as well as the silver lining behind the cloud that followed the entire trip.
Back in 2012, Mike and I took a 372 mile river trip down the Wabash River, Ohio River, Cumberland River and the Tennessee River. So for 2013, I would like to make a bigger splash into the river adventures. After several weeks of thinking and Mike hinting around about the run to New Orleans (which is at the top of his list), I decided on the adventure we would undertake. Let me say, I am not against the New Orleans run. It just seems to be the first location people seem to think about when talking about a river adventure. I believe there are other rivers that will provide more historic and scenic views than just riding the Mississippi River south. My internet search of rivers within driving distance brought the Muskingum River to the forefront. The Muskingum River is the longest interior river within the State of Ohio. This river has several locks and dams which are only open during the summer Friday through Monday and is limited to pleasure craft only – no commercial vessels! We could start in Zanesville Ohio and run into the Ohio River at Marrietta. The river run on the Muskingum River will be 80 river miles and it will take about 16 gallons of fuel which we will be able to replace at Marrietta Harbor located across from West Virginia. Once we reach the Ohio River we can take it down to Henderson, Kentucky. The Ohio River run will be 629 river miles and will take around 124 gallons of gas. My estimated timeframe to complete this trip is approximately 15 days, that is if everything goes smooth (locks work with limited wait time at any one lock). I have seen the time when to get through just one lock it has taken as long as 6 hours, but getting through each lock is all part of the adventure.
The Muskingum River locks became my focus after reading several articles on the internet about the river’s history. For just a small fee, a weekend pass can be purchased to provide access through all of the locks. This sounded like a river adventure more in line with what I was looking for. After we finish the Muskingum River run we would be looking at another nine locks on the Ohio River. I had convinced myself that after I finished this run I would be a river lock expert, or maybe not. Sometimes the mind is easily tricked into believing what you want it to believe. I spent the next several weeks putting the plan together: getting all the river charts, looking for fuel locations, planning the food menu and thinking about improvements I could make to the boat based on circumstances that occurred during our first river adventure. Each improvement makes it more comfortable but each one has a small price tag. My wife sees my boat as a money pit and will be glad when this phase of my life has past. They say that the two best days of owning a boat is the day you purchase the boat and the day you sell the boat. I am somewhere in the middle and enjoying life to the fullest! I have said from the beginning that after I make the New Orleans run I will sell out.
The boat’s needed improvement list was small compared to the first round of building the full enclosure. I had left the boat outside during the winter with the enclosure in place but the winter weather was more than the enclosure could take. The roof started leaking and I did not check the boat during the heavy snow fall so the entire boat become water logged. I lost the roof cover plus the sheets of underlayment. By early spring I had ordered a new roof cover; this one is UV rated to last in the sun. I purchased 3/8” plywood and sealed both sides with water treatment. I added a self loading system that I found on the internet to help load the boat out of the river. This is a new system designed by 4 C Inc. out of Morehead, Kentucky which guides and locks the boat on the trailer. The problem loading a tri-toon boat on the river is the current is always pushing you downriver and the rear of the boat will not stay lined-up with the trailer. This system does work but costs little more money than I confessed to my wife. During a long weekend trip with my wife to Branson, Missouri, I found some marine coolers 50 percent off and I acquired two. The marine coolers would be an improvement since the coolers I was using were 20 years old. To help the coolers last longer I built an insulated ice box, enclosed on four sides and I used a rubberized entry rug to make the door. I replaced most of the rope, especially the rope which was used to hold the anchor. I did not like using the anchor light on the boat for fear of running the battery down during the night and motor not starting in the morning. Plus the fact that the back light was hard to see from the front due to the height of the front trusses. This trip I will be using a glow stick connected to a jig pole that can be telescoped up above the boat by 15 feet. The glow sticks cost around $3.00 each but this will allow me the ability to sleep with one less worry. Last time Mike and I tried to use two battery operated strobe lights. We placed one on each end of the boat but after four nights the lights stopped working. For safety reasons, losing the strobe lights was not good but from my point of view, the flashing lights were annoying and took away from the enjoyment of the night atmosphere. With no other lights, the stars appear brighter at night out on the open water. During the trip last year, the fuel pump I purchased stopped working 2 days before we reached the end of the run. At that point I only had around 10 gallons of fuel left in the 30 gallon drum. I replaced it with the same type of pump hoping for a different result. The replacement pump stopped working with 8 gallons still in the drum but this time I had a back-up plan. Before we left town I went to the local hardware store and purchased a one inch plastic hose which I will be able to create a siphon line in case of an emergency.
Last year when I arrived at the end of the Wabash River and entered into the Ohio River we met a coal barge, 3 wide and 5 long, with the boat pushing it up-river which created a large wake. I was looking more at the Ohio River and the load of coal when the wave came across the front of my boat bringing 2 to 3 inches of water across the floor starting
at the front bow and exiting out the rear or stern of the boat. Remember this is not a ski boat, it is a 25 foot tri-toon pontoon boat, not designed for 2 to 3 foot waves. OK so I got the floor wet; it’s a boat, I did not sink it and it will dry, in a day or two. Later that night Mike and I were sleeping - Mike uses the seating located at the front and I use the rear sundeck at the back as beds. It’s not a Holiday Inn Express but it is dry. The sundeck is a little short but it works, the pontoon seating in the front is a little too narrow but Mike was making it work until I was awaken by a loud boom and a few well chosen words. Mike had rolled off the seat and onto the damp floor. After asking if he was OK, I started laughing hysterically. After drying off, Mike placed one of the coolers along the seat to help keep him off the floor. As entertaining as it was, this is something that had to be addressed before this trip. I created a bed from 3/8 inch plywood cut to fit inside the seating area and used four 2x4’s running across the bow to hold the bed in place. We then placed an air mattress on top of the plywood and mosquito netting around the outside. This was probably the best improvement we made for this trip.
The boat is still a tri-toon pontoon boat which is fully open during the day as we travel along the waterways. It is still very towable unlike a full size house boat which is not easily moved down the highway. We can close all four sides at night or during a storm and stay dry. We have a shower platform located at the right rear which allows you to stand about two inches above the water. Using solar heated shower bags, we can get a warm shower at the end of a hard day of boating. Some days we are so busy, we do not even stop for lunch. One would have to experience the adventure to fully understand how one can get caught up with the excitement of what is around the next curve or bend in the river. If you do not stay focused on what is in front of you, it can become a disaster in the blink of an eye.
As with any great adventure before we just jump in, I believe some thorough research and at least one trial river run needs to take place. The trial run was taken on the Wabash River. Mike and I departed from the Port of Terre Haute on a Friday, spent one day traveling downriver to Riverton (51 river miles). We stopped at Hutsonville to pick up 5 gallons of fuel just to top the tank. The river had been up and the boat ramp was covered with mud. Since Port of Hutsonville does not have a boat dock, I ran the boat up on the concrete ramp, very gently. By having Mike stand at the rear of the boat I could ease the boat onto the ramp. As Mike walked toward the front of the boat, the boat sat down on the concrete ramp, allowing Mike to exit the boat. As I said, the ramp was very muddy so Mike decided to jump over the mud and land where the concrete was clear of mud. Great plan but the landing was short and the mud proved little traction. The forward momentum of the jump allowed Mike to fall forwards, getting only his lower pants covered in mud. At this point I am laughing but it really is not funny as I know he will be returning with the needed fuel and I will have to get him back onto my clean boat. We spend the night down by Riverton just south of the old railroad trestle. I set anchor about half a mile downriver, locating the boat in the center of the Wabash River. The sunset was very pretty. Most of us never truly take the time to enjoy the end of a good day and see the sun setting when we are at home. I believe we are just too focused on work and family to stop and enjoy the monument. We had steaks for supper which was a great way to conclude the first day of our trial run. The next morning I had planned on sausage patties, eggs, and toast for breakfast with coffee but when we awoke, the boat was invaded with thousands of gnats and we were the menu. As soon as we could get the sleeping beds packed up and the anchor on board, we were moving upriver as fast as the boat would travel. A few of the gnats stayed with the boat but most were left behind. We traveled around two miles up-river before I slowed down. Backup plan - coffee and donuts make a great breakfast on the run. As long as I was able to keep the boat moving the gnats were not a serious problem. Mike and I were both bitten by those gnats and we had the marks all over our exposed skin to prove it.
This trial run was just a one night lay over on the Wabash River. We would be on the water less than 36 hours if all goes as planned. When Mike showed up at the boat ramp with three duffle bags of luggage for an overnighter I just shook my head. If he needs this much stuff for just one night he will need a U-Haul for the 15 day trip coming up and
I’m wondering where on this boat will I store all of his stuff? This is a small boat which does not have cabinets or built-in closets. I told Mike that on the 2013 River Run he will be limited to only two bags, period. If I can get by on just two bags so can he. What I failed to tell him was that I had purchased an over sized bag to use this trip. Just to see the look on his face and listening to him complaining the entire trip was worth the cost of the over sized luggage bag. He is still complaining! In my defense, I did not make any claims to the size of the bags. I just limited the number of bags to two and I only had two bags. It is the little thing like this in any relationship whether it is husband and wife or captain and co-captain that keep life interesting. With the test run behind us and the boat improvements made, I can now focus my attention on the 2013 main event - the Muskingum River. We will be starting in Zanesville, Ohio, running down into the Ohio River at Marrietta, Ohio, then take the Ohio River to Henderson, Kentucky. The Muskingum River will have nine locks with two of the locks not being located beside a dam, which is where the locks are normally. Using Google Earth I have printed out each lock location. I now understand that I will need to be looking for a small canal upstream of the dam by a few hundred feet. The canals will run from a quarter mile to one half mile long before I reach the lock. Both canals will be located on the left bank of the river. Left and right bank is based on always looking downstream. Since the locks only operate Friday through Monday I will need to arrive at my entry point on Thursday. Map Quest says that the drive will take 5 hours and 28 minutes being only 325 miles from home. My one-ton truck pulling the boat will only get around 6 to 7 miles per gallon so the fuel cost one way will be close to $200. The Muskingum River from Zanesville down river to the Ohio River contains three hydrographic measuring stations which measure water depth and predicts water stage vs. time vs. flow rates. I always keep a close eye on the gauges before making a river run. If the water gets too low the motor on the boat may drag or I may even ground the boat on a sand or gravel bar located below the water surface. If the water gets too high then the current becomes an issue. I checked all three guides the day before we departed for our next big river adventure. The last item on my check-off list is to call 24 hours before we depart just to make sure the river is running and the locks will be operating. So around noon the Wednesday before our departure, I called the Ohio State Park system which controls the locks and the female employee on the phone said that the river was running well and the locks will be operating over the weekend during normal lock hours. The next morning I get up early to finish loading the boat and pack the coolers. Each cooler takes three bags of ice and most of the food, like the steaks, fish, hamburger, pork chops, marinated turkey and homemade soups were all frozen before packing. The menu for the first few days is based on which items thaw first. Mike arrives around 8:30 am and we are on the road by 9:00 am. The five and one half hour road trip turns into a full day of traveling through two construction zones and one wreck. All three created very long parking lots on the interstate. The wait time just being parked was running around 30 to 45 minutes and then followed by miles and miles of very slow moving traffic. Add two rest breaks, one stop at Cracker Barrel plus two stops for fuel; we arrive at Muskingum River in Zanesville, Ohio around 6:30 pm. I have printed out maps showing the boat ramp and dock location. I know what the park should look like based on Google Images with a boat dock just downstream from the ramp but something just does not look right. I pulled the truck over to the side of the road and just looked at the river in total amazement. There were five other cars parked along the road with people standing outside their vehicles pointing out into the river. My mind is running with all kinds of ideas but I know that this cannot be good. The dock, which based on Google photos should be on the right bank, is well out into the river. The ramp was not to be seen however, I did see two light poles which should have been located along each side of the top of the ramp, before the ramp slopes down into the river. The river flow was very fast with a lot of debris floating downriver. My eyes slowly focus on the park entrance roadway which was barricaded and caution taped draped across. I saw more caution tape out in the water near where the ramp may have been. It was obvious; Ohio DNR had closed the access to the river. Several other cars drove by and some would park and look. Mike and I started talking to the locals to find out what was going on. During the night before, this area at Zanesville and north received a gully washer. We were being told some areas received as much as 10 inches. The upstream dam had to be opened to stop the water from running over the dam which in turn flooded several small towns downstream. At this point all I can think of is that I just spent $200 in fuel just to get the boat here. It is around 7:00 pm and I am very tired of pulling this boat down the interstate. I am hungry since I did not stop for supper because I was in a hurry to get the boat to the ramp and get it assembled before night fall. I have over $300 of supplies on board such as food, fuel, and river charts. Now I need a back-up plan, which I do not have! I reach for my trusty atlas and flip the pages open to Ohio. Focusing my vision on Zanesville, I am trying to find a decent highway south to reach the Ohio River. The people are telling us that the towns downstream are flooded and the roads are closed. My mind starts thinking about how blessed I am because if I would have been on the river during the storm, I would have to ride it out plus I may have been setting anchored in for a full week waiting for the locks to reopen. Blessed I am but I am still very disappointed. Looking back, I wish I had drove on to Cambridge, turned south on Interstate 77 and dropped my boat into the Ohio River at Marietta, Ohio. With the record rain causing the river to overflow its banks, I decided to be safe and drive back home to Linton, Indiana. By 2:30 AM we are back in Linton. I told Mike just to spend the night here and we would decide what to do in the morning.
The next morning, Mike and I went to the oldest local restaurant here in Linton, “The Grill” to have breakfast and decide what to do about the boat run. The conversation circles around the facts: I have arranged for the time off of work, the boat fuel is loaded and the food and drinks are on ice. We decide to approach this as adults and take the boat up to Terre Haute, place the boat in the center of the Wabash River, turn the motor off and see which way the boat would like to travel. What do you know, the decision was made and down river we will go. Where down river, I do not have a plan but down river is the direction. Due to talking to old friends as well as making some new friends at the boat ramp, we did not get started until 3:00 PM. Late start but we are on the water and life is looking good.
The Wabash River is running between 6 to 7 feet and should stay up for the next few days. The boat was running between 7 to 9 miles per hour with the motor running 1800 rpm, pushing the boat just a little faster than the water was running. We only ran about 15 miles downriver before calling it a day. Mike set the anchor and started organizing the boat while I started cooking supper. This is a small boat and we will be living here for the next week so everything has its place and must stay in its place to allow us the maximum amount of space. The sunset was beautiful, the weather calm and warm. We had T-bone steaks, potato salad, and chips for our evening meal. The sky turned a bright red that evening. You know the old saying “red sky at night, sailors’ delight” and it was a great evening to sleep under the stars. A little warm but still no rain and the stars were bright. We left the sides open so that we could enjoy the night, sleeping under mosquito nets. It was a very pleasant start to a great adventure.
The next morning was Saturday and the boats were out on the Wabash River enjoying a weekend without rain. The river was still carrying 5 to 6 feet of flow, a perfect river running day. After we had a hardy breakfast of eggs, bacon, toast and coffee, we started down-river arriving at Hutsonville, Illinois around 11:00 am. Now you have to understand one of the main problems running the rivers within Indiana is that there is
never a marina where one can buy fuel so you have to pack fuel to the boat when you get close to a gas station. As you may remember from the original set-up of the tritoon, I placed both a marina GPS system and a car GPS system on the boat. The car GPS is so I can find out how far Mike will have to walk to acquire fuel. We carry a five gallon fuel can that we pack into town. Sometimes we have to make more than one trip especially if the ice is low. With this being the first stop, five gallons is all we need but before we stop I will need to empty the gas can into the boat. This sounds easy but think about it, I will need to lay on the back sundeck of the boat, lean over the side, hold five gallons of gas up, and pour the gas into the small hole on the side of the boat which is located about one foot below the top of the boat, doing all of this while floating on the water. The first time I tried this it was a complete disaster with the fuel cap leaking like a sieve and my arms cramping before the fuel can was empty. This is where Mike came to the rescue. He used the square tube trussing as a place to put a pulley, connected a rope to the gas can, ran the rope over the truss, allowing him to hold the weight of the gas can. All I had to do was to direct the fuel into the boat. To stop the can from leaking we cut a small piece of rope and rapped the rope around the nozzle, problem solved.
As we were finishing the fueling of the boat, a jon boat came over and ask what we were doing. I told him and then said that we were going to need another five gallons of fuel before heading on down-river. As I stated prior in this story, Hutsonville does not have a dock and he asked if we would like to use his dock and he would give us a ride to the station. Mike jumped into his boat and 10 minutes later he came back with some ice and fuel. We thanked the gentleman and then continued down-river. The five gallons was all the boat would hold. We had traveled 42 miles and were getting 8.4 miles per gallon, not bad for river boating.
We arrived in Vincennes around 5:30 and we stopped again at the George Rogers Clark Memorial. From the bridge to the gas station is only 6 blocks and we thought we would go a head and top the fuel tank. Mike used the rope and pulley system to hold the fuel can and I directed the fuel into the boat. We had traveled another 43 miles and were getting 8.6 mile per gallon. The first full day and we had run 85 miles with the current of the Wabash River; not a bad day at all. We landed the boat on the left bank and tied up to a tree. Mike took off with the gas can as I started getting things ready to cook supper. Mike had been gone for about 10 minutes when the air temperature started dropping and the sky turned from clear and sunny to just black and dark. I could tell that up north was getting hammered and I was hoping it would stay north of Vincennes but no luck, here it came. I stopped working on supper and started rolling down the side covers to keep the boat dry. The rain poured out of the sky for over 10 minutes, Mike called from the station and said that he was going to wait it out. As summer showers go it did not last long and soon Mike would be
on his way back. But before he could get back to the boat the rain came back for one more round. We pulled out into the river and anchored just on the south side of Vincennes.
The next morning we traveled 10 miles down-river to St. Francisville which has a public boat dock but we did not stop. We decided that if we come back this way we would stop and check out the town. We continued another 16 miles down to the Grand Rapids which was carrying about four foot of water over the rapids so getting across was no real problem. We backed up at the old lock and dam site and looked at the concrete walls which still remain today. The concrete still crosses the bed of the Wabash River.
Just below this site is where the White River runs into the Wabash River. The confluence of these two rivers is very pretty.
We then turned upriver into the White River and run 18 miles to Hazleton, Indiana. I ran 1.5 miles passed Hazleton where the river comes close to US 41 which has a gas station. As I was looking for a place to land the boat, another boater came by and ask if I needed any help. I told him what I was looking for. He said to just follow him back to Hazleton and he would take us to the station. Mike took the gas can and off they went. The fellow’s lady companion stayed back and talked to me about her future plans. She was a licensed cook with several different fields of study. She was in the process of changing jobs and was looking forward to preparing food on some of the river boats on the Mississippi River. After she finished with her story, she went up to the house and brought back some sliced watermelon and sweet corn for us to take on our journey. After Mike made it back from the station, we took off again and drove three miles up- river passed Hazleton where we anchored in for the night. We stopped early that night because I wanted to grill some fish and make a rice dish which takes a little more time than our normal meals. We were anchored in the middle of the White River and I was starting to prepare the fish when I saw two boats tied together drifting down-river. The people were yelling “which way are you going”. My first thought was that they have had more than enough beer because my boat is not moving. As they came closer I could see that several of the people were in the water swimming along with the drifting boats. One of the gentlemen named Kit swam over to my boat and talked to Mike for a little while but the two boats made no attempt to stop, they just drifted by with the current. It does not take long before there is a good distance between the boats and Kit was swimming hard to close the gap.
The next morning I told Mike that I would like to make a shot at running up the West Fork of the White River. I knew it would not be easy but I thought we could make it happen. So we take off to Petersburg and as we met other boaters we would stop and talk about the condition of the river upstream. One gentlemen told us that when you get to the power plant at Petersburg make sure and hug the left bank because the power plant has a steel dam across the entire river to divert the water back into the plant. Another boater told us that we would need a chainsaw because of a down tree at the entrance of the West Fork. As I came into Petersburg I followed the left bank all the way up to the power plant. When we finally got to the power plant we found a small island and you could not see any type of structure
crossing the river except at the far edges but the water surface was the tell-tell sign. The water was crystal clear and calm upriver of the structure and just down-river the water was wavy. Yes, there is a full structure crossing the river and nowhere is there a sign to tell you to stay along the left bank, navigating along the left side of a small island to cross over. Sometimes it is good to listen to the local people because if I did not see the structure or water surface change I would have ripped off the motor from the boat. Why there are no signs warning boaters of this structure is just wrong. I could have had a bad day but no harm done and up-river we continue. We reach the fork in just another mile. This is where, if I knew then what I know now, I would have turned around and went back to Terre Haute but no, not me, I had to try to make it up the West Fort of the White River. Back when I purchased the boat I told my wife that the boat is too large for the White River and that I was planning on running the Wabash River. I sure wish I would have listened to myself. Oh well, up the West Fork of the White we will go.
The confluence of the West Fork of the White meeting the East Fork of the White is large but the West and East Forks are considerably smaller. The water flow is running about 5 feet at Newberry but the channel width has been reduced. To run the West Fork we will need to keep to the left at the “Y” intersection. As I approach the intersection I can see a large tree blocking part of the right bank but the left bank appears to still be open. We reduce our speed down to just an idle, fast enough to not be pushed down-river from the current. The entrance is full of debris, looks like if we can just make the first 100 yards the water will open up. But the debris is full size trees planted in the river by the current. The tops all point down-river which means that I will be driving straight into the remaining stumps. If we were running down-river I may be able to slide around the tree stumps but running up-river is like
walking through a mine field, just waiting to destroy the engine prop. Mike makes a recommendation that we just turn around and head back to Terre Haute but I am convinced that I can maneuver the boat through the trees. So very slowly I make my move inching up-river and zigzagging my way through. The first 60 yards goes great but somewhere towards the end of the debris I found a tree limb that was under the water by about one foot. I was able to bounce off the limb and continue moving up-river. After clearing the debris we traveled about one more mile up-river before stopping the boat and raising the motor to see just how bad the prop was damaged. Just one of the three blades was bent. It is an aluminum prop so Mike got a pair of channel locks out of the tool bag and started straightening the prop. Ten minutes later, the motor was lowered back into the water and we are off again. Where the river is more or less straight all we have to watch out for is low water, just below the water surface there are sand and gravel bars but you cannot see them in the muddy water of the White River. The depth meters on the boat are set at 3 and 4 feet and they just keep sounding off. The run is painfully slow, trying to stay with the main channel. At one point I tried three times to find a crossing over the sand bar and the fourth and final attempt we were successful, dragging just a little. The bends in the river are just full of down tree tops with the limbs all pointing down-river but where the trees are in the curves is where the deepest water is located. I have tried several times to run just outside of the debris but the water gets too shallow and the boat runs aground. We ran only 7.5 miles up the West Fork of the White which took almost 4 hours. Not enough water, river too small, boat too large, this is now becoming work, nerves on edge, at this point we just anchor down for the night.
The next morning I tell Mike that we will run up to Edwardsport and I will have the truck and trailer delivered to that ramp. It is only 17.5 miles up-river, how hard can that be. We normally cover 75 miles per day. We will be out of this mess by noon. I asked my son to have the truck at the ramp before noon because I will be there shortly. We get an early start but the progress is still painfully slow. At one of the bends I hit another tree limb and the prop gets reshaped, again! At this point we have to stop and bend it back into shape so many times that the motor is now starting to vibrate due to being out of balance.
Mike does the best he can reshaping the prop but it is starting to look as croaked as the river itself. By 3:00 pm we are within a half a mile of the Edwardsport ramp. I cannot get off this river soon enough to suit me. We just have one last bend and a nice long straight run to the ramp. The last bend is very narrow. The river width is at least 150 feet wide toward the inside of the curve but the channel is only 12 feet wide and full of trees. I kept the boat as close to the outside bend but just inside the tree line hoping to have enough depth to just squeak through. Wrong - I hit a gravel bar and the prop was damaged. The boat is stuck on the gravel bar, the prop is down in the gravel, and the river runner which is there to protect the prop on the motor is bent up. I can see the ramp but I cannot get there from here. We have traveled 111 miles on the Wabash River and 72 miles on the White River for a total of 183 miles - I can see the ramp; so close but still so far. Mike and I put our life jackets on and Mike jumped into the river first. After he walked around the motor, I jump off the corner to check out the damage but before I could turn towards the motor the boat comes afloat and started turning starboard side. My mind starts racing, this cannot be good! That boat is planning on leaving without me, I am not going to let this happen. I jump up out of the river and onto the rear corner of the boat, just enough weight in the correct spot I heard the toons plowing back down into the gravel bed. So much for the sonar equipment, the boat is temporarily anchored again but I dare not move one inch or this boat will become adrift with no way to navigate it.
Mike recommends that we just remove the prop and take it over to the inside of the river bend on the gravel bar. He will take a hammer to it which may help realign the prop. Mike asked me to get the tools and I just looked at him. I told him that if he wanted to take the prop off he would have to get the tool bag himself, if I move this boat will take off down-river with or without a motor. Mike climbed over me and back into the boat. Retrieving the needed tools, Mike then gets back into the water. I could not move, I wanted to help or at the very least I would like to watch and criticize but I dare not move. Mike removed the prop, placing the key and nut on the corner of the boat. He gets about 75 feet from the boat and takes one more step into much deeper water. He bounces back up shakes his head and returns to the boat. We will just have to beat it out here on the back of the boat. I told him to use the motor mount which we had made for the back-up motor. The first two hits showed some improvement but the third hit was disaster. The brass bushing and interior sleeve came out of the prop and fell into the river. The White River is not clear, just brown.
The water may only be one and a half feet deep but there was no way we could recover the parts. I told Mike not to worry about it, we will just get the back-up prop out and put that on the motor. Great plan, only problem, the back-up prop does not come with the brass bushing and without that one little piece there is no way to hold the prop in place. The nut, without the bushing just will not work - we tried. OK the situation looks bad but I have faith Mike will come up with something, he always does. We spent the next hour looking at all of the parts we were carrying, a lot of washers but none large enough to make a bushing. I started thinking about who I was going to call. I can see the ramp but if I move the boat will run the other way - so much for getting off this river by noon. Then Mike says he has a plan, it is not great, it may not work, but we had to try something. Mike took about one inch of the plastic tubing that I bought to siphon the fuel if need be, and placed that where the bushing should be. By compression the one inch tubing became large enough to be a bushing. Now we can move forward but if I place the motor in reverse the prop will slide straight off of the shaft. I need to be gentle with the forward power. Hey, at least it is a plan and it beats just sitting there looking at the exit ramp. Mike jumps back into the water and proceeds to make it happen. I still cannot move and I would like to see this plan come together. After Mike finishes the fix we talk about this one shot deal. I will have to let the boat drift down-river to a clear spot. Mike will lower the motor and we will precede upriver straight through all of the tree tops. If I hit one tree limb, it is over, prop gone no more back-ups, we will be drifting downriver from the truck. I told Mike that it sounds easy but before we make this one last attempt to complete the trip we should pray for help and guidance because I do not think I can do this alone.
After a few minutes of prayer, we both walked to the bow of the boat and watch the boat become afloat. Mike went back to the motor and I was reaching out with a push rod trying to keep the boat out of the tree tops. It worked pretty well until the water become deeper than my push rod was long. Oh well we are afloat and I am moving the wrong direction. If this does not work we are going to have to float this boat all the way back to Washington and have my truck and trailer moved downriver. It will take at the very least a full day or more. We drifted about 100 yards then Mike dropped the motor. I started it up and very very gently put it into the forward gear. We have power, we may not be fast but we are moving forward for the first time in two hours. All I have to do is get through the bend, which is full of trees,
without hitting a single tree limb and not running into any more gravel bars. The prop is not secure enough to take any abuse. With some help from above, I was able to maneuver the boat through the tree tops and we were around the curve and headed for the ramp. I am still not out of this river yet. I have to land the boat on the bank so that Mike can move the trailer into the river, get the boat back off the bank without the use of a reverse gear, and then run the boat upon the trailer. The current is slow and the wind is not a problem but my nerves are shot. Mike backs the trailer into the water and I work my way back out into the river. As I make my first attempt to run the boat upon the trailer the back end of the boat turns downriver. I am running too slow but I know if I am wrong about the landing I will not have a reverse gear to back out. I bail out on the first attempt, the second and the third. I have to make a commitment and run this boat into the trailer. Normally with the self loading system I can put this on the first or second try but not today. The idea that I cannot use reverse gear and I may not be able to throttle up the motor to climb up the trailer runners all is weighing heavy on my mind. I need to stop thinking about it and just run the boat into the trailer but not too hard. I drive back out into the middle of the river, tie a rope on the bow and tell Mike I am going to hit the trailer or boat ramp and I would throw him the rope so please do not let me drift back out in this river. I came in a little faster and was able to place the bow of the boat on the trailer runners but the rear was trying to slide downriver. Mike grabbed the rope and kept the front of the boat on the trailer. I was able to gently increase the boat speed and move the rear of the boat upriver and back in line with the trailer runners but I did not have enough power to run the boat upon the trailer. I kept the throttle open to hold the boat in place. Mike put the truck in reverse gear and slowly backed the trailer into the river. After he moved about five feet the boat was on the trailer and centered on the runners.
You would think problem solved: boat on trailer, river adventure closed but no. Now I am sitting in the boat, Mike has locked the boat on the trailer and he is back in the truck. As he starts to accelerate up the ramp the tires begin the spin. All I can think about is Mike DO NOT stop accelerating and do not increase your speed or it is over. The tires slowly dig into the dirt which covers the ramp and begin to catch hold. I watched that truck climb the ramp one inch at a time but it did climb up and out of the river with the boat in tow.
Wabash River from Terre Haute Indiana to Mt. Carmel Illinois – 111 miles
White River from Mt. Carmel Illinois to Petersburg, Indiana - 46 miles
West Fork of the White River - Petersburg to Edwardsport - 26 miles
Total run 183 river miles
Next year will be the big one from an unknown starting point at this time to New Orleans.
Author is James C. Tibbett