Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Traveling Again

Hello all: For the past week, we've been playing tourist and visiting with family & friends.
Yesterday morning we started traveling again. On Monday, from Hoppie's Marina (link to Google Map) which is about 30 miles south of St. Louis, we traveled south (or down-bound) on the Mississippi River for about 110 miles. This is a long day for us even with a favorable current pushing the Winnie W's speed up to 10 knots.
Monday night we anchored in the Little Diversion Channel (link to GoogleMap) just south of Cape Girardeau.
At this writing, we are waiting to be locked up the Ohio River at Lock #52. Ohio River levels have been low plus there is much traffic, which means delays. We were hoping to make progress towards the Cumberland River and tonight anchor somewhere past this lock; at 7:30pm with darkness falling, we are now just below the lock and will get the first available morning lockage per this evening's lockmaster (keep your fingers crossed!).

Today (Tuesday) has been another long day; we weighed anchor at 6:20 am and started down the river in company with fellow Loopers Sea Estate and Xplorer. Here's the scene at O'Dark Hundred as we were leaving Little Diversion Channel. The channel (which is a drainage conduit to control Cape Girardeau's rainwater) had little current, and the Mississippi really grabbed our stern as we exited the channel! Another challenging day...

Although the Mississippi River is not friendly to cruisers, there are interesting things to see.Here is a photo that combines beautiful scenery, a wing dam seen extending into the left side of the channel (more about wing dams later), and a northbound barge on the right.
There is "radio etiquette" in discussions with commercial traffic. First, they're "tows" not barges. Calling them as they are approaching your pleasure vessel is crucial, with plenty of time to adjust your position relative to them, the current, and any potential obstructions.

Here's a photo of a 5x5 tow. It was taken after we passed it because we were busy being careful to avoid it. The biggest we've seen was 6 barges wide and 6 barges long! It's especially tricky around bends in the river. And look at his wake...
Tows prefer to have smaller vessels on the inside of a curve because they swing to the outside as they go around it; this is great because the tows have a huge prop wash plus the inside route is usually a bit shorter. However, there are occasions when it is necessary to go on the outside of the curve.

The system for managing river traffic is for pleasure vessels to call the approaching tow captain, stating the tow's position (looking at the chart and estimating where they are) so they know who you are calling; and then to state your position and respectfully request "instructions for passing."
The tow captain will ask you to pass "on the 1 whistle" ( or simply "on the 1"), or "on the 2 whistle" (or simply "on the 2"). The regional accents can make replies difficult to understand; most pleasure vessels listen carefully for the key "1" or "2." The guys claim that ladies get a more understandable answer.
At first the system seems complicated with the various permutations of approaching versus overtaking vessels, and who is where. After careful analysis, it can be boiled down to the system pictured: if they say "pass me on the 1" you move towards the right, and "pass me on the 2" you move past them on their left, whether you are approaching or overtaking. The whistles hanging from our radar screen serve as a reminder of which way to steer during these sometimes stressful encounters.

Here's a photo of Doug coping with traffic. We are going downstream, which means that we have both the "boost" (positive effect) of the 5 mph of Mississippi River current helping us reach our destination, but also the down side of being pushed into things, such as this upcoming traffic heading north on the Mississippi. You will notice that we are also next to a downgoing barge, who is trying to avoid the upgoing barge as well as us, and we have a buoy ahead of us that we want to avoid!

At 10:45am we reached the confluence of the Mississippi & Ohio Rivers. As the Winnie W. turned the corner, our speed dropped from 11 knots to 6.7 knots, because we are now going upstream on the Ohio River. Here's what it looked like. Notice the traffic!

We'll keep you posted of our progress, and appreciate your interest.
Our best to you, Kathie and Doug


Anonymous said...

On the Rhine there is a different system that dispenses with the radio (and 20-30 different accents trying English)

Every large vessel has a blue board measuring about 1 X 1 meter with a flashing light in the center, facing forward and aft. (The light is for night use) The downbound tow has the right of way and places the board on the side of the wheelhouse that he wants traffic to pass him on.

At the Lorelei there is traffic control that may use radio along with shore side traffic signals.

Anonymous said...

Looks like you're going for the Tombigbee route. Any idea what your ETA is for the Gulf of Mexico?


Wayne B

Winnie W. said...

Who said the tow captains on the Mississippi speak English?!? I'm from the South myself, and I can't understand these guys 3/4 of the time. Fortunately all we have to hear are the key words "up-bound" or "down-bound," and "one whistle" or "two whistles." I like the flashing light signboard idea though.

A relatively new system called AIS is on place here, and in major ports... great idea combining a short-range VHF with a BPS, so that your vessel's ID, exact position, course, and speed, are broadcast to all other vessels nearby. All AIS-equipped vessels show on your chart plotter or integrated radar, so you know their name to hail and exactly how to best avoid them. Unfortunately we don't have this system, nor a chart plotter.

The AIS does not say where you plan to go next, however. It was really interesting to listen to the tows sort themselves out at the corner of the Ohio & Mississippi Rivers. There was steady radio traffic, as tow captains stated that they were going straight or turning left or right, and maneuvering around each other in the current so as to make their turns.


ETA to the Gulf will be whenever the frost chases us south! It's also an insurance issue, some insurers flat-out forbid reaching the Gulf before November 15th. Ours is not so strict but our rates will go up VERY STEEPLY if we reach Mobile before Nov 1st... they will go up some anyway, whatever date we get there.


Second Wind said...

Hey You Two (and Hank),

Since we are now land-bound, I just wanted you to know that Bob and I will be reading about your adventures daily so we can still Loop vicariously. Your blog is excellent! Keep on a-coming toward the Tennessee River. It will be quite a contrast to the Illinois, Mississippi, and Ohio Rivers. Can't wait to see you at the Rendezvous.

Liz and Bob
Second Wind