May 29, 2011 “The Storm”

Richard (referred to as Gator from now on) and I woke up around 6am as usual and began our morning ritual of waking up to a functional state. It usually takes a few minutes and then we’re cranking. Not so for our young friend, Chris. As Gator and I step over him and mill around making noise, he stays put, not moving and I can’t help but notice that the tarp we have stretched out over the bow has a small pin-hole in it and it is dripping directly on Chris’ head. Eventually he rolls over and with a squinty eye asks me what time it is. I tell him and he freaks out; he usually get’s up around 11am or when it warms up. For the next few hours, a zombie-like creature resembling Chris mills about the deck.

The surrounding environment has not changed much, a thick fog envelops us with less than 50 feet of visibility. I don’t know if we can navigate in this pea soup or not but we’ll try I’m sure. We ease back out of our cozy inlet to the main channel and listen for tow barges. If one appears out of the fog in front of us we will have little time to get out of the way. As our visibility and my confidence improves, I slap in some ACDC and crank it up. Now this is how to wake up on the river! In the meantime Chris has returned from the dead and mentions how this reminds him of the movie “Apocalypse Now” with us cruising down the river in the fog. As soon as he says that I discard ACDC and slap in “The End” by the doors. If you know the movie, you will know the song! Now we’re in the groove…..the river groove……..yea!

We cruise down a lonley back-water stretch with nothing but nature to keep our interest. The conversation is good and the company great. The visibility has improved now and we see up ahead a deer swimming across the river in front of us. Wow, I had no idea that deer could swim. The deer sees us and I back off a little so as not to scare her. This is what I mean by nature. She makes it to the other side a bolts into the underbrush.

After a 30 mile stretch, the river opens up to a huge pool. A “pool” is where the river opens up before a lock and dam, something like a lake but in this particular pool it was like an ocean. As we approached Woodruff’s Island I asked Gator if he would change the fuel tanks over. He did with no problem and then the motor quit. I tried, unsuccessfully, to start the motor. Now we are adrift in one of the largest pools heading towards a lock and dam. Now, what’s really freaky is the way lightening struck followed by a huge clap of thunder immediately after the motor quit. The wind begins to pick up, the waves begin producing whitecaps and the rain begins. Ladies and gentleman, within minutes we are drifting violently in a full-blown, mid-western, torrential thunder storm (that’s the kind you see on the weather channel where everything is red on the map.)

We have already battened down the hatches (that means we have rolled down the plastic sheeting) and are staying fairly dry with the exception of the waves rolling over the deck. With Chris on board we are heavier than normal and the deck is very close to the water, the pontoons completely submerged. As the “Belle” lists from side to side and the wind is doing its best to rip our hatches off the boat, I am actually experiencing an inner peace at the moment. It’s strange but we are all laughing with delight at the incredible calamity we have just been dealt. We are at the mercy of “Mother Nature” and lovin’ it! After about a solid hour of being tossed (I envision the beginning of “Gilligan’s Island” where the “Minnow” is being tossed about) we slowly drift to the shoreline about a quarter mile above the dam. The waves slam us into the shallows where we become fixed. Jumping into the river Chris ties us off to a tree and we wait for the storm to subside.


As quickly as the storm appeared, it disappeared. The Mississippi calmed. She just let us know who was in charge and I am good with that. Just let us get to New Orleans safely. Once we gather our wits about us, we start checking out the motor. We think the starter is locking up and begin the process of changing out the starter. It turns out that Chris was a deisel mechanic in the marines and he begins the chore of changing bodies out on the 2 starters we have as our spare won’t line up correctly.

Now even when stuff hits the fan like this, there is absolutely no reason to forgo happy hour and when Richard asks for a beverage but doesn’t want to get his sneakers wet, we adapt and overcome.

Butt Crack Magic

We eventually install the other starter and find out that it is actually the flywheel that has locked up, even though it spun earlier when we tried. This doesn’t look good. As Gator and I discuss our next step, Chris decides at an opportune time to get back in his little kayak and say adios to the two old guys with motor troubles. As he paddles away towards the lock and dam, we say goodbye and thanks for the effort. We had fun! See you down river.

So what now? Well we tie up the “Belle,” pack our little backpacks with the things we might need and head out to hopefully find some help. We follow the railroad tracks towards Clinton, Iowa, find a dirt road, follow it and finally catch a ride with some folks who take us into Clinton and drop us off at the marina. Here we spend a while asking folks for help in getting us towed through the lock to the marina here in Clinton, a lot to ask on a Sunday evening. Most folks are with family trying to enjoy the Memorial Day weekend. Needless to say we get no positive response. It’s a little hard not to get discourged at this point. It seems to be a hopeless situation. Even so, we know that this is only a temporary setback. After getting somehing to eat at a nearby Jimmy Johns we coax the delivery guy into a ride across the river into Fulton, Illinois and the only hotel around. Here, we check in, shower off and settle in to figure out our options. We spend the evening calling marinas, mechanics, the sherriff’s office, the Department of Natural Resources, Mississippi Park Rangers, and anybody else we can think of but everything is either closed until Tuesday or they just will not help. The main theme we keep getting is when your on the river, you’re on your own. The other thing is the name of Don the mechanic keeps coming up. We have several dozen voice mails to him as well. We’ll see who calls tomorrow. And now we sleep, comfortably for the night. Tomorrow is another day.

May 30, 2011


3 Responses to “May 29, 2011”

  1. Herman Says:

    Hey Carl:

    Cool site you have! Sorry I missed the trip up. Wish I could have made it. Hope you have a great experience on the river. Keep the pictures and stories coming. Just here at #10. Thanks to you, “Another Day In Paradise.”


  2. Bad Alien Says:

    You’ll need an x-helocopter mechanic onboard. Or maybe a saint. (Saint Evenrude?) Or maybe Ginger and Mary Ann… but I digress… I was watchin’ that storm on the weather radar! It was wicked bad! And losing the engine at the same time??
    All I can say is I’m looking forward to this weekend!

    1. livinlif Says:

      See you soon. Bring us some good luck wehn you come.

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