Day 15 – Knots Don’t Equal Miles

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Wingdam mile marker #7.7 to Towhead Island, mile marker #923.5 Ohio River

(see accompanying Photo Blog for Day 15)

We’ve gotten a good routine of hoisting up the anchor, but this morning didn’t go as smoothly. We had the anchor almost all the way up when it felt like it was caught on something. The windlass pulled it in a little more and we could see that we had snagged an old fishing net that was a tangled mess. I was helping bring in the anchor that morning and had my pocket knife available. Although I could stretch and reach the loop that had our anchor ensnared, there was so much strain on it I couldn’t apply enough pressure to cut through the inch thick mess of monofilament lines that were twisted into a rope. If we had plenty of time I could have cut through it a few strands at a time, but it was a “make it happen” situation. A serrated knife would work better.

Instead Hugh sent Andy forward to use brute strength. As the expression goes “I must have loosened it for you” definitely applied, well maybe at least it seemed that way. Andy reached down and after about two passes with his knife we were free. I breathed a sigh of relief, as I’m sure Hugh did knowing that the prop wasn’t going to get tangled. That could have been a real mess.

The water temperatures have not been above 63 degrees anywhere yet on this trip. And in the Mississippi it was a lot colder than that. It would have been dangerous to send someone into that water to clear the prop for any length of time. A day or so earlier we had been talking about the fact that a 50 year old man in 50 degree water has a 50 percent chance of survival after being in the water for 50 minutes. At 43, I’m the youngest on the boat. And I doubt that the captain would have let his wife go do it, even if I am a good swimmer.

Once we got underway, we were supposed to go through a lock but we passed right by it. Apparently the water level was high enough and the lock was non-functional; a new one was being built at a different place on the river, which we saw the construction site. (See Photos – Day 15.) There were a couple other interesting sights that we saw that we previously hadn’t seen. There were two tows together, one was pulling the other alongside going up river. And we saw a tow pushing three barges in a configuration of two barges in front and one behind the two. Normally there is an equal number of barges across the front of the tow, such as two or three or even six. But this one was two barges, then a single barge all being pushed by the one tow. (See Photos – Day 15.) And there were the casino riverboats. It’s such a strange thought that it’s okay to gamble on one side of the river but not the other.

We didn’t have many miles on the Mississippi, only about 8. At the Ohio River at Cairo, IL (pronounced Karo) there is an invisible change in the river. South of the Ohio River at Cairo it becomes the South Mississippi and north of Cairo it is the North Mississippi. At Cairo the miles start at 0 and increase as the river goes north and they increase as the river goes south to New Orleans. But it was at this point that we headed east onto the Ohio River and began making our way upstream against the current.

“Goodbye 10 knots.” Hugh reset the GPS to indicate our speed now in miles per hour rather than knots per hour as it had indicated since we left Cheboygan, MI.

“It will correspond to the mile markers better,” he said. The mile markers we’d been recording were in statute mile as opposed to nautical miles and we’d been recording speed in knots. Miles per hour, such as the speedometer in your car is calibrated to statute miles or land miles. A statute mile is 5280 feet long. A nautical mile is 6076 feet long. A knot is the time it takes to travel one nautical mile in one hour. Speed recorded in (nautical) knots is 1.15 times faster than miles per hour. And a nautical mile is 1.15 times longer than a statute mile. (Terry thanks for your help with these numbers.) So non-sailors, it is redundant to say, “We did 5 knots per hour,” as here the word hour is redundant since it is part of the definition of knots. The proper language would be, “We did 5 knots” and everyone will know that the distance you went in one hour was five nautical miles.

Our speed slowed down to about 8 knots once we started working our way up the Ohio River and got progressively slower the farther up we went.

“Where are we now,” Bill asked as he popped his head out of the aft hatch.

I laughed as each time someone does this as it reminds me of a gopher poking its head out to see what was going on and if it was safe to come out. Bill’s face usually exemplifies this. He has a particular expression that looks slightly screwed up as if he’s just been woken up from a nap; which generally he had been asleep.

“We’re in Kentucky now,” Hugh informed him. We had passed Paducah, KY.

“Yeah, I thought we’d never leave Illinois.”

We had averaged about 7 miles per hour by the time we came to our anchoring place at Towhead Island at mile marker #923.5 on the Ohio. Skipper Bob describes a spot just below the island as being good anchoring depth but warns to not proceed past the lower third of the island. We pay attention to warnings like that even if it does not specify the exact reason. It is assumed that it gets shallow or there are rocks or tree snags. We do spot some old branches sticking out of the water off our port bow between the island and the mainland. And in the middle of the channel, about half-way up the island is another pleasure boat, Joydawn. She’s either daring or stupid or naive.

After we set anchor we all proceeded below.

“Time to wash your paws and behind your ears,” I tell them to let them know dinner is ready.

“Yumm. It smells great,” Hugh says. He takes off his coat and the handheld VHF comes to life on channel 16.

“Sailboat, sailboat this is the Joydawn.”

“Joydawn this is Appledore.”

“Yeah, I just wanted to let you know that I have 15 feet all the way up the channel here.”

“Switch to channel 72.” Hugh requests as channel 16 is only for hailing and to call the coast guard, it’s not for conversations.

“Well I just thought I’d let you know,” the man on Joydawn said still on channel 16, never even switching over to channel 72.

We shook our heads; he could have all the snags he wanted. We were not going to even open ourselves up to the possibility to swinging into a covered snag. We were quite happy here, where Skipper Bob had said on the lower third of the island.


About juliemckaycovert

I am a therapist, teacher, photographer and published author. I am a lover of life and nature. My husband, Hugh, and I live off the grid on a remote 40 acre island, Shelter Island, just off of Drummond Island in the far eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan. This blog is about my life, a life I thought I'd never be able to live. This blog is about dreams and ideals being manifested. It is about daily events with a backwoods twist. It is about the simple pleasures and wonders being brought forth. I invite you to be inspired and even, as some friends have, live vicariously through my words.
This entry was posted in Appledore, Mississippi River, River, Schooner, Skipper Bob's book, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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