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Week #4, 25.September - 01.October, 2005

Pittsburgh PA to Ohioview, PA: Allegheny Mile 6 to Ohio Mile 32


Week four began at Morgan's house in Somerset, PA where we had kept our vessel, the BPV Libelula while we were canoeing on the upper Allegheny River. Given our experiences thus far in the shallow waters of the upper Allegheny we had gathered enough information that led us to want to make some changes to our vessel. The biggest change was a modification to the paddlewheels so that they could be pulled out of the water whenever we had to use the engine. We had discovered that when we needed to use our outboard, the paddlewheels would keep on spinning ferociously though the water! This added drag hindered our speed, and also caused a lot of unnecessary wear and tear on the paddlewheels themselves. To fix this problem, we added a hinge to the paddlewheel support arms (pictured above left) allowing them to rotate 90 degrees and be removed from the water. Another thing we did in Somerset was to finish the electrical system on the boat. We removed about 250 pounds of batteries from the vessel, as our experiences during the first few weeks suggested we had overestimated the amount of electricity we needed to store onboard. We ended up having a bank of two small batteries that can be recharged by the solar panel on the roof of our vessel or by the alternator inside of the outboard engine. To finish up our electrical system, we installed our navigation lights that we are required to turn on during twilight or if visibility is restricted, for example when it is raining. We don't travel at night on the river because it is difficult to see where we are going, and it is also more difficult for some of the large boats traveling on the river to see us. As part of our electrical system, we also installed a radio so that we can communicate with other boats on the river and people who operate the many locks through which we'll be traveling. The electrical system on our vessel is a 12 Volt DC system, very similar to what is found in most cars. The picture above and right shows a small inverter plugged into our main switchboard that provides us with an outlet like you would find in a house (120 Volt AC) allowing us to recharge our computer and use other small household devices.

The modifications to the vessel in Somerset took awhile to complete and provided us with an opportunity to repack the vessel and keep onboard only the things we really needed. We also worked hard on a major update to this website while we had an internet connection more reliable than the one we are able to get over the cell phone while on the river. We finally pulled out of Somerset, PA on Wednesday morning with a boat that was lighter, more organized, and better equipped to handle the nearly 2,000 miles of river that remained before us. We had two schools lined up for this week, one in Rochester, PA and the other in Toronto, OH. In order to keep to our schedule, we drove in a car to both of these schools, as we would not be passing through them on the river until the coming weekend. Dealing with the shallow water in the upper Allegheny and the subsequent vessel modifications set us back time-wise from our original plan, but our cause was not yet lost. The above photo shows the Libelula being launched once again into the Allegheny River with the help of the folks at Allegheny Marina, located a few miles north of the city of Pittsburgh. We were warmly welcomed at the Allegheny Marina, and stayed there for two nights as we continued to make preparations for yet another departure.

After getting the boat back in the water, visiting our schools scheduled for the week, and getting things as ship-shape as possible aboard the Libelula, we departed the Allegheny Marina on Friday afternoon and headed towards our first large city, Pittsburgh, PA. On our way we came across an encounter with another stern-wheel vessel, the E.L. Thumper pictured to the right. We thought some people might have never seen a real paddlewheel vessel before, so we thought we'd take a photo! At one point in time, large boats of this style would move cargo up and down the river. They aren't used so much for cargo transport today, having been replaced by the more powerful propeller-driven diesel powered towboats, but they still are a relatively common sight in certain parts of the rivers.

As we made our way into Pittsburgh we were greeted with an array of bridges, of which there are quite a variety! The city of Pittsburgh is built on the point of land at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers, so most ways in and out of the city involve crossing over some sort of bridge. The photo of the bridge on the left shows a safety net with an interesting design tied to the span of the arch, which is presumably undergoing some sort of maintenance.

We passed through the city of Pittsburgh proper during the early morning hours on Saturday, as we were forced to get an incredibly early start due to the Head of the Ohio regatta that was taking place that very morning. The Head of the Ohio is a day-long event where crew teams from schools in the east cost and mid-west come to compete. They race on the Allegheny River, which is closed to all other traffic for the duration of the event. We passed the finish line for the event just as rowers were beginning to bring their boats to the water, narrowly avoiding yet another delay. As we floated by, we also had a grand view of Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers football team.

Just beyond Heinz Field and the finish line of the regatta is the head of the the Ohio river, as the name of the crew event suggests. There is a large fountain at the point of land where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers join to create the Ohio River. Where exactly does one river cease and another begin? Morgan ponders this very question as he looks across the point in Pittsburgh and relishes the last moments on the Allegheny River. For this river journey, such a significant confluence will happen again only one more time, when the Ohio River flows into the Mississippi almost 1,000 miles downstream.

Mere moments after entering the Ohio River, we are greeted by the first of many barges that will cross our path as we head downriver. There is some barge traffic on the lower Allegheny,but it pales in comparison to the amount of goods being moved up and down the Ohio River. You may notice in the photo to the right a large family of small ducks swimming quickly to the left to avoid the oncoming barge headed downstream and to the right. You will be happy to hear that the little ducks made it safely out of the path of the large array of barges being pushed by a towboat. We try to learn what we can from the ducks and also keep ourselves and the BPV Libelula out of harms way. The river can be a place to have fun and explore, but it is also a place on which many people work and live everyday. We do our best to respect the rules and the folks who work on the river and try not to hinder commercial traffic. Besides, it just makes sense to stay out of the way of boats big enough to squash you like a bug.

Above is a panoramic photo of the rivers of the city of Pittsburgh taken as the sun is rising, looking back on the water from where we've already come as the water carries us to wherever it is that we are going.


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River Water Works    *   Boswell, PA 15531 * phone: 814.267.0167

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