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Week #9, 30.October - 05.November, 2005

Louisville, KY to Derby, IN: Ohio River Mile 603 to Mile 696


Louisville treated us so well that we decided to stick around past our scheduled departure date of 30.October. A number of projects were yet to be finished as well and the prospect of completing the work, especially with the conveniences of a large city at our disposal, was too much to resist.   Among the several important things we accomplished was the addition of a large VHF radio antenna, which was mounted to the roof of the galley/head area.   In the photo, Aimee proudly points up to the location of the new antenna, which has already made our passages through the locks much smoother and gives us the ability to listen to weather reports. In addition to being able to talk with the lockmasters and other vessels, the new VHF antenna provides an increase range of communication should we ever be in distress and need to contact the outside world. We also worked on installing a depth sounder, doing maintenance on the engine, and completing a significant update of the website using the free high speed wi-fi internet service available to us at the Louisville waterfront.

On Monday 31.October, 2005, we visited David T.Wilson Elementary School in Bradenburg, KY, about forty miles downstream of Louisville.   Because we had decided to stay in Louisville a few extra days, we awoke bright and early Monday morning and drove to the school in a car with Aimee's dad, who had come to visit the boat. We had a great time doing presentations for the fourth graders--they even had some Halloween costume suggestions for us! In the photo to the left, Morgan and Aimee help several of the students set up their watershed model while the rest of the class looks on.


Spending the extra days in Louisville did allow us some free time to do a little extra exploring.   Among the marvels we came across was this massive baseball bat, raised in honor of the Louisville Slugger!


Along the riverfront, we also noted several of these signs posted warning the public about the nearby presence of a combined sewer outfall (CSO).   We were particularly interested in this because our friend Heather from ORSANCO up in Cincinnati had informed us about the CSOs.   She explained that the CSOs date back to a time when cities combined their storm sewer and sanitation sewage collection systems in a single discharge pipe.   The problem comes when it rains--the collection areas are designed to send overflow straight into the river, carrying both rainwater and unprocessed human and industrial waste directly into the water.   As the sign warns, after a heavy storm it is especially important to stay out of the river to avoid getting sick from the addition of polluted waters.

Nearby, a sign of a different sort told of the many notable historical figures that had visited the wharf where the Belle of Louisville makes her home.   Perhaps they arrived on a steamboat similar to the Belle herself! It is interesting and quite humbling to consider how many important people have traveled to the very same wharf where we found ourselves.

Wednesday evening, while Morgan was hard at work on boat projects, Aimee played hooky and went on an important investigative mission: a ride on an historical steamboat.   A rare event was taking place: the steamboat Natchez , from New Orleans, LA, was scheduled to race the Belle of Louisville , something which had not happened since the early 1980s.   What occasioned the Natchez 's visit is a story similar to many others; a refugee from Hurricane Katrina, she and her crew had headed north with the hopes of raising money for the Bush/Clinton Katrina Fund.   While the Natchez is relatively young--she was built in the 1970s--her steam engines were originally used by a sternwheeler in the early 1900s.   Here, she powers by us later on in the week as she headed downriver past Brandenburg, KY.

As one might speculate from the magnitude of the wake behind her, she beat the Belle without a problem. Indeed, her website claims she is “the undisputed champion of the Mississippi, never having been beaten in a race.” The two hour trip also included dinner, live music, and a chance to go visit the engine room where it was possible to see the giant arms that rotate the paddle wheel, as well as the equally large gears that control the angle of the rudder that is used to steer the boat. Heading up river from Louisville that evening also afforded a beautiful view of the city in the light of the setting sun as the Belle worked to keep up with the Natchez.

We finally bid Louisville adieu Friday morning. Before we could proceed much further down the river, though, we had to take the boat through the McAlpine Lock at Louisville—more complicated than it sounds because of high traffic and the strange set-up due to the islands in the same area. When we got through to the other side, we were greeted by a new challenge. Strong southerly winds and an approximately 20 mile long straight run of the river had whipped up the water, resulting in a choppy river with at least three foot waves—by far the roughest waters we had experienced on the Ohio. It took several hours and all our energy to make it a short ways downriver and we ended up just outside “the greater Louisville metropolitan area” that night. As we made our way down the Ohio the next few days, the wind dropped a bit in intensity and we were able to enjoy the river—including admiring these cows finding their own way to use the river as a giant drinking fountain. We were also able to help two locals aboard a small pleasure craft who had accidentally let their motor run out of gas. We passed over a gallon of gasoline that got them on their way—allowing us to reciprocate a small part of the many kindnesses visited upon us while on this journey!


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