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    day 1...you can't go down the river without one of these
from Beartrap  
7/19/2012 12:41:21 PM

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a guide to what's available all the way from Minneapolis to Albany,Ga.

Beartrap


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   day 1 getting ready to launch from Beartrap   7/19/2012 12:42:54 PM
 

and going over my checklist...

Beartrap


   Day 1 idling away fro launch from Beartrap   7/19/2012 12:46:16 PM
 

looking forward to the trip but not without some apprehension....

Beartrap


   day 1....had to take this guy along from Beartrap   7/19/2012 12:48:16 PM
 

boat runs better with a Wacko team decal...

Beartrap


   Day 1 St. Paul skyline from Beartrap   7/19/2012 12:50:00 PM
 

coudn't see the Minneapolis skyline because of rain and mist...

Beartrap


   Day 1 first lock on upper Mississippi from Beartrap   7/19/2012 12:52:11 PM
 

first of 41 locks I would pass through in next 18 days...

Beartrap


   Day 1...first lock from Beartrap   7/19/2012 12:54:11 PM
 

hopefully got it right this time

Beartrap


   Day 1..fellow river travelers from Beartrap   7/19/2012 12:55:54 PM
 

often wondered just far down the river they made it in their homemade boat/raft...

Beartrap


   Day 1 journal from Beartrap   7/19/2012 1:02:02 PM
 Day 1
Next morning we head north toward Minneapolis through more heavy rain.My original plan to was to launch early Wednesday morning but we are 5-6 hours ahead of schedule traveling north so I think it's possible I could launch mid afternoon and give Scott a head start on driving back
home. Scott checks weather radar on his phone and prediction is for heavy storms all day...Maybe the gloomy weather is affecting my mood but I started to have some real doubts about the wisdom of taking this trip...there's a lot of things that can go wrong and can I handle
them at my age and somewhat limited physical abilities...Scott seems to be reading my thoughts
and tells me "you can go back home and no one will think the less of you....For an hour I waffle
back and forth in my thoughts..go or no go..I know my family is very concerned about me taking
this trip especially this next week when I'll be by myself...am I being selfish for pursuing a
dream without regard for my family....


as we near Minneapolis, I tell Scott to stop at a gas station
so I can put fuel in the boat. I put 12 gallons in the front tank and 6 gallons in the rear tank..We
check the weather report and radar on Scott's phone again and it shows the storms moving
eastward out of the area. Right up the street is a Super Target so we pull in and I buy ham,
cheese, rye bread, Pringles BBQ chips, spicy mustard and a bag of ice..I had made two half
gallons of unsweetened ice tea at motel and was armed with a large container of (my wife)
Peggy's homemade cookies.....Maybe it was the weather report or getting out of that truck and
getting my mind on something else that helped but whatever it was,when I walked out of that
store, the doubts ceased and I was committed to go...I had punched in Watergate marina's
address on my GPS and actually knew where it was from the countless times I had looked at the
river using Google Earth. The Gps keeps telling us to turn off long before we cross the river....If
we had followed the GPS, we might still be wandering around in Minneapolis but as soon as we
crossed the Miss River on I-35, we turned north and a few miles up the river we turn in
Watergate marina located at mile 845 on Miss River,,,Mile 845 means it is 845 miles north
(upriver) of where the Ohio River joins the Mississippi at Cairo,Ill. As we go south the miles will
be descending.
------------------------------------
We pull up to the marina, pay $10 to launch and drive out near the launch ramp to go over my
check list....
Before we launch the boat, let me tell you a little about what we are traveling in and what we
carrying with us....(see photo gallery for boat and river pictures)...
The boat is a 2001 Xpress aluminum duck boat in camo color...The engine is a 2010 Yamaha,
electric start 25 hp 4 stroke engine which means i don't have to mix oil with the gas...it has a
Bimini top made by Attwood and we've got small tools, all the required safety equipment(fire
extinguisher, whistle, throw cushion), a Q-beam light, flashlight..I have a 74lb thrust Minn-Kota
24 volt trolling motor that I can drop in the water if the gas engine fails and it will yank us out
out of harms way in a hurry or take us several miles under electric power if needed. I"ve got a
Cabelas Guidewear rainsuit and a spare rainsuit top,collapsible anchor,plentyof light
rope,emergency rations (granola bars,breakfast cookies) and three life jackets (two are
inflatable)...I've got two waterproof VHF radios for communicating with locks and my cell
phone is in an Aquapac which i hang around my neck..every account i read by river travelers
mentioned at one point or another they dropped their cellphone in the river...I have a
Humminbird model 788 ci GPS/Chartplotter/depthfinder unit loaded with navionics chips. It will
show us the depth, speed, bottom contours, a map of the water we are on and show our position
with a boat symbol moving across a map of the water....I've got my laptop in one of my lockable
gun boxes/lockers that run down each side of the boat interior.My overnight bag with wheels is
in a waterproof bag on front deck and my camera bag is on floor in front of my seat. My seat and
the passenger side locker cushion is covered with waterproof camo cloth that a friend Sam
Moody of Awnings Plus in Albany made for me (waterproof seats are a must)...I've got two 12
gallon gas tanks that gives me an approx. 240-mile range if I fill both of them up.
-----------------------------
I've got a typed 6 page river guide that I composed from many sources..I also had the pages
laminated for waterproofing...it shows every lock and their phone number and VHF channel they
monitor, marina and what's available there (gas, taxi, food, lodging and repairs).Each is
identified by mile marker so I know what is available all along my route, all the way to Albany.
Each item is also identified as rdb or ldb which means it is right or left descending bank....I've
got a back up copy plus a Quimby River guide and a Corp of Engineers guide to river facilities in
plastic bags in the locker..Jerry Rapp from Missouri and Bill Grettin from Illinois both work for
the Corp of Engineers and helped me immensely with information about what i could expect on
the river and were able to provide answers to questions I had..
--------------------------
A light rain is falling so I put on my rainsuit and we put up the Bimini top and cinch down the
straps to make it as taut as possible..I've got a long sleeve light shirt and light weight long pants
on and I'm wearing my unholey crocs (as opposed to my holey crocs with holes in
them)...Shortly before 2:00 p.m. Scott launches me for a test run, engine cranks easily and I run
upstream a short distance then come back to the launch ramp while Scott watches and takes
pictures. We exchange a firm handshake and wish each other a safe trip.
-----------------------------------
At 2:20 pm June 9th, I idle away from the ramp, ease boat up on plane and head south...there's
no turning back now and I head downriver with some real mixed emotions... I'm running
downstream through a large city but the rain and mist is only giving me small glimpses of the tall
buildings.The river isn't very wide so I'm having to pay attention to where I'm going, I try taking
a few pictures and manage to get a few but not what I had hoped for. Within 30 minutes I'm out
of sight of the metro area..possibly on a clear day I could have seen the skyline behind me but
today I missed the views..the rivers narrows and the current is noticeable. I open the engine up
and my top speed is 28 mph and I easily cruise at 24-25 mph..I had checked Yamaha's test data
for similar size boats with this engine and invariably the best gas mileage was about 500 rpms
below top speed so I back off the throttle a little and try to keep my speed at 24-25 mph.The river
is narrow and the water is smooth as a millpond but the day is dark and gloomy.The rain changes
from light to moderate then back to light several times. It's surprisingly snug under the bimini top
and it provides a lot of shelter from the rain but if it's anything but a very light rain, there's
enough rain drops blowing under the top to get you wet unless you're wearing a rainsuit... It's
cool probaly in low 60s but fortunately I'm dressed just right to be comfortable..Watergate
marina had warned me to be careful going through "The Graveyard" and stay in the channel..
little over 20 miles downstream, the river widens into an open pool and the channel snaked back
and forth across a flat littered with fallen trees and stumps ... the wind has picked up and I have
to adjust to find the right speed that produces the least pounding from the waves....Perhaps
pounding is too strong a word, probaly hull slapping is a better choice.
------------------------------
Right before 4 p.m. I approach lock 2...my first lock and I'm a little nervous, I hail the lock on
channel 14 "this is southbound pleasure boat Dumarse, request permission to lock through south
bound"...long pause and they answer....it will be about an hour, please get out of channel to allow
northbound towboat to proceed....I'm off to the side and not in the channel but what appears to be
a homemade raft is right in front of the lock in the channel..it moves over to a shallow slack
water area and drops an anchor. Obviously the lockmaster thought it was me in the channel...I'm
fairly close to the raft and the wind pushes me nearer...when I get closer, one of the young guys
pokes his head out from under a blue tarp they had hanging off the front and I ask where they are
headed....he tells me they have been on the river two days and are going "as far as they can go." I
ask if that means New Orleans and they say yes if we can make it....we talk for a while and they
turn out to be Tim Wilson from Chicago and Ben Lesko from Boston....they built the raft
themselves (see photo gallery), put a 25 hp engine on it and decided to go down the river "just
for hell of it"...I told them "I could relate to that"....we chat a little while, the north bound
towboat "Clyde Butcher" emerges and heads north and I idle into the lock and stop up near the
front..Ben and Tim idle in behind me ... a lock employee throws a rope down and I hold
on..there's almost no turbulence and although I can see the water level is dropping, there is little
sensation of being lowered....20 minutes later the gate opens. I wave goodbye to Tim and Ben,
hail the lockmaster on my radio, thank him and announce "Dumarse southbound".......Sky is
brightening a little, water is glassy and few miles south, pass the town of Hastings Min on the
right...I slow to take a couple of pictures and keep going. My depthfinder shows a consistent 17
ft of depth in the channel.
----------------------
First day is probably a good time to explain how locks work....The upper Mississippi river river
has 27 locks in the 672 mile stretch from St. Louis to Minneapolis/St Paul...each lock is also a
dam that creates about a 30 mile pool (or lake) of water and the purpose is to be able to raise or
lower you from from one pools elevation to another..Prior to building the locks the this stretch of
river wasn't navigable except during periods of very high water or floods because it was a river
running downhill with a lot of falls and rapids. Think of locks and dams as a water staircase ... if
you are coming upstream, the lock and dam raises the water enough so that you can run to the
upper end of the pool,enter a lock, they pump it full of water which floats your boat up as the
water rises. When you are up to the level of the pool above you, they open the gate and you run
the entire lenght of the pool to next lock and they repeat the process into the next pool...Since I'm
going downstream,they lower me from one pool into the next...some pools only lowered me 10-
12 feet, others dropped me 18-20 feet...
--------------------------
.
Nineteen miles downstream I approach lock 3 and they have the green light on and lock gate is
open. I hail the lockmaster and he immediately tells me to enter the lock...idle in,rope is thrown
down and 20 minutes later the gate opens and I idle out....so far so good, I had looked at my river
guide yesterday and knew Ole Miss marina was 5 miles downstream and planned to stop there
for the night...the only unknown was how long it would take to get through the locks...the sun
comes out, my spirits and confidence are soaring.
-------------------------------
At mile marker 791.5, I spot Ole Miss marina and turn in...there's no one there but they had told
me in an e-mail a month previously (when i was checking on taxi availablity) there would be no
charge for tieing up overnight..I pick a slot near the marina office, tie off bow and stern. I've got
a taxi company number on my river guide. I call and ten minutes later a cab pulls up to the
marina. I've got my laptop over one shoulder, my camera bag over another and am pulling my
overnight bag. I put my rainsuit, lifejacket and depthfinder in my lockers and I had installed
heavy duty lock and hasps on each previously..I text family and a few close friends that I'm off
the water as I had promised I would each day and told them I was in Red Wing, Minn.....The first
night I felt a little nervous about leaving Dumarse (but soon got used to it)....Tell the cab that I
need to go to a motel with a restaurant within easy walking distance for an old man.....Lady cab
driver tells me the Super 8 is right across the street from a bowling alley with a restaurant and it
turned out to be perfect choice....As I would the rest of trip, when i got to motel, I tell cab driver
to wait while I check to see if they have rooms available and internet access, they do and I pay
the cab driver $13..probaly highest fare I'd pay the entire trip (couple of cab fares were
$3.25)...Motel is little above a typical Super 8..clean and wi-fi is fast....Get my stuff in the room,
call Peggy so after freshening up it's getting a little late so I walk across the street to the bowling
alley and they have a neat little restaurant tucked into the corner..I scan the menu and see
bratworst (which I love but can't get in south Georgia)...I figured it had to be good this close to
Wisconsin and it was....
Go back to room and e-mail family and several close friends a brief description of my trip down
the river and miles covered..Also post the same description on Bass Fishing Home page, a bass
fishing interactive website that I have read and contributed to for several years..I have done
several journals of fishing tournaments/trips over the years and had posted yesterday that I was
embarking on this trip today....I thought it might attract 30-40 viewers, most of whom would
comment i was crazy for ever starting down the river in a tin boat....Check forecast on Weather
Underground and it's not good for crossing Lake Pepin tomorrow.
also typed my notes for the day up and e-mailed a copy to Peggy in case my laptop crashed(or I
sunk it)
I was tired but had a hard time going to sleep...my mind kept jumping from from one worry
about the trip to another...finally I drift off to asleep about midnight...
First day...we've traveled 54.9 miles and gone through two locks....

Beartrap
   You are missing one from Hammer  7/19/2012 3:51:14 PM
 I know it was not on day 1 but you can always post it with any and everyday post.

Edited 7/19/2012 3:52:55 PM


   Let me know when you get to pool 14. from Arpy #12852 #12852  7/19/2012 9:53:50 PM
 I live 8 tenths of a mile from the Rapids City, Illinois, boat dock. I'll buy at a local eatery of your choice.


Arpy.


   Arpy...we need a time warp machine from Beartrap   7/19/2012 10:08:57 PM
 this trip was done in june 2010....

Beartrap
   Rats! from Arpy #12852 #12852  7/20/2012 9:41:51 PM
 I was looking forward to showing you some of my favorite fishing spots in 14. I guess I need to pay closer attention. I thought you were on the trip now.


Let me know when you get back to this pool of the River anyway. The offer still stands.


Arpy


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