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Day 18

Location: Cairo, Illinois, Mile 0 of the Upper Mississippi River, Mile 981 of the Ohio River

Distance Travelled Today: 53 Nautical Miles

Total Trip Distance: 720 Nautical Miles

In early September, 1861, General Ulysses Grant moved up the Ohio River from his headquarters in Cairo, Illinois with two gunboats and three steamboats filled with union soldiers. With little resistance, Grant took Paducah, Kentucky and Smithland, just upriver. In one short maneuver, Grant took control of the mouths of the Tennessee River and the Cumberland River dealing a severe early blow to the Confederacy. Tomorrow, we will retrace Grant’s steps as we turn off the Mississippi River and begin a 60-mile slog up the Ohio to the Cumberland River, and on to Barkley Lake. Despite Grant’s victories, there will still be a dramatic change as we leave the land of Lincoln and enter the land of Colonel Sanders.

It was cold this morning as we bought fuel and supplies in Cape Girardeau, but at least the rain has stopped and. by late afternoon, the sky was actually clearing. We had hoped to cover more distance today but fueling was slow and we didn’t get underway until 10 am. We have 90 statute miles to go (upstream) and three locks to traverse to get to Green Turtle Bay on Lake Barkley (Cumberland River). We’ll be lucky to make it by Friday afternoon and we are rescheduling our crew change to Saturday instead of Friday.

The Lovely Laura Lee had trouble sleeping last night because I was apparently snoring. During the night, she escaped to the forward cabin for peace and quiet. For the next several hours, she heard clanging noises which she finally figured out were logs coming out the diversion ditch and hitting the bow of Steel Magnolia. Perplexed, the Lovely Laura Lee found herself having to choose between clanging logs in the forward cabin and me sawing logs in the master. She chose the clanging logs as she was still forward when I arose this morning. 

We have been astonished at the lack of boating facilities in this part of the world. For almost 300 miles from St. Louis to Lake Barkley, there is only one marina and one fuel dock. Tomorrow will be our third straight night of anchoring out —fun, but every now and then it would be nice to get off, take a walk, and explore a town. The rivers fluctuate wildly up here though, and often flood. Pleasure boat traffic is light and transient, making it hard to run a profitable marina. So I suppose there will continue to be a lack of facilities for pleasure boats.

We get underway early again tomorrow, just after 6 am. We ventured out into the Ohio River this afternoon just to sample the current and we were only able to do about 5 knots upstream. We’ll have a long day tomorrow following in General Grant’s footsteps. 

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