On the river at first light I row easily on calm water as the sun begins to rise. I do enjoy this time of day.
A barge passes me going down river and I know it will tie up lock 25 when I reach there. I decide to go over to a spillway on the opposite bank of the lock. If I can’t get through the spillway I got trouble. Bad decision. The part I want to get over is a low wall but at this spot the wall is still two feet above the water level and then four or five feet down on the opposite side. Rats. I could go through the gates but the water is really rushing and to add to the danger three barges have crashed into the spillway gates and are wedged into the openings by the rushing current. I have no choice I have to cross the river in front of the gates and get to the lock. I row upstream against the current and along the bank so it’s not so strong. After about a quarter mile I picked a spot on the other side and rowed hard. I rowed against the current and across. I made it. The whole time worried I could be sucked through the gates.
I radioed the lock but got no response. The barge finally passes through and I try the radio again. Nothing. I approach the gates and there is a rope hanging down used as a doorbell. I give it a pull and a buzzer sounds and a guy comes down and says they are filling the pit and will get me through. “Oh” he tells me,”There is a 3 wide by 5 long barge waiting to come through on the other side so have a plan.” I think no problem I saw it waiting out in the channel on the other side.
I lock through and the gates open. I turn and look and a black steel wall of the bows of three barges blocks me from getting out. “Ah!” I yell to the deck hands “Are you moving? Let me get out.” There was an opening about 12 feet wide between the 20 foot wall of steel and the 20 foot wall of concrete. I hauled ass through the opening and out into the rough water of the spillway. Immediately the engines of the towboat come to life to push the barges through. I wish I had pictures of my face when those gates opened.
I settle down and look at the wide expanse of this new section of the river and there it was, a jet ski. A guy on a jet ski just sitting in the middle of the river. I have not seen another boat of any kind, except for barges, in two and a half days. I’m not sure what to make of it. He takes off and passes me with a wave. A couple miles down I hear it. the roar of pleasure boat engines. As I made my way further and the day grew longer more and more came by. oh and everyone is going full throttle. The anxiety returned and the fear of being run down by a drunk, amatuer boat owner, going full throttle. They are all speed boats and this is way worse than any other crazy boater weekend.
I had reached St louis’ sphere of affluence.
By 3:30, with temps in the mid 80s and tired from dodging boats and fighting waves I reached a sandbar and called it a day. It was a party beach and I waited in the hot sun at the end not really wanting to talk to these people.
Eventually most left and I got a better spot on the beach. The sun was setting and I was unpacking when an older woman came by. She admired my boat and eventually two other guys came over. They asked if I had ice and I explained I hadn’t had a chance since Hannibal 3 days ago. They gave me a bag of ice which I was so grateful for. I could ice my back and cool off from a hot day.
“Do you have an anchor?” one guy asks.
“Nope I’ll just pull it up.”
“Better anchor it. A barge will come by and wash it away.”
“Hope the critters won’t get you.”
“You know if you set up over there nobody will mess with you.”
“No. Nobody will mess with me.” I said clearly and confidently with a smile.
I am hairy and shaggy. Dirty and smelly. Hungry and lean. No. Nobody will mess with me. I AM a river rat!