While listen to the rumbling of the rails I started to ponder the problem I had to face back at the ramp. The more I thought about it the more convinced I was that I would not be able to drag Therapy from the quagmire. I started weighing my options.
I thought about just trying to make a run for home leaving the truck and trailer there. Once there I could tie Therapy at the dock and have my wife pick me up. From there we could make the drive to get the truck and then back to retrieve the boat. The problem is this would add more than 80 river miles to the trip and an additional fuel stop. I estimated it would require about 4 hours and I wasn’t sure I could make it in before dark. It would be very close.
The other option was to call my wife and have her drive to the ramp and pick up the truck and then continue on to Alton Marina and pull me out there. This would work but I knew she was committed until at least 4:30 pm so it would probably be 6:00 at the earliest before she could arrive.
Still, this seemed like the best choice. I gave her a call on the cell phone and explained my situation. She agreed that this made the most sense and I tried to give her directions to where the truck was parked. Not easy as she has never been in that part of St. Louis before but I was confident she could find it. Now at least I could sleep a little easier. I nodded off about 11:00 and although I am sure the trains continued to roll by I don’t remember hearing a single one.
When I woke the sun was already rising and I looked out the portlight to see if because of the fog I should just roll over and go back to sleep. To my surprise I found it to be overcast but only a little haze to hamper my view. I quickly dressed crawled out of the berth. The outside of windows surrounding the cabin were dripping from the morning dew but because I had dropped the aft curtain enclosing the cabin everything inside was dry. I went outside where I found it to be about 50 degrees and hauled in the anchors. The Honda fired as usual on the first hit and I idled away dropping the throttle when I was sure I was clear of the dikes.
As I made my way downstream I decided to handle the Missouri a little different than yesterday. After spending most of the day navigating its ever-wandering channel with one eye glued to the chart, I thought I had developed a feel for how the river works. There is a method to the layout of the dikes and in combination with the daymarkers and a little experience the river becomes easier to interpret. Today I made the decision to forget the chart and just read the river. This way I can keep my eyes on the water which should make the return trip safer and more enjoyable.
Heading east and watching the shoreline pass by it comes to mind that unlike many rivers the Missouri has very little industry on its shores. I have passed one power plant and a couple of water plants but that has been about it. I will say there has been some extraordinary homes built in various places on the hills and bluffs along its shores.
With the help of the current the miles pass quickly and by about 11:30 I find my self at the Missouri’s end. Thinking about the ramp situation I decide to lock back through 27 and see if by chance I can drag Therapy out. Again I am allowed to enter the lock with minimum delay and after about 30 minutes am on my way.
I approach the ramp area cautiously as I know it is shallow. When I feel things starting to drag I shut down and kick of my shoes and enter the water much more gracefully than at Hermann. It appears I am a little farther from shore than before but don’t give it much thought as I start to walk Therapy in. Suddenly it drags hard and I can’t move it forward. Funny, as this is exactly were I floated her out the morning before.
Now sitting solid enough that the current wouldn’t move her so I decided to take a stroll and try to determine the situation. As I walked in the ankle deep water I looked closer at the shoreline I suddenly understood. Overnight the Mississippi’s water level had dropped about 6 to 8 inches and where Therapy was a boat yesterday, today she is an anchor.
I scouted the entire area and finally found a narrow channel upstream and near the shore that was a little deeper. I broke her free and made our way to the end of the mud-covered ramp. I walked up and got the truck but had fairly well decided it was going to be a wasted effort. My first attempt allowed me to gain about 4 feet but then the tires broke loose and that was it.
My only other thought was to create some artificial traction. The Mississippi is blessed or cursed depending on your point of view with many large sand bars and there was one beside the ramp. I had a small bucket in the back of the truck and proceeded to haul sand over and cover the mud slick surface of the ramp. It took three more tries and lots of sand but I finally was able to break the grip of the river and pull Therapy to dry ground. I was pleased and I knew my wife would be pleased not having to make the hour and a half drive to Alton. I strapped Therapy down on the trailer and headed for home.
Checking the instruments and the GPS I found that I had covered 227 miles and lightened the load by 26 gallon of gas (8.7 mpg). I also had put my apprehensions about the Missouri River to rest. Navigating it was a little more demanding than some rivers but still and enjoyable trip as long as you are willing to pay attention.
Even though my string of having an initial problem is still unbroken I am becoming more comfortable with it. I seem to be slowly coming to the obvious conclusion that the river has its own way of doing things. It often will present problems but also offer solutions. It gave me with a mud-covered ramp but also sand to make it useable. It had many dangerous rock dikes but they also provide excellent anchorage protected from the current. When I was wondering about the river ahead it sent me probably the only guy for miles that has seen it to its end.
So I have come to the conclusion that as long as there is fuel in the tank and no holes in the hull there is no reason to get upset. Here the old saying – “Just go with the flow” is not a cliché but in fact the very essence of river travel.