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The River: Father Time is invisible passenger on big adventures of the Clyde; it’s time to say goodbye


The riverboat captain is a storyteller, and Captain Don Sanders will be sharing the stories of his long association with the river — from discovery to a way of love and life. This a part of a long and continuing story.

By Capt. Don Sanders
Special to NKyTribune

The past week saw the CLYDE’s crew become three after my brother, Bob Sanders, met us at Owensboro on Independence Day in time for a fireworks extravaganza. Before Bob met the boat, Everett Dameron and I easily “made” Old Lock 52 and Smithland Lock. We passed Irish Jimmy’s Bar, Rosiclare, Elizabethtown, Cave-in-Rock and Old Shawneetown before another lockage at John T. Meyer Lock and Dam. Following a restful night spent free of charge at NuPlaza Yacht Club below Evansville, Indiana, the CLYDE paddled past Evansville, and as we prepared to approach Newburgh Lock, the engine threw a pulley on the raw water feed pump that Ev promptly repaired; the new lock at Newburgh passed as a notation in the Log Book.

Not to let the opportunity pass, brother Bob Sanders starting clicking pics inside the McAlpine Lock chamber.

After the last aerial bomb exploded on the 4th of July 2012 and its dying embers fizzled above the waters of the Ohio River, we spent the night tied to the esplanade of old Lock 46. The next day found us anchored at Tell City, in the Hoosier State, where Ev rowed ashore to find a replacement pulley while I stayed aboard to remove the starboard paddlewheel drive chain and readjust the shim alignments. At Cannelton Dam, Bob made his first lockage in spite of his many years “messing about” on boats. Above the lock, after staying the night at Rocky Point Marina, I overfilled the engine oil after finding black oil in the bilge; so CLYDE needed a $60 pump-out before departure the next morning.
 
The rest of the day of the sixth was pleasant as the CLYDE leisurely cruised the deep waters impounded behind Cannelton Dam before anchoring for the evening at Mile 683.6 in 20 feet of water. The 7th of July saw a close call at the treacherous Wolf Creek Bend, and we met a band of Civil War reenactors skirmishing at Brandenburg, Kentucky, the site of Confederate General John Hunt Morgan’s crossing into Yankee territory during that most uncivil conflict.

Once past Salt River, we found an anchorage behind a “black” buoy at Mile 629.4 where, after resting for the night, the adventure continues with a relatively short distance to go to our final destination.

Departing Four Mile Creek, Mile 629.4, GLORY of ROME, & McAlpine L&D. 
Sunday, 08 July 2012

LOG.

As soon as the CLYDE left McAlpine Lock, entered the Portland Canal, and passed beneath the vertical lift span of the Fourteenth Street Bridge, a thunderstorm began that increased ferocity the further upstream the boat went.

* Departed last night’s anchorage, Mile 629.4 at 0750. Upbound.
* 1000 -1015. Fuel transfer. Topped Day Tank ½ gal. from Jerry Can.
* 1020. Passed GLORY of ROME – Aztar Casino boat. Mile 617.0.
* 1111. Below Cane Run coal-fired power plant.
* 19th Century Mason’s Art, the sewer outlet at the Foot of Broadway Street, Louisville, KY.
* Sherman Minton Bridge and New Albany, IN where famed Racer ROBT. E. LEE was built.
* 1230. Approach to McAlpine Lock. Ev steering while Bob and I shot photos.

Not to let the opportunity pass, brother Bob Sanders starting clicking pics inside the McAlpine Lock chamber as the CLYDE began a 30-some-foot lift to the upper level of the Ohio River behind the dam. The first major engineering project on the Ohio River and the first official name of the system of canal locks was the Louisville and Portland Canal, that was completed in 1830 to allow shipping traffic to navigate around the Falls of the Ohio.

As soon as the CLYDE left McAlpine Lock, entered the Portland Canal, and passed beneath the vertical lift span of the Fourteenth Street Bridge, a thunderstorm began that increased ferocity the further upstream the boat went. At the head of the canal, a tow of “red flag” barges was holding for us. The wind had increased to 30 miles-per-hour or more, and I saw that the only way to get past the dangerous tow was to drive the CLYDE up into the wind and pass on “one whistle,” or portside-to-portside. Ev had been steering and had an agreement to pass between the barges and a stone dike, but I saw the wind driving the CLYDE onto the rocks if she continued on that course. At that point, I assumed control of the boat and radioed the towboat that I was going to come around on the other side of his barges.

Once the storm blew past, the CLYDE pulled over at the Juniper Beach Dock, Louisville, where Chief Engineer Jenny P. Howe, Jr. and Phillip Johnson were waiting as Bob Sanders snubs mooring line.

The towboat pilot never realized, or cared, what an arduous chore it was to keep the little sternwheeler headed straight with the wind howling. His surly comment returning over the radio was: “Well, pick one side and take it.” I replied, “Not as easily said than done on this boat.”

By the time the CLYDE was above the canal and under the Louisville bridges, the storm raged viciously. Much to my delight, though, the spunky paddlewheeler behaved magnificently. I was so proud of her!  Sometime later when I told Ed Newcomb, CLYDE’s builder, how well his masterpiece stood up to the gale, he replied, “The boat was never built to handle such a storm.” While Ed insinuated that it must have been the skill of the pilot that brought the boat through the worst of the weather, I do give myself some credit, but I know from that experience, and from a much meaner storm less than a month later, the Rafter CLYDE is a very stable boat in high winds and foul weather.  

Once the storm blew past, the CLYDE pulled over at the Juniper Beach Dock, Louisville, where Chief Engineer Jenny P. Howe, Jr. and Phillip Johnson were waiting. A short time after everything settled down and the boat made fast, our brother Richard came aboard to pick up Bob and drive him home to Covington, only an hour and a half away by car. While aboard the CLYDE, one of us mentioned, “This could be the last time we all are together…”, but happily, nearly a year later at Bob’s house, we met again for a grill-out. Dick lives and works overseas. Sometimes he will be away for a long while, and time is unkind for three aging fellows born in the 1940s.
 

“This could be the last time we all are together…”, but happily, nearly a year later at Bob’s house, we met again for a grill-out.

After my brothers departed, the crew was once more just Ev and me, so we relaxed, chatted with our visitors, and elected to stay at Juniper Beach until morning. Kenny and I worked together on the DELTA QUEEN in the early 1970s, long before Phillip Johnson was born.

Phillip, however, is of the new generation on the steamboat scene and a significant player in the effort to get the DELTA QUEEN back into overnight passenger service. He also “strikes and fires” on the BELLE of LOUISVILLE and is the Chief Engineer of the CLYDE. Among his many other activities, Phillip includes being the father of three active youngsters.

Travis C. Vasconcelos, a long-associated steamboatman, best known as a talented “Professor of the Steam Calliope,” who also served as a “Riverlorian” in the service of the Steamboat AMERICAN QUEEN, was another welcome visitor aboard the Alma to Aurora river traveler.

A New Day Dawning.
Juniper Beach Dock, Utica, Payne Hollow, Madison. Lamb, Carrollton, & Mi. 543.
Monday,  09 July 2012

After my brothers departed, the crew was once more just Ev and me, so we relaxed, chatted with our visitors, and elected to stay at Juniper Beach until morning.

LOG.

* Morning Fog. High, today, 90 degrees – Cooler!
* CLYDE prepared for departure from Juniper Beach Dock, Louisville.
* Fuel On- 22.2 gals in # 1 tank.
* 0905. Departed Juniper Beach Dock.
* Builders Marine, Utica, IN, to port, where my last professional command, the Casino Vessel GRAND VICTORIA II spent some five months alongside in 1995 while waiting for the construction of her dock in Rising Sun, Indiana.
* Passed the McBride Fleet to starboard. McBride Towing has been serving the Ohio Marine Industry for five generations, dating back to the late 1800s. For a time, the Grand Vic crew parked in the McBride car lot and a McBride towboat ferried them across the river to the casino boat tied off on barges at Builder’s, directly across the river when the gambling boat had yet to have a ramp connecting it to the Indiana shore.
* 1000 – 1017. Transferred fuel.
* 1031 –  Wow…a Shantyboat made into a Camp! More to my taste.

Long stretches of open river, known as “reaches,” stretched as far as the eye could see. Twelve-Mile Island seemed to be losing more ground on the upstream side that takes the brunt of the constant current. Above the island, on the Utica side, quite a conglomeration of new “luxury housing,” looking more like cookie-cutter boxes, have sprung up in the past several years since I was last here. The log further notes: “Sycamores have replaced the giant Cottonwoods as the predominant tree.”

Wow…a Shantyboat made into a Camp! More to my taste.

LOG.
* 1520. Passed Payne Hollow, Mile 567.3, the home of Harlan and Anna Hubbard. Made several guesses as to which creek was theirs, and finally decided on the last choice not far below Spring Creek Light.
* Took several pics of creek bars and Plowhandle Point – both favorite landmarks and subjects for Harlan’s artwork. 
* Hanover College atop the Hoosier hills. The green-domed building peeking above the trees is Hendrick’s Hall, the home of the National Rivers Institute. A few years back, I was assured of a teaching position there, but a new director came along, and that was the last I heard of the opportunity… not even a letter or a phone call. How disappointing.
* 1600 -1615. Fuel Transfer from # 2 to Day Tank. 
* 1700. Beautiful Madison, IN and the 1844 Greek Revival home of James F. D. Lanier, on the left. 
* 1724, Mile 557.2. Madison Highway Bridges. A new bridge under construction alongside the old one. The first time such an engineering undertaking has happened in the bridge-building world.

Took several pics of creek bars and Plowhandle Point – both favorite landmarks and subjects for Harlan’s artwork.

* M/V CLYDE BUTCHER in span – Smooth Sailing.
* Passed Lamb, IN and the home of “Indian George” Ash; said to be the oldest brick house in Indiana, built around 1798 or ’99. The house is vacant, and the adjacent home and property owned by Captain Steve and Barbara Huffman who were not at home when the CLYDE passed. (The Huffmans have since sold all their boats, including the BARBARA H, and the historic Lamb property.)
* Mouth of Kentucky River, and Carrollton, KY – all in one fast pass with nowhere to tie up. So we paddled upstream to Mile 543, Indiana side, and tossed the trusty & faithful anchor for the night. 

My Sanders ancestors settled on the banks of Eagle Creek, just a short distance up the Kentucky River, in 1788. At one time, my 5th Great-grandfather Nathaniel Sanders (1741-1826), owned 20 square miles of this enticing countryside I reflected, while reminding myself I owned not one square inch. 

Mile 543, Ghent, Vevay, WKRC-TV Interview With Joe Webb.
Clear, Beautiful, Cooler
Tuesday, 10 July 2012. 

LOG.
* 0730- Finally up for the day- lazy and tired.
* Not certain if I want the trip to end. The CLYDE has become a way of life- sort’ a.
* Departed mile 543.0 @ 0850.

1724, Mile 557.2. Madison Highway Bridges. A new bridge under construction alongside the old one. The first time such an engineering undertaking has happened in the bridge-building world.

* Gallatin Steel Mill Marine Terminal. After spending the equivalent of sixteen years in the scrap metal recycling industry, scenes of scrap metal are still of intense interest.
* 1015. Ghent, KY, founded by an ancestral uncle in 1814 and named for the Treaty of Ghent ending the War of 1812 as suggested by the Hon. Henry Clay, a Sanders family close friend. 
* 1020. Landed at Vevay, IN. Evelyn Kittle, my long-time casino boat associate, was on the shore waiting for CLYDE’s landing and assisted with the BUSTER Skiff.
* Another of CLYDE’s Angels, steamboat fan, Danny Back, earned his wings while he was on the Vevay dock to warn us of the danger of rocks if landing at the seemingly ideal docking facility. Thanks to Dan, we dropped the anchor and BUSTER was launched to retrieve Joe Webb, WKRC-TV Cincinnati News Reporter, and his crew.
* Joe Webb, Intern-Jessica, and Ed-the-Photographer came aboard the CLYDE via BUSTER for a taped interview.
* Joe interviewed me in the pilothouse and Ev on the Main Deck.
* Dan and Evelyn remained onshore – Dan graciously helped with the BUSTER passengers getting in and out of the “tender” (tipsy) little boat.
* Departed for Markland Lock at 1205- Great Experience!

Mouth of Kentucky River, and Carrollton – all in one fast pass with nowhere to tie up. So we paddled upstream to Mile 543, Indiana side, and tossed the trusty & faithful anchor for the night.

Markland Dam – Our Last Lock! Sugar Creek Bend, Rising Sun, & Aurora!

* At anchor- awaiting Markland Lock @ 1315- Mile 533.2.
* Anchor fouled, but EV moved CLYDE into deeper water with the heavy anchor dragging where I pulled it up… then I was “dragging!”
* Cousin Tina Knapp watching from Visitors’ Gallery on the wall. CLYDE blew a toot for Tina!
* Markland Lock – 1825 to 1850.
* Towboat waiting on the upper wall – I asked him to back up to give CLYDE room-enough to depart. He graciously acquiesced. 
* Called on the radio and thanked the towboat pilot and Markland Lock for their cooperation.

Log.

*2020 – 2040 hrs. Sugar Creek Bend, my all-time favorite bend on the Ohio River (Miles 552 to 554) where my parents, Jess and Anna Margaret Sanders, had their picture taken at the navigation light (523.0) in 1937, soon after they were married, and again in 1987- fifty years later.
* The DELTA QUEEN always slid smoothly around the nearly-180-degree turn, downbound. Also, a smooth bend to steer northbound.
* Continued running after dark while following in the wake of a towboat all the way into Rising Sun, IN.
* Landed at the city dock at five minutes past midnight, Wednesday, 11 July 2012. Ten miles by the river from CLYDE’s destination – Aurora, Indiana.

We dropped the anchor and BUSTER was launched to retrieve Joe Webb, WKRC-TV Cincinnati News Reporter, and his crew.

Rising Sun, Aurora, & the End of a Grand Adventure.
Wednesday, 11 July 2012

* Up fairly early – posted pics on Rafter CLYDE Facebook page. 
* A friend of Ev’s drove me to Aurora to buy hydraulic fluid, grease, drinking water, etc.
* Stopped by my house, but no one wanted to return with me to the boat. 
* Departed Rising Sun at 1245 – “Buzzed” Rabbit Hash, blew the whistle and loud horn – no response ashore. Same at GRAND VICTORIA II, my casino boat command for sixteen years.
* Passed Anderson Plantation – Blew a salute. Someone appeared and waved. 
* 1300. Waved at no one in particular as CLYDE came abreast my family’s former acreage above Rabbit Hash.
* 1314. River Ridge RV Park, KY, where my folks maintained a camper van for many years.
* 1422. Kirby Rock Light, Mile 500.0.
* 1430. Split Rocks. Glacially-deposited rocks are larger than houses. 
* 1440. CLYDE entered Laughery Creek to Lighthouse Point Marina.
* 1450. ALL FAST! End of the Successful Journey of the CLYDE from Alma to Aurora!

Epilogue

Dan helped a lot with the BUSTER passengers getting in and out of the “tender” (tipsy) little boat.

Soon after the CLYDE arrived safely after her nearly 1,300-mile adventure, Everett departed for home before my son Jonathan Hartford Sanders came aboard and filled the bill. Together, Jon and I moved the CLYDE to another dock at Lighthouse Point Yacht Club. That night, I slept in my bed at home for the first time in over a month. Later on, Lighthouse YC owner, Earl Bratfish, told me I did not have to pay for my stay at the marina, and he even invited me to stay longer. But as I had much work to do on the CLYDE, I decided, instead, to moor the boat at WaterWays Marina on Hogan Creek on the east side of town where I had more latitude to repair, restore, and paint the paddlewheeler.

The CLYDE and her crew won the “race” with the insurance company after arriving within the time constraints they imposed to insure the paddlewheeler during the delivery trip. Much to my dismay, however, the underwriters refused to extend the coverage long-enough so Jonathan and I could get the CLYDE inspected at another marina, east of Cincinnati, that had the necessary equipment to pull the 53-footer ashore for a marine survey. Consequently, we made the trip there and back, without insurance protection. On the way home after obtaining a positive inspection by Captain William “Bill” Judd, an accredited marine surveyor, we ran into a summer squall unlike anything I’d been in since 1978 while experiencing a life-changing encounter with a tropical storm in the Atlantic Ocean after departing Bermuda sailing on a small Offshore Supply Vessel bound for Norfolk, Virginia. 

Markland Lock – 1825 to 1850. CLYDE’s Last Lock

Jonathan acted as fearlessly and as professionally as anyone I have ever met on the river or at sea, although that storm was his first experience in such a life-threatening situation as we encountered on that hot, unstable summer day. After 45 minutes of raging, the storm moved on leaving the CLYDE and her crewmen a bit tattered, but still floating fearlessly. Though I hope never to have to experience such a blow again on the paddlewheeler, I know she would be up to the challenge. And though Ed Newcomb may not have deliberately built the paddleboat to withstand such storms as the two I experience aboard her, there is specific intrinsic stability about the design and build that brought the sturdy vessel through the two mean blows I witnessed. 

Once we returned home with a positive marine survey, I enrolled the CLYDE with an insurance underwriter other than the one who allowed us to risk that hazardous journey financially unprotected. 

In the intervening years since CLYDE arrived from Wisconsin, she has been thoroughly restored, rebuilt, and refurbished. The loud banging noise Everett and I heard sounding as loud as a gun fired in the vicinity of the paddlewheel, turned out to be the drive chains being drawn tightly apart as the wheel slid back and forth between two busted bearings and then returning to center with a resounding BANG! The solid, two-inch shaft inside a four-inch pipe covering was broken. Someone later mentioned that the CLYDE confidently completed the 1,300-mile trip because of my determination and experience, together, enabled the boat to realize her goal. But it was also the extraordinary design and craftsmanship that went into the vessel that empowered me to focus my assets and guide the CLYDE on trying waters to her new home in Indiana.

Since coming home, the CLYDE has new heavy-duty bearings, a rebuilt paddlewheel shaft made professionally by Captain Robert with his, then, 88-year-old dad, Cap’n Bobbie Lischkge making the new parts on a 100-year-old lathe with Robert welding them onto the paddlewheel shaft. Practically all new hydraulic hoses systematically replaced throughout the vessel, extensive mechanicals repaired or replaced, the pilothouse interior wholly restored, the interior of the “chicken coop” storage bin aft the wheelhouse restored, new oak cavels and the H-bitt replaced, the one-ton White Oak paddlewheel mostly rebuilt, the white exterior work repaired and painted, the oak galley table restore with four coats of finish, new galley seat cushions professionally made, aluminum beam reinforcement added under the pilothouse; two tow knees, lazy bench, and aft-cabin doors replaced in solid Indiana Cedar.

The interior cabin painted with 100% acrylic latex paint, port smokestack base rebuilt, skylight deck restored, replaced the alternator with larger amperage, bow thruster tunnel replaced by professional union fitters and welders, complete exterior steel hull and main deck overhang prepped and painted with four coats of Bar-Rust 235 two-part epoxy over prepared coal tar epoxy covering, raw water intake increased from ¾ inch to one full inch, rebuilt the transom splashboard, all Type-One PFDs plus work vests, new high-end marine radio, new depth sounder, antique brass eagles and 32-pound old brass signal cannon, certain tools and extra oak paddlewheel replacement parts, a one-year-old marine survey conducted on the hull resulting in a lower insurance premium, plus so many more improvements and stuff I can’t think of them all.
 

Rising Sun, Indiana is but ten miles, by river, from CLYDE.’s destination- Aurora.

Now, after seven years, Father Time reminds me that trifling mortals receive only so many seasons in the sun. Following the Keeper of the Clock’s cue, the right person, or persons, is, or are, being sought to enjoy the fruits of the labor of love and the pride of ownership only a genuine paddlewheeler such as the CLYDE, like her steamboat predecessors of yore, can bestow upon only true sternwheel aficionados. Think about it and dream BIG!
 
Please visit this website.

Captain Don Sanders is a river man. He has been a riverboat captain with the Delta Queen Steamboat Company and with Rising Star Casino. He learned to fly an airplane before he learned to drive a “machine” and became a captain in the USAF. He is an adventurer, a historian, and a storyteller. Now, he is a columnist for the NKyTribune and will share his stories of growing up in Covington and his stories of the river. Hang on for the ride — the river never looked so good.


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8 Comments

  1. Bob Sanders says:

    Great account of the end of your epic journey to bring the Clyde home. You have done an amazing job of restoring her to pristine condition. I hope you find the next owner who will treat the Clyde as a floating piece of art and care for her as you have. I face the same challenge in looking for the next “Curator of the OldHouse Museum “ at 1017 Russell Street. Time is a relentless force of nature.

    • Cap'n Don says:

      Brother Bob. I was tickled that we shared a part of this adventure together, much like we did on the Licking River and on the MARJESS at Walt’s Boat Club many summers ago.

  2. Jessica Yusuf says:

    What a wonderful, exciting journey! Thank you for sharing. No doubt Jonathon’s experience with you on the Clyde is something only a handful of his generation will share.

  3. Jim Baker says:

    Captain Don,
    So enjoyed everyone of your articles about your fascinating river adventures on the Clyde. I too love the river and was fortunate enough to ride the Delta Queen and the Mississippi Queen. I miss them both and will greatly miss your stories. Reminded me about another Northern Ky river enthusiast/ adventurer, Harlan Hubbard and Shanty Boat.
    From one Covington boy to another, thanks so much Captain Don for sharing with us your days and nights, on the Clyde. Tell that invisible passenger to go blow a steam whistle that Captain Don is never going to step down from the wheelhouse!

    • Cap'n Don says:

      Thanks, Jim. With Covington bordered on two sides by rivers, it’s hard not to get the “bug.” Harland and Anna were good friends. Fortunately, I visited them at Payne Hollow aboard the paddlewheeler WINIFRED in 1978.

  4. joe wiley says:

    Well Capt.Don. It’s been my pleasure to follow you and the Clyde on your trip. Say its not true you and the NYy Tribune are done. You made my Sundays worth living. Please keep up your stories. Hell, I would buy the Clyde in a minute but at my age I cann”t give her the Love she needs. From on steam boater to another you have changed a lot lives. Don’t stop telling your stories.

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