Thursday, May 21, 2015

All quiet on the head of the tow?

Someday I want to ride a towboat pushing barges. I want to be on there long enough so I can go out to the barges in front, a thousand feet in front of the boat's engines, and learn what I can hear and cannot hear.

When I'm getting pictures of boats approaching me head-on, often I cannot hear the engines. Maybe it's because the structure of the boat blocks the noise. I really don't know. I do know that all I hear is the sound of the barges against the water. The choppier the water, the louder and more varied the sounds.

That's why I want to be out there at the head of the tow, listening for myself.

When the lead barges pass, their sound disappears and soon the rumble and whine of the engines take over. That's another reason I want to ride a boat -- to catalog the sounds that are in the background.
Maybe someday.

The picture above shows three barges with rake (slanted) ends leading a tow of nine empties and six loads. A barge with a box (vertical) end kicks up a good spray of water on a choppy surface. Even one with a rake end and loaded to 10.5 or 11 feet can kick up a good spray, and in winter it forms a heavy coating of ice in the wires that hold the barges together.

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