Tuesday, June 30, 2015

High water roundup

The Ohio River has almost crested here at Huntington, with another few inches expected in the daylight hours today before it drops about six feet to near normal levels by Saturday.

The Ohio is supposed to crest tonight at Cincinnati and late tomorrow at Louisville.

The weather system that has brought high water to the Ohio River is affecting other rivers in the Midwest, too. It could affect farmland in the lower Mississippi for a couple of weeks or more.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

M/V Marathon passes Huntington

I posted five photos of the Marathon on my Flickr photostream this evening. If you want to see them, they're




4 and


I feel more comfortable loading photos of higher resolution there than here, and with these I wanted to get more detail in.

1980s archives, Part 2

In 1988, I treated my mother, my younger sister and the youngest son of an older sister to a Sunday afternoon on the West Virginia Belle. The trip on the Kanawha River began at the Belle's dock at South Charleston, went up to the state Capitol, turned around and came back.

After the excursion, I wanted to stop by the Winfield Locks and Dam to see if there were any boats locking through. There were two there that day. The more noticeable one in the packet of pictures I found was the M/V Winchester of American Electric Power.

These were the good old days before 9/11 when you could walk right up to the locks in the Huntington District.

You may have noticed the two men on the boat and the man on the barge. I don't know who they were, but if you can recognize them from some zoomed-in images, you're welcome to try.

A few years ago, someone at the AEP office at Lakin, W.Va., asked me if I had any pictures of the Winchester, as one of the people there was retiring and he had worked on the boat. I knew I had some, but this packet was lost until earlier today.

The last I heard, the Winchester is now owned by Excell Marine Corp. of Cincinnati, a division of McNational.

If you look at the picture of the guy on the barge, you'll see another boat locking downbound at the same time as the Winchester. I'm not certain, but I think that was the M/V Polliwog of G&C Towing.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

1980s archives, Part 1

I was going through some stuff for a yard sale, and in the process I found some pictures I thought had been lost forever. First, this evening, these two.

This was taken near Mile 281. I think the boat is the T.M. Norsworthy of HBL.

Then there is this one of the Oliver C. Shearer waiting to enter the Gallipolis Locks and Dam. This one is noteworthy because of the old oval AEP logo on the stacks.

AEP had begun moving to the newer, slanted red logo by at least 1988. I know that because tomorrow morning's post features the M/V Winchester passing through the Winfield Locks and Dam that year.

Friday, June 26, 2015

M/V Daniel P. Mecklenborg

Today the Daniel P. Mecklenborg came down my way, so I figured I would get a picture of it, and I did.

According to shipbuildinghistory.com, the Daniel P. Mecklenborg was built in 1979 as the W.H. Dickhoner for Midland Enterprises. I remember the boat way back when it had that name. I even got a few black and white photos of it.

There's not much more to say, other than I like the lines of this class of boat. I've only set foot on one of them, the Omega, now the Erna E. Honeycutt. I didn't feel as claustrophobic on it as I have on some other boats in recent years.

And that's about it. Nothing profound today.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Muddy job

When the Ohio River comes up, it leaves a layer of mud that has to be washed off public access areas such as boat ramps and walkways. I know of at least one boat ramp that has not been cleaned off in years, so it's more of a public fishing spot than a boat launch area now.

Here in Huntington, high water means someone has to take a high-pressure, high-volume hose to more than a hundred feet of walkways along the river when the water goes back down. That's that these guys were doing this morning when I was at the park.

This being Huntington, the cleanup work was watched by someone who said the park folks would have to do all this again, given the weather forecast for the Ohio Valley. So I checked the river stage forecast, and this is what I found.

(Former Governor Arch Moore said you could stand on a street corner in Huntington handing out hundred-dollar bills, and instead of thanking you, people would complain that you're not on the corner across the street).

At least we have a couple of days to enjoy the river again before the high water returns.

As will the guys with the hoses.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Mon

Our weekend working trip to Elizabeth, Pa., made me want to see more of the Monongahela River, also known as the Mon.

The dams and the bridges interest me, as do the power plants and the factories.

According to the navigation charts, there are 128.7 miles of the Mon with a navigable channel. You have to subtract the upper 26.7 miles because the Hildebrand and Opekiska locks and dams are closed to lockages from lack of commercial traffic. You would pretty much have to start at Morgantown and work your way down.

There appear to be some interesting bridges and industrial sites, but I could be wrong.

This is Locks and Dam 3 as seen from downstream on a day with occasional sprinkles and a couple of thunderstorms. That's the M/V Tom G. of Campbell Transportation in the river. I don't know what factory or power plant that is in the background. The dam has a lift of only five feet or eight feet at normal pool. The online navigation charts say it could be either.

Or maybe it's not worth the trip. It's not likely we'd ever make it anyway. Still, it's one of those things about the Ohio and its tributaries that I will wonder about from time to time.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Between the sticks times three

When Adam and I go to a towboat open house or dedication, or if he goes along to carry my stuff while I cover a boat story for a publication, I usually get a picture of him between the steering levers in the pilothouse. We call it "between the sticks".

We've done this for years, before he knew what was happening even. I think his first such photo was on a Dravo Viking owned by AEP while he was in kindergarten or first grade.

I've lost count of how many times we've done this, and it includes the American Queen and him at the wheel of a small sternwheeler in a sternwheeler parade.

In the past couple of weeks, Adam has been able to pose with three boats.

The M/V Garry Lacey

The M/V Chuck Piepmeier

And the M/V Michael T. Somales

Yeah, that's the shirt he wears at all special occasions.

The good news is that with the out-of-town trips over for now (that we know of), he can get a haircut. He didn't want to go anywhere with a bad haircut, and the difference between a bad haircut and a decent one is two weeks, or so they say.

I don't know how it works on the river, but based on my time in the newsroom and watching editors, in the bottom picture it looks like he's just staring out, and the top one looks like he's been in his job for several years.

Will there be any more opportunities to get between the sticks this summer or fall? Who knows?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Gallipolis Locks and Dam

The official name is the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam.

But the old name is the one that I grew up with.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

An unusual christening

I knew this was coming, but I was told to keep it a secret.

Murray American Transportation and Murray American River Towing had a christening ceremony yesterday for the M/V Michael T. Somales. The boat is the former M/V Tom Hoffman. Somales is the president of the company, which is part of Murray Energy Corp., the nation's largest privately held coal company.

After Somales and his girlfriend, Pam Wrobleski, broke the bottle of champagne on the boat, Somales announced he and Wrobleski were getting married then and there. And they did.

I covered this for the Waterways Journal, so Somales told me about it earlier in the week. He said he had something to tell me about the christening ceremony, but I had to keep it a secret. I told him I would as long as it did not involve a matter of national security or criminal activity.

After the ceremony, I told Somales that I told myself several years ago that I was never again taking pictures at a wedding. This is why you never say never.

More details will be in the article for the WJ, unless they don't want them. The YouTube video links above were shot by my younger son, Adam, with an old point-and-shoot camera. They were handheld. He didn't know about the surprise until a few minutes before. I told him so he could get some pictures or video if he wanted, which he did. Undoubtedly there are a lot of iPhone and Smartphone videos out there, too.

Adam calls his YouTube channel Project681 because he has a goal of saving money to buy the school bus he used to ride. It was retired from regular service in April 2014. It's now a spare, and it's due to come up for auction in two or three years. Before he was a river fan, he was a school bus freak. It's how his brain works.

This was the third christening Adam and I had attended. It was the first to include a wedding. We have no more on our schedule right now, but this one will be hard to top.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Christening in Elizabeth PA

Adam and I went to Elizabeth, Pa., today to cover the christening and dedication of the M/V Michael T. Somales. It was a long day, and a good one for the most part.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Towboats in the rain

This afternoon Adam and others in the Huntington High School marching band were supposed to tour the American Wind Symphony Orchestra boat tied up at the riverfront park, but it was not meant to be, as a thunderstorm moved through the area before most of the band members could show up.

But as we sat in the car, we did get to see a couple of boats go by. I like shooting towboats in the rain because the water brings out colors in the boats and barges that you don't see in dry weather.

First, we saw the D.A. Grimm coming upstream.

We moved the car to get a better angle when we saw the Donna York downbound.


It was an okay way to salvage a day, I suppose.

McGinnis christening

I've submitted my article and photos of last week's christening ceremony at the McGinnis operation at Cincinnati to the Waterways Journal. After they run, I'll post a gallery of photos.

Meanwhile, my feast or famine, my boom and bust cycle, my up and down with boat sightings has been on the down side the past few days. We never seem to be in the same neighborhood. I'll be down by the river a couple of times today. Maybe my luck will change.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

In the news, 6/13/15

If you want to see how other people experience the Ohio River,  this might be the week for you.

You can catch this exhibit at the Weston Art Gallery in downtown Cincinnati, which explores the relationship between people and bodies of water.

Or there's this activity organized by the Lousville Water Company.


In an unsurprising move, American Electric Power subsidiary Appalachian Power said it did not do cost estimates of updating several older, smaller power plants it closed recently because it already knew retrofitting them with modern pollution-control systems would be too expensive.

Among the plants Appalachian Power closed were Philip Sporn on the Ohio River and the Kanawha River plant on the Kanawha River.

The reason that was unsurprising was that AEP CEO Nick Akins told me a couple of years ago that plants have to be a certain size to justify the investment involved in cleaning the stack emissions, and the older, smaller plants AEP would be closing were too small to spend that much money on.


The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources is taking bids again for the rights to drill under the Ohio River for natural gas.


And Louisville is looking at tapping groundwater instead of Ohio River water as a new supply. Among other benefits, the city would not have to worry about the next chemical spill that comes down the river or filtering out phamarceuticals that get through sewage treatment plants.

Random thoughts

The Brent Spence Bridge in Cincinnati is probably my least favorite bridge of all time. Way back in the 1970s, a guy who lived in Northern Kentucky described it as hundreds of cars traveling fast and trying to cross in front of each other in an X pattern.

I've been on the bridge maybe a dozen times in my life. It's a good one to avoid if at all possible.


I need a small boat, but there's no way I can afford one. I'll probably never afford one because I'll always have a more pressing need for the money. Perhaps what I need is to see if there are any people in my area who would take me out on theirs for a half hour every now and then.


I never had a problem with heights until the day in 1999 when I got to climb to the top of Huntington's East End Bridge. We must have been two hundred feet above the river, and the only thing protecting us from falling was a small railing that maybe came up to my waist. I can't say for sure because I didn't want to go near it.

Having said that, four years ago the folks at the West Virginia Division of Highways said they would take me up to the top of the new Blennerhassett Island Bridge. I made several inquiries afterward, but they never returned my calls. I'd still do it, despite a mild case of fear of heights. My sense of balance has been off slightly since 2000 when I came down with an ear infection on a flight to Seattle to visit the Amazon.com headquarters at the personal invitation of (name dropping here) Jeff Bezos.


In my life I've been to Israel, Jordan, Austria, the former Czecjoslovakia and Japan. I've been to San Francisco a couple of times, and I've driven the coastal highway from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Mexican border. Now in my silver years I rarely travel more than three hours from home.

But that's fine with me. After seeing the world, I'm now more interested in learning more about a smaller part of it, particularly the Ohio Valley. There are some really nice places in the countryside along the Ohio River, and those are where I want to visit.


Friday, June 12, 2015

Shooting video

After the ceremony in Cincinnati on Wednesday, Adam and I did a couple of things on the way home, including checking out the ferries at Cincinnati and Augusta. More on those later.

As I shot stills, Adam used his five-year-old point and shoot camera to shoot some footage of the ferries.

First, the Anderson ferry at Cincinnati.

Then the Augusta ferry.

He agrees with me that ferries are pretty cool.

The shirt is the one he wears to all special occasions, such as first day of school, last day of school and river events.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Purple People Bridge

Adam and I took a few minutes yesterday to walk across Cincinnati's Purple People Bridge. It actually looks more lavender than purple.

We enjoyed our walk for the most part, except the weather was really hot. At least one bank-type thermometer read 104 degrees. We would have like to have seen a boat come down threading the needle of those bridge piers and river bends, but we had no such luck.

I was really wanting the Purple People Bridge to land a spot on my list of Ten Favorite Ohio River Bridges. I can't say that it did, but I can't say that I wouldn't out it on the list, either.

We'll have to give it another try before we decide for sure.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Patience rewarded

I've waited a long time to get this close to a Crounse boat.

Too bad Crounse Week was six months ago. This would have been a good lead-off photo.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Big day tomorrow

If all goes well, Adam and I will be in Cincinnati tomorrow to cover an event for the Waterways Journal. Afterward, we plan to ride a couple of ferries and maybe walk across the Purple People Bridge.

If all goes well, it will be a good day. A very good day.

Monday, June 8, 2015

My favorite bridge, after the rain

The cables in their white plastic wrappings are almost invisible against the sky, but they stand out against the hills.

We needed this rain, except for the part that I just washed my car yesterday and now my grass will grow three inches overnight.

First World problems ...

Sunday, June 7, 2015

M/V Michael D .. and a vocabulary question

This past Friday I had to run up to the Point Pleasant River Museum and Learning Center for something. As I parked my car I heard a boat coming out of the Kanawha. It was the Michael D pushing some empties. As it passed me, it turned to head up the Ohio.

My question: What do you call a boat the size of the Michael D? I'm guessing it's too small to be a line haul boat or whatever the big ones are called nowadays, and it's too big to be a dinner bucket boat. That's what an old guy told me about 35 years ago when he was describing the small boat he worked on. It never left the harbor or port where it moved barges around.

So what do you call it?

M/V Marathon northbound

As seen from the navigation light at Lacey Lane, just below Glenwood WV.

It's odd to think these boats could soon have the "Marathon Petroleum Co." covered over by "MPLX". Knowing me, I'll probably still catching myself referring to them as Ashland Oil boats -- even the ones never owned by Ashland Oil & Refining Co., Ashland Petroleum Co. or Marathon Ashland Petroleum LLC.

Somebody had a good time fishin'

Found on the Ohio River bank one recent morning ...

So, what is the normal ratio of beer consumed per fish caught during a nighttime of fishing?

And this guy ... he left behind almost three quarters of a liter of Coca Cola.

Archaeologists have told me they often look for latrine pits and refuse dumps to get an idea how people lived. I would like to hear modern-day sociologists and anthropologists describe what they could learn from the trash some fishermen leave behind.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Jamboree down by the river

One of my favorite Ohio River shooting spots has been taken over this weekend by a bluegrass festival.

Here's a closer shot that shows how a popular fishing site is a temporary RV park.

They should all be gone by mid-morning Monday after a good time has been had by all.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Huntington Marine Company 1

A few hours ago, I went down to the river bank to see what was there. A weekend bluegrass festival had taken over the lower part of the riverfront park, so I had to go to the upper end. A camera club was getting pictures of the sun setting behind the Ohio hills. (Actually, the hills were rising to meet the sun, but that concept makes my head hurt).

The Huntington Fire Department's rescue boat was at the riverfront.

And my granddaughter decided to see the ducks. Ducks being ducks, they didn't want to see her. But I hear they are vile creatures, so maybe it's for the best.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Smallest boat I've seen in a while

This boat was parked at the marina here in Huntington WV a couple of days ago.

I couldn't find a record of it moving on the Corps of Engineers website, but a check of Coast Guard records verified a boat named the Slim Island as having been built in 1974. It is 35 feet long, 10.1 feet wide and drafts 4 feet.

A web check of the phone number links it to Rick Jarboe's Complete Carpet Service & Slip Dredging Service, which would explain its presence at the restaurant and marina in Huntington.

And that was about all I found in a night of web surfing.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

In the news, 6/2/15

Could there be less mercury in the lower Ohio -- from Louisville to Cairo -- than before. The Kentucky Division of Water thinks so, although some people are skeptical.

Meanwhile, this article from last week shows the idea of mixing zones for mercury remains a debated topic.


Every week, several bodies are found in the Ohio River. This incident, in which a body was found between two barges of a coal tow that was in motion, was different.


And a casino in Pittsburgh wants to add a $50 million hotel next door.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Stuff, 6/2/15

Duke Energy is running a new pipeline in the bedrock under the Ohio River next to the Brent Spence Bridge in Cincinnati.


Here in Huntington we used to have three marinas. Two of them went out of business, so now we have one. The remaining one is right above my favorite bridge. As it grows larger, it moves down toward the bridge until it must be about as close to the bridge as it can get. The expansion gets in the way of sunrise pictures I used to get down there. Life's tough, isn't it?


Speaking of bridges, I got to see one of my favorites the other day. This is the Blennerhassett Bridge that crosses over part of Blennerhassett Island. It's the first network tied-arch bridge on the Ohio River.

The photo would have been a lot better if I could have caught the bridge at sunrise. Life's tough, isn't it?