Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sternwheeler race

A couple of weeks ago, I finally got to ride aboard a sternwheel riverboat during a sternwheeler race. It happened at Point Pleasant WV during the Tribute to the River festival I've written about a few times already.

If you've lived along the river and paid attention to it, you probably don't pay much attention to the modern commercial towboats that pass by several times a day. But you do pay attention when a sternwheeler comes through, as they're not seen all that often. And if you get an invitation to ride one, you take it.

For this race, I rode aboard the Lauren Elizabeth, the pilothouse of which is shown here. It's a pretty boat on the outside and even prettier on the inside. I got this shot because of the metal ceiling in the pilothouse.

I got to ride the boat because Fred Nyhuis, an executive with Marathon Petroleum and president of the Huntington District Waterways Association, got me an invitation from Bill Price, who (I think) owns and pilots the boat.

Don't ask how many boats were in the race. All I remember is that we all left the riverfront park at the same time and went a short distance upriver to the Norfolk Southern railroad bridge. Then we all went downriver to a spot below the Silver Memorial Bridge and waited for our individual heats.

Boats raced one on one. As it turned out, the Lauren Elizabeth was in the in the final heat, against the Pickett Hastings.

"Cool" describes the sight, sound and feel of standing right in front of the paddlewheel as Captain Price opened up the throttle. There's only about a mile between the two bridges, and the race was close most of the way.

This shot taken from the Lauren Elizabeth shows the Pickett Hastings passing the mouth of the Kanawha River. Around this time, the other boat got in our wake, which may have slowed it down some.

Anyway, the Lauren Elizabeth won by about 30 feet.

These are seven  pictures out of maybe three dozen that I shot. It was a wonderful 60 minutes, and my thanks to Mr. Nyhuis and Captain Price.