Saturday, November 26, 2011

A few minutes at the mouth of the Kanawha

I saw a few boats and some barges -- maybe a hundred barges? -- in the lower three miles of the Kanawha River today.

First, there was the Dr. Edwin H. Welch sitting next to the right descending bank around Mile 1.

Right above it was the James W. Buky. I was able to get some more pictures of the Buky from the hill above the river.

And a high shot of the Welch, too.

One thing I noticed was a fleeting area for barges between miles 2 and 3. You can see two boats in this picture. The one on the right is the Nell, I believe. I don't know what the other one was, but it had to be an AmherstMadison boat.

Because of the angle and the resolution of the photo, it's kind of hard to tell how many barges are here, but I would say there are between 35 and 40.

The thing about all these barges is where the coal in them came from and where it's going. Coal is a two-way traffic on the Kanawha. A lot of coal comes from the Ohio, with much if not most of it ending up at the Amos power plant above Mile 35 at about Mile 40. Amos, by the way, is the largest coal-fired power plant in these parts. Between the mouth of the Kanawha and Amos is the Winfield Locks and Dam at Mile 31. (Remember, mile markers on the Ohio start at Pittsburgh and increase as you go down the river. On the Kanawha and most other rivers, mile markers start at the mouth and work back up). The main lock at Winfield can accommodate a boat and nine jumbo barges, so a 15-barge coal tow on the Ohio has to be broken up into two parts to be taken to Amos.

But a lot of coal comes down the Kanawha to the fleet at Point Pleasant. There it's assembled into 15-barge tows for Ohio River boats. The thing I wondered today was which fleeting area is for coal coming out of the Kanawha and which was for coal going up into the Kanawha.

Is one fleeting area dedicated to upbound coal and one to downbound? I seriously doubt that's the case week in and week out, but it was something I wondered about as I saw all that coal today and wondered which barges were going where.

M/V or mv.

To finish up something from this past spring, I've gone to the old usage of M/V for towboats, as in motor vessel.

I've seen mv. used in some places over the past three decades, such as the Waterways Journal. I prefer it, as it's shorter and less obtrusive than M/V. But I've found that people who prefer mv. don't mind M/V, but some people who prefer M/V don't like mv. and have a bad reaction to it.

It's not all that important to me, so I went with what the readers seemed to prefer. So it's M/V.

Ups and downs of a sometimes dreary week

One of the nice things about the Internet is that you get to meet people you otherwise would not come in contact with. That happened again these past two weeks when a towboat captain contacted me to ask about something. We have a mutual acquaintance, and we were able to chat about some things.

This has not been a good week for me to get on the river and get photos. Because of downpours earlier in the week, the river has been running high. The water is muddy, and it's over some of my best shooting spots. On top of that, the sky has been milky, the trees are bare and the water is muddy. I tried getting a photo of the O. Nelson Jones as it passed the Miller, Ohio, area on Thanksgiving day, but it just didn't work out.

On top of that, there's not been a lot of traffic around here. I checked the vessel locations site yesterday afternoon, and there was not one boat reported downbound in the Greenup pool. That's not right, but if it has to happen, it might as well be when I can't get to the river bank in daylight and with decent backgrounds to shoot against.

I have to go back up the river later today. Maybe we'll see something then. If things work out, I might even see the boat of the captain of my new acquaintance. You never know.