Fall 2007 River Cruise

Two Granddaughters and the Grandpa

Over a four day weekend in October of 2007 the good ship Rhapsody, her Captain and his two darling granddaughters set out from Applegate Cove Marina (35 21 86n – 94 49 50w). Our destination? No where in particular, just some bonding and good times. While the weather was crystal clear for the entire trip, the temperatures could have been somewhat warmer. Weather forecast not withstanding, the gallant and Captain set out for what turned out to be a wonderful four days on the water.

We left the slip at 1000 hours heading out into the lake. Due to the fact we were heading down river, there was little need to sail the 3.5 miles to the lock as we would only have to stow all sail before entering the lock. For those unfamiliar with the McClelland Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System, it is Oklahoma ’s outlet to the sea, which includes a series of 18 locks between the Mississippi River and the Port of Catoosa . We have to lock through two locks to reach our destination, Lock 15 & 16. Lock 15 drops 52 or so feet while #14 only drops about 12. To gain some perspective on just how big the drop in Lock 15 is one only has to view the pic below:

If you look beyond the lock gate you can clearly see the four lane bridge that transverses the Arkansas River just below Lock 15. Now remember that bridge in the background has 52 feet of clearance. From another perspective here is a shot of the crew helming Rhapsody downstream just below #15.

At this juncture I guess I should explain some of the ground rules and Grand Parent objects surrounding this trip. First, this was the first trip for the girls. Sure they had been aboard and sailed aboard before this trip. However, they had never been aboard for multiple days. So here are some of the things that were instituted. First, it was a points game. After showing the ladies how to identify birds they might see (there was a Birding Book aboard), each bird that they could identify was worth 5 points. Second, there were points assigned for tying knots starting with the simple stuff (cleat hitch etc). So as each knot was taught, there were practice sessions to reinforce the learning and then a small competition, again each correct knot was worth 5 points. The final phase of the competition involved the spotting of the International Space Station and the Space Shuttle. Prior to the journey, I had researched the time and altitudes of each nights possible sightings. Then, since this was a biggie, the first crew to sight the ISS/Shuttle would be awarded 10 points.

Our first evening was spent 17 miles down river at an anchorage called “Deadman’s Slough ”. Now this took some explaining to a couple of teenage young ladies. It was at this juncture that they were introduced to N-Blew, Rhapsody’s tender (think about it). Once they had completed a test run of starting the motor (remember that this is a river with current), they were allowed to play in Deadman’s Slough in the dink.

After a cozy night in the sleeping bags we are off to Lock 14. From here we are a mere 14 miles from our destination, Fort Smith , Arkansas . Lock 14 drops us 12 feet or so and then it is out the lower end and back on track again. Below the downstream gates of Lock 14 are opening up for us to continue on our journey.

Once we are out of the gates, we are back on track heading for the Historic District of Fort Smith. Once we arrive in Fort Smith , we make everything shipshape, and then we head ashore for a stroll downtown, to a local restaurant where we have chips and salsa, age appropriate cocktails, and a stroll around old Fort Smith and Judge Parker’s Courthouse. This evening was the final sighting of the ISS/Shuttle. The points were tallied and the participants were informed that there would only be one more night for sightings. Also, there were only a couple more attempts at knot tying and bird recognition. One of the local fauna that was spotted along the route was the American Bald Eagle pictured here:

The final night aboard was spent at Deadman’s Slough again. The crew was enthralled with the place. I am not sure if it was the ability to play in the dink or the name of the place. As we approached Lock 14, on the upstream journey, we were in the company of a big tow, a tug with 14 or so barges. That is a big tow on the Arkansas . Fortunately for the good ship Rhapsody, the tow let us go through the lock first. It took over 3 hours for the tow to follow us through the lock and it was well after dark when I heard them on the VHF and so I thought I would let the crew talk with the tug. Rhapsody’s crew had a short conversation as the tow passed and just to highlight the size of the tow and to see how bright their search light was, I asked if them if they could light us up as they passed. The skipper obliged, lit us up and then asked the girls to say when they had had enough. It did take long as we were within 300-400 yards and that light was bright. The crew WAS IMPRESSED!

The next morning we headed upstream for the final 17 miles, up through Lock 15. The approach to the lock shows the bridge and then the lock with the models (crew) showing the way.

Thus ended Rhapsody’s 2007 Fall River Cruise. 38 Miles in four days with a Great crew, great weather (except the overnight lows) and wonderful experiences by all. Please stay tuned for the next odyssey of the S/V Rhapsody.


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