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Riverbeat Eats
By: Esther Powell
Posted on: Mon, April 01 2013 - 10:57 am

June 5, 2013

Gene Herde  5:13 am  Ohio River 499N  near Aurora, IN

June 4, 2013

Gene Herde  3:26 am  Ohio River 601N 
McAlpine locks

4:00 am  the same

6:00 am  OR 596N  upstream from Juniper Beach Docks near entrance to Goose Creek

8:05 am  OR 585N

10:30 am  OR573N

12:30 pm OR 563 N  five miles downstream from Madison.

12:41  about ready to go down by the river to say hi to Jos as the Gene Herde chugs by!

3:26  pm  OR 549N  The Gene Herde has come and gone.  It is about 10 miles upstream from Madison.

I won't see Joseph again until he gets off the boat.

Those aboard the Gene Herde get Jambalaya for dinner!

around 7:30 OR 540N

I won't be able to follow Joseph's journey so closely for the next two weeks - I'm traveling very light.

June 3, 2013

Gene Herde  6:21 am  Ohio River
  658N  near New Amsterdam.  A lot of State Forest on the Indiana side and a quarry on the Kentucky side

11:40 am  OR632N  on the western border of Hardin County, KY - still in Cannelton pools

Noon dinner is pork roast, applesauce, veggies (I forget what) rice, with chocolate cookies for dessert.

Jos comments that when you look at towboats going down the river pushing barges, those barges look as if they just go a few feet under the water surface.  True, isn't it?

Those piles of coal and other cargo look to be about 3-5 feet high.  In reality, those barges go maybe 12 feet under the water, so what looks to be a shallow load is really very deep.

So far I haven't found specifics, but I site I just now glanced at said a towboat often pushes 15 barges.  An equal amount of freight would take a one mile long train to carry.

(Bet the energy use is much less, too.)

9:29  OR601N

June 2, 2013

Gene Herde  3:37 am  Ohio River 776N  a couple miles upstream from Newburgh, IN

Breakfast was the usual eggs to order and sausage with biscuits and gravy.  Jos made up a few eggs-in-a-basket also.  That is made by cutting a whole in the middle of a slice of bread and cooking the egg in that.

This morning Jos experienced his first dense fog while on board - like looking through a frosted window - white with areas of illumination.  I'm actually surprised he hasn't been in a lot more fog.

Noontime meal - Fried chicken Sunday with a made-on-board cream cheese and apple pie.

3:09 pm  OR724N  between Cannelton and Rockport, IN

June 1, 2013

Gene Herde  3:34 am  Ohio River 888N   Elizabethtown, IL

                     8:31 am  OR 864N  about halfway between Elizabethtown, IL and Mt. Vernon, IN

                      8:31 pm  OR  807N  about 20 miles upstream from Mt. Vernon

Steaks, big burgers that some people have trouble finishing, milk shakes - chocolate and vanilla.

May 31, 2013

Gene Herde 5:28 am  Ohio River 975N

Did I read that correctly?  975 North?  I'll have to check.

Since the Ohio River is 981 miles long, my guess is that they have delivered their load, turned around, tied on their next shipment, and are headed north again.

Gene Herde  11:26 am  Ohio River 953N near Joppa, Illinois

The Gene Herde has fueled up and is heading back upstream.

As do the rest of us along the Ohio River up into Ohio, the Gene Herde is facing some severe weather.  At least they are heading away from the Mississippi, which is expected to flood.

The Gene Herde will remain an Ohio River boat until it can get the correct propellers put on the boat, Jos reports.

Friday is fish day, and those folks don't do it halfway.  The crew can have baked or fried orange roughy, cod, or catfish, french fries and mixed vegetables.

May 30, 2013

Gene Herde   4:10 am Ohio River 846S  twenty miles downstream from Mt. Vernon, IN

Smoked ham at noontime, chicken enchiladas and polenta pie with sausage and peppers, sides of zucchini and sweet potatoes for the evening meal.  More, but I can't remember what.

These guys may work hard, but it sounds as if they eat very well indeed.

May 29, 2013

Gene Herde  11:26 am  749S

By the noon meal the Gene Herde was at Owenboro.  Lunch today was lasagna.  No sooner had the crew sat down to eat than the grocery order arrived.

Immediately, literally in the middle of a bite, everyone put down his fork and went to bring the food onto the boat.  What discipline!  I asked Jos if their food had to be heated up again.  They didn't bother, he said.  They just sat down and finished their meal.

Pork is on the menu for this evening.

May 28, 2013

Gene Herde  7:39 am  Ohio River 589S
fourteen miles upstream from Louisville

8:48 am  OR 597S  Port of Indiana, if I read the navigation charts correctly.

I can't believe it.  I just spent a half hour writing about our early morning experience and just lost it.

To make a long story short, Jos and I thought that we were not going to be able to flash each other (literally - with only our flashlights!) but because we each just happened to wake up at the right time we "met" at 2:15 a.m. or so.  Rendezvous in the wee hours!

Now it is morning, and Joseph just finished placing his food order.  He reports this is one of the most anxiety-filled part of the job, because on a towboat the timing is so unpredictable placing an order is tricky.  The providers want 24 hours lead time in which to fill an order. I think river cooks usually order for a week at a time.  (I'll correct this if I'm wrong.)

8:16 pm  OR 660S  along the Harrison-Crawford State Forest in Indiana.

I hope the crew has been able to see some wildlife.

May 27, 2013

Gene Herde  4:15 am  Ohio River 481S 
around twelve miles from downtown Cincinnati.

The Gene Herde is turned around.  It's facing South again.  At first I thought that meant it was heading our way.  Until I get another reading, though, I won't know if it is moving or in a lock.

Downstream travel is faster, of course and boats coming downstream always have the right-of-way.

It seems like the whole river is a series of locks now.  Hardly the carefree.... Well.  I have to stop that kind of talk right there.  I'm not convinced coming on a big river on any kind of vessel is ever really carefree.

Monday is breakfast burrito day!  I don't think the crew will mind digging into a spicy sausage potato egg bean stuffed tortilla after a hard shift switching barges in the dark and a drenching rain!

May 26, 2013

Gene Herde   12:34 am  Ohio River  557N

What fun!  Just got back from waving a flashlight to Jos in response to his flashing light from the towboat.

A very slight misty rain, midnight fishermen and boys in T-shirts fishing from the dock and I were all out at this odd hour.

The first sign that made me really sure I was seeing the Gene Herde was a big searchlight coming from the boat itself.  Jos said that the Captain uses it to see the piers of the bridge at night.  They also have radar to measure distances.

We were able to talk on our phones the whole time.

It is a good thing he was aware of the shore, because he saw the Clifty Power Plant earlier than I expected.  I was all dressed and ready to go, so I just headed out right away.
It was an unusual meeting!  I could barely see him.

The towboat is heading up to Cincinnati, but has more locks to navigate before it arrives there.  We don't know yet when the return trip will be. 

7:01  Ohio River 536N

Just for the record I will add onto yesterday's log the times and locations of the Gene Herde I took yesterday evening.  The boat fooled me, I'll admit.  Maybe rather than slowing down it picks up speed going through S curves.

Jos doesn't think the river bends make much difference.

7:01 am   OR 536N  Vevay, IN

10:49 am  OR 518N  a mile upstream from Patriot, IN

3:02 pm  OR 497N  Aurora, IN

May 25, 2013

Gene Herde    4:46 am Ohio River 613N

For a mile-by-mile description of the Ohio River between Kentucky and Indiana, search: Ohio River Navigation Charts - Louisville District - U.S. Navy.

Description, hell!  They have maps!

Right now the Gene Herde is lurking around industrial sites of or on the outskirts of Louisville.

Jos just called.  The Captain told him that they will probably be coming by Madison at 9 o'clock this evening (give or take an hour.)  He says he'll have a flashlight for signalling!

1:43 pm  OR 601N

At 4:13 the Gene Herde was at 599N.  Forty-two miles downstream from Madison.

6:36  OR 588N

7:35  OR 583N

9:38  OR 573N

Next thing that happened was a phone call from Jos, thinking he could see the power plant.

May 24, 2013

Gene Herde   5:45 am   Ohio River  719N  near Cannelton, IN

According to Wikipedia, Cannelton Locks and Dam provide 114 miles of calm recreational waters between Cannelton and Louisville, Kentucky.

Cannelton, which has a population of 1500, is the smallest city incorporated in the state of Indiana.

Gene Herde was at OR 647 a little while ago (it's 8:30 pm now.)  Hmmm.  If I'm doing my arithmetic correctly it could be coming by Madison tomorrow morning at 6:30 or so!

But you never know.  They will probably have to stop at some port or other between now and then to do some adding, subtracting, and rearranging of barges.

P.S. I wasn't doing my arithmetic correctly - and one of my numbers was wrong!  I'm hanging my head.

May 23, 2013

Gene Herde   4:27 am Ohio River 777N  Newburgh, IN

Newburgh is just east of Evansville, IN and I can see through my one open eye that it has quite an interesting history.  It used to be one of the largest ports on the river, according to Wikipedia, and when I can keep more than one eye open, I might read more... Shawnee tribes... Angel Mound... closing of the railroad made Evansville more economically important... any errors are totally my own...zzzzzzzzzz.

Of course if I go back to bed I'll wake up!  Meanwhile on the Gene Herde half of the crew is awake and on duty, including, probably Joseph who will serve breakfast at five.  Hmmm.  I forgot to ask him if they will be on Eastern time now.

For lunch Jos served pork and red beans, a vegetable dish, and some complex carbohydrate I confess I forgot.  For supper it was shrimp and chicken.  These guys don't like dinky shrimp, they like big shrimp!

At about one-thirty the Gene Herde was near Rockport, IN and 15 minutes ago or so they were at 737N, which is about 10 miles upstream from Rockport.  They are coming this way.  Yippee!

Jos tells me there is a dark side to working on a towboat, I'm sorry to say.  The crew reports that sometimes people stand on the bridges and try to hit them with rocks and bottles.  People have been known to dangle fishhooks off bridges to try to snag them!

Of course, now that I'm writing this, I can't help wondering if these perpetrators are just incompetent fishermen, but that is just my old Lutheran put-the-best-construction-on-everything conditioning kicking in.  We have to take the word of the crew, and I believe them:  some people are just mean.

Besides, who fishes from a high bridge?

On a more positive note, Jos has taken an ipad with him this tour and is delighted with it.  If his phone doesn't have a signal, the boat has wi-fi and he can email.  Just think how much more pleasant the men's lives are with these communication devices!

Heck, they might even be able to call 911 about the guys throwing rocks off the bridges!

May 22, 2013

Gene Herde   7:37 am  Ohio River 847N 

about twenty miles downstream from Mt. Vernon, IN

According to the Ohio River is a great river to navigate - fun.  I don't know if he meant for the pleasure boats who can take advantage of the riverside marinas.

Joseph has already commented that there seems to be a lot of activity so far, unlike the wild and woolly portions of the Illinois River.  Of course, the Gene Herde has only just embarked on what could, if it travels all the way to Pittsburgh, be a very long journey; the Ohio River is 981 miles long

Gene Herde  3:36 pm  Ohio River 814N fifteen miles or so upstream from Mt. Vernon

Jos has had a few wildlife sightings today.  He saw a pair of river otters hanging out on a log on shore - also a blackbird right outside his window and beyond that a beaver on the riverbank.  For a while two small birds were along for the ride on the ropes between the barges and the towboat.

A heron kept flying from behind and landing a little way ahead of the boat.  Jos suspects that the boat pushes fish outward towards the shore as he goes, helping the heron to catch a little help with dinner!

Jos has heard that the Gene Herde is only supposed to go as far North as Cincinnati this time.

May 21, 2013

Gene Herde   9:36 am  Ohio River  934N

The Gene Herde is coming this way!

Yesterday Joseph served ham steaks and sweet potatoes for the noon meal.  In the late evening the boat was done fueling up and securing the barges it will be pushing, so Joseph's large order of food was brought aboard.  He didn't get done putting it away until 10:30 at night!  (Significant when you remember he has to be up again at about 3 or 3:30.)

On Jos' menu for today are a peppersteak stir with garlic mashed potatoes and honey braised carrots for the noon meal, and chicken and sausage with red beans and rice for supper.  (He doesn't promise he won't add any bacon to that!)  Pudding is for dessert.

He mentioned that he is learning to pace himself so that he will have the energy for the long haul, combining easy and more demanding dishes in such a way that he can conserve his energy.

Sounds like what a mailman once told my dad.  Sure, a teenager could maybe deliver faster for a week or two, but these professionals have to do their job for years.

At any rate, the Gene Herde is heading North.  Yippee!  Maybe I'll get to wave my handkerchief at him before I head out of town for vacation.

We'll see.

Gene Herde still at OR 934N.

Just checked and danged if the Gene Herde isn't back at Paducah, KY.

That is a surprise! 

May 20, 2013

Gene Herde   3:26 pm  Ohio River  947S

How exciting!  The Gene Herde is back on the move at last.  More crew members came on board today.  They might be heading toward Cairo to pick up their load.

If the boat heads back up the Ohio River towards Madison, I'm going to try to be on the riverbank waving to them as they chug by.

After a couple of days of cooking for only four people, the crew is building up to its usual numbers.  Jos' job is really beginning again in earnest.

May 18, 2013

Jos arrived safely in Paducah and immediately upon gaining his room in the boat, started cleaning.  He cleaned the galley also and took inventory.

Every cook has his own idea of the ingredients necessary to prepare good food, and the boat has not had a cook aboard for a week or two, so another of Jos' first tasks is ordering food.

May 17, 2013

The Gene Herde isn't going anywhere yet, but Joseph is.  He's on his way to Paducah and the boat right now.

It will be five long weeks before I see him again, but we'll be able to follow his progress along with the boat's.

It will still be a couple of days, though, before it returns to its job.

May 8, 2013

The Gene Herde hasn't moved.  From what I understand, it is waiting for a part.

Joseph may have his full four weeks off after all.  Who knows what boat he will be on next?  Dispatch says it will be in touch.

Meanwhile, Jos is cooking here in a completely different style than what he must practice on the boat.  The emphasis at home is on exotic spice combinations and vegetables.

Maybe I can talk him into sharing some of his home recipes
here.  Might be difficult though.    The "recipes" consist of a dash of this, a dash of that... he really is a dashing guy!

April 24, 2013

Gene Herde             005N Tennessee River

The boat is 16 feet in the air, being repaired.

The crew has entered into its final 24-hour countdown of the last day of their present tour of duty.  The cruelest thing, Jos said, is when a crew member gets on the tug to go ashore and finds that his replacement is not there and he has to go back aboard until they have someone to take his place on the boat.

I fervently hope that doesn't happen to anyone this time!

Meanwhile, I still don't know how he is getting home or whether he will need my help getting here.

I'm ready!

April 23, 2013

Gene Herde  7:26 AM  Tennessee River 004N

Overnight the Gene Herde went from Cairo, IL to Paducah, KY.  The location code is TN, which I'm pretty sure means the Tennessee River.

The crew seems to be staying on board.  They are, for one thing, painting the boat (inside and out?  I'll ask.)

April 22, 2013

No location today because nothing is changed.  For the next few days, the Gene Herde isn't going anywhere.  (As soon as I say this, though, the plan may have changed.  I'll check the location when I get done here.)

The midday meal today is shepherds' pie - stuffing on the bottom layer, then a layer or veggies followed by a ground meat and sausage, then cheese, a layer of mashed potatoes topped with more cheese.  Hearty!  This is made in a glass baking pan about two or three times the size of what most of us have at home.

Joseph mentioned that the reason you so rarely see anyone on board a towboat thrumming on the river is that they are all asleep or eating while the boat is underway.  It is when the boat is docked that all the heavy crew work is done.  Rollin' on the river?  That's the easy part!  (At least for cook and crew.)

Jos called early this afternoon.  They are revving up the engines and heading up the Ohio River - destination Paducah, KY.

Gene Herde  4:08 PM  Ohio River 971N

Dinner tonight is Philly cheese steak sandwiches and macaroni salad.

April 21, 2013

Gene Herde   6:43 AM  Ohio River 976N

The engines were turned off the other day.  It is very peaceful.  Jos says you don't notice the stress the noise induces until it goes away.  (My theory about many of the noises we endure every day - but on a towboat the noise level is way higher.)

The crew is waiting to hear the plan.  This may take a day or two.  There is no dispatcher on weekends.

April 20, 2013

Gene Herde  8:15 AM  Ohio River 978N

Jos called this morning.  The Gene Herde has a bent blade (propeller?  rudder?) and will probably sit in Cairo IL for a while for repair.

It's looking as if the crew will be sent home - but Jos doesn't think he will leave at least until he has cleaned the kitchen!  No one has been dismissed yet, however.  They have sent their hazardous substance on its way without them and they are awaiting orders.

If there is one thing Joseph has learned in his first tour on a towboat in this new business he's involved with, it is that you never know!

11:16 ES time - Right now Jos is grilling steaks on the deck.  He is looking out over the waters of the Ohio River (or the Mississippi - they are at the confluence.)  From the Mileage Marker designation OR 976N I would guess the Ohio.

Warm day.  He's wearing a T-shirt.  He's happy to be outside and cooking.

Jos reports the Illinois River is closed due to flooding.  There are boats stuck by the closing all up and down the river.  They just squeaked out in time!

April 19, 2013

Gene Herde   4:18 - 5:50 AM  Upper Mississippi  188S

Jos called.  They are still in the locks, I guess.  Last night when we tried to talk we kept getting cut off.  He said some of the locks are pretty high (or the water level is pretty low!)

They crew got soaked through the other day while working outside; yesterday they got treated to wind and cold.  They work very hard.  Sometimes they work more than one 28-day tour for the extra money the company provides.  The maximum time allowed is three months straight.

Now that release from this tour is a week away, people have started talking about going home.  Jos says the men say this is also true when they are off the boat.  About a week before they report back, they start thinking about their next tour of duty.  (I don't know what they call it - I'll have to ask.)

April 18, 2013 

Gene Herde  4:25 AM  Illinois River 058S three miles upstream from Florence, IL

Jos is incommunicado, but the tow is making good time.  That is reassuring, because according to weather reports, there are severe thunderstorms in Illinois (due here in Madison, Indiana today, actually.)

There are also flood watches over Illinois.  This doesn't seem as if it would affect a big boat too much, but I don't know.  The turbulence might be significant.  I'll have to wait to find out.

Gene Herde  6:50 AM  IR 045S  between Florence and Hardin, IL

Looks as if those aboard the Gene Herde have missed a very scenic part of the river overnight.

Gene Herde  11:18 AM  IR 023S  near Hardin, IL

                   4:10 PM  Upper Mississippi 213S  a few miles downstream from Grafton, the location of the confluence between the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers

The Gene Herde is back on the Mississippi River and expects to be at St. Louis in the wee hours.

Jos finally reached me and told me about towboat condiments that are favorites with the crew:

a Creole seasoning called Tony Chachere's

a supposedly ancient Greek seasoning called Cavender's

seasoned pepper and salt

bottled seasonings like Country Bob's,  A57, Tiger Sauce, Red Hot and Louisiana Sauce

as well as ketchup.  I haven't asked about mustard.

He's been asked to "never run out of" these essential ingredients - no substitutions!

Today for dinner they had turkey with sausage stuffing.

End of conversation.  We got cut off.

I'll have to look up what communities line up with what mile markers on the Mississippi River.


April 17, 2013

Gene Herde    6:28 AM  Illinois River  173S a few miles downstream from Chillicothe, IL

I assume from their location that the food supplies for the remainder of Jos' first tour are on board.  The plan is not to have to resupply for ten days or so.

Jos called.  He got $1800 worth of supplies last night, and tile has $400 left in his budget for incidentals and stuff like fresh milk.

He saved three dollars per pound (that is for thirty to forty pounds) by cutting up steaks (rib-eye, I think he said) himself.

He has a rotation of menus.  Monday is breakfast burritos, Thursday McMuffin-style.  He has two pancake days (and/or French toast or waffles.  I'm not exactly clear on this.)  On odd days he serves hash browns.  Eggs are pretty much an every day offering.

For lunch he is going to serve spaghetti and meatballs, for dinner pork chops.

They are heading downstream toward the Peoria locks.  One reason the schedules of these boats are so unpredictable far in advance was explained to me when I read on that some of these lock systems are only in use during times of low water level.  When the river is high, the boats navigate the main channel and don't have to go through the locks at all.

John Weeks also notes that the Illinois River is known for its "big monster metal bridges."  He reports that while the bridges of the Mississippi are being replaced by modern structures, Illinois has chosen to maintain its steel bridges.  Check out his sight for more information!  (My apologies to John if inaccuracies have crept in with my transliteration - let me know!)

Gene Herde  8:36 PM  IR 100S upstream from Beardstown, IL

Too bad - if the most scenic part of the waterway is between 20 and 80 miles from Grafton, they will probably navigate a good part of it during the night.

April 16, 2013

Gene Herde    7:43 AM  Illinois River 237S
a little downstream from Ottawa, IL

No word from Jos yet today.  Phone calls depend on the conjunction of his free time and available service.

Gene Herde   11:14 AM   IR 231 between Ottawa and Peru, IL

Heard from Jos - he talked about yesterday.  Evidently the crews worked pretty much all day in the rain.

When they hit Mile Marker 260 they passed a nude beach.  Unfortunately, the weather was bad so they didn't see any skinnydippers.  There must have been a lettered sign!  (Which way was the sign facing?  Who are they trying to attract to their beach?  Is there a nudist colony there, perhaps?)

The crew informed him, though, that you don't need an officially nude beach to see nakedness along the river.  Anyplace that is halfway private, people strip down to the skin to bathe.  They also treat the crew as some people treat truck drivers, jauntily (and raunchily?) flashing them as they go past in their faster boats.

Who knew the adventures that the inhabitants of these seemingly serene towboats enjoy (and suffer) on the inland's great rivers?

Today dinner (served on the boat in the middle of the day) was pork ribs, and the evening meal was a hearty beef and steak stew served with toasted cheese sandwiches.

I finally remembered to ask Jos how many men he is feeding.  The number has been as high as 12, but is usually ten men.  They work hard and eat lot! 

Jos is going to bed early.  He could be awakened at 10 o'clock tonight for delivery of a food order they placed in Hennepin.  Schedules are always changing on these boats.

The other day they were talking about taking their present load down to the gulf.  Now they are talking about trading it off and coming up the Ohio.

Jos gets off ten days from now.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if he could be dropped off here in Madison,  a block away and within sight of our apartment!

Gene Herde  7:20 PM IR 224S approaching Peru, IL

April 15, 2013

Gene Herde  5:37 AM  Illinois River 278S  heading towards I55 bridge (and probably by now (6:00) beyond it.)

Spoke with Jos this morning.  He sounded cheerful, robust and hearty, and his breakfast sounds the same!  He is serving breakfast burritos with sausage, eggs, potatoes and cheese - probably right this very moment! - to the men who are working the 6 AM to noon shift.

Joseph saw deer on the shore, and a really big fish leapt along the boat.  The fish seemed to be a foot-and-a-half long or so.  I wonder what the largest fish in the Illinois River are like?


April 14, 2013

Gene Herde  7:24 AM  IR 291S

Ha, ha!  Silly me.  I was startled by the S after the mileage number.  Of course, the N or S doesn't mean anything about the location on the map, the way the 291 does.  It is all about the direction the boat is going.  Since rivers wind around a lot, I'm surprised the tradition doesn't just say U for upstream and D for downstream.  For some folks that would just be more confusing, I guess.

The Gene Herde is the farthest North that it has been since I started looking up its location - and it is heading South already.  Last night I got lazy, so I missed its furthermost northern point.

Sitting here along the Ohio River downriver of the Madison/Milton bridge, looking out at the towboats that glide by, we had no idea how much alertness is required on the part of pilots and and captains in this particular area of the river.  A bridge and three big bends!  These take more attention than we knew.

The captain has told Jos that you can see an accident coming from a long way away.  The boat has no brakes (not enough friction where the "rubber meets the road" - seems obvious doesn't it?) so aside from running the reverse engine and setting the rudder in the optimal position, there isn't anything the folks on the boat can do.  Once you know the impact is inevitable, you still have time to go down to the galley and have a cup of coffee and a chat.*

At any rate, Jos is heading downriver again.  May the more southern location and warming weather make all aboard more comfortable!

*Any errors in these pages are mine alone, and I reserve the right to come back and correct them at any time!  

April 13, 2013

Gene Herde   7:17 AM  IR 286N  Brandon Road Lock

The Gene Herde is still at the Brandon Road Lock near Joliet.  This means they are waiting... waiting... for something.

The waiting means that there is some downtime for some of the crew.  Instead of actively physically working, they have at least some unexpected time to rest.  A welcome break, I'm sure.

Meanwhile, he is in the middle of breakfast service!

April 12, 2013

Gene Herde  4:55 AM   Illinois River 279N  near I55 Bridge

From what I can tell, technically this is no longer the Illinois River (which comes into being at the confluence of the des Plaines and the Kankakee Rivers) but part of the Illinois Waterway.

The Gene Herde is still chugging northward.  Jos reports seeing a light dusting of snow on the banks.  Brrr!

Gene Herde  location 7:17 AM  IR 286N  Brandon Road Lock

According to my so-far favorite source for what is where along the Illinois River, the boat is at or near the Brandon Road Lock - just outside Joliet, IL.  This is way closer to Chicago than I thought they would be.

Breakfast this morning was French bread, soaked well and nicely browned.

Last night Jos made macaroni, poured some Campbell's Cheddar Cheese soup over it, added plenty of Velveeta, and topped it with American cheese.  Kind of a declasse three cheese macaroni that was a hit! 

April 11, 2013

Gene Herde
  5:02AM  Illinois River  241N near Ottowa

                    3:07PM  IR  263N (between Dresden Island Lock and Marseille Lock

Yesterday around Hennepin the crew of the Gene Herde had a chance to get off the boat - onto another boat.

It is a store boat that has items appealing to those who may have run out of cigarettes or antihistamines.

It also stocks items such as cups with cute sayings, girlie magazines and T-shirts that say things like, "Towboaters make the best lovers because they have the most thrust!"  (The exclamation point is probably mine.  Doesn't seem like T-shirts are big on exclamation marks.

Jos has seen some black birds hanging in the river with just their long necks sticking out of the water.  They dive under and reappear maybe twenty yards away.

Dinner yesterday was lasagna and the dessert Jos made of his own invention was a big hit.  Turns out, though, that it strongly resembles one made by Applebees - a favorite of the captain's!

This morning Jos planned a light breakfast (egg Mcmuffin sort of thing, and a sausage on a biscuit.)

Turned out a handy breakfast was a good thing, because they were in stationary in locks, and there was a lot of work for the crew.

April 10, 2013

Gene Herde
  6:57 AM  Illinois River 163N (5 miles N of Peoria Lock)

Back in cell phone service range at last, forty miles or so downstream from Hennepin, IL where they are supposed to pick up food supplies.

As of last night the big side loads blocking their view were removed, so the crew is out of the "tunnel."  That really creates cabin fever added on to the normal restrictions of riverboat existence.

At some point yesterday Jos saw (with his binoculars, from a storage-room window) over 100 pelicans with black under their wings, and bunches of fish swimming and leaping in the river.  

On the trip downstream the Gene Herde is not going to be pushing so much freight, it seems, so the crew will be able to view the shores as long as there is light to see.  Hopefully it will be while they are passing through the most scenic part of the Illinois River voyage.

Unfortunately, with loads alongside the boat, Jos' galley porthole was blocked off.

He is feeling his way through the maze of shipboard etiquette.  You don't want to be seen as a wise guy, but you don't want to be a pushover, either.  He will talk more about that when he learns more.

In orientation, these folks were instructed not to talk about politics - passions run too high.

The Gene Herde has entered a lake, and there is stormy weather approaching.  I think Jos mentioned it was also getting cold.

Gene Herde 9:23 AM IR 177N  (3 miles downstream from Chillicothe, IL)

April 9, 2013

Gene Herde  7:11AM Illinois River 084N  (between La Grange Lock and Beardstown, IL)

Didn't hear from Jos until 1:15 this afternoon.  Evidently there aren't many towns along the Illinois River.  He borrowed the Captain's phone (satellite, maybe?) to call because he figured I would be climbing the walls.

Well, it is true; I have been.  I did not anticipate that the Illinois River would be part of a Great Illinois Wilderness, cell-phone waveless.  The only thing that reassured me is the wonderful position posting by ACL that let me know the Gene Herde is still chugging along.

Of course there were TV waves (are those also called radio waves?) and Jos got to see the game until he dozed off, exhausted.

He reports that yesterday at this time he saw a white pelican.  I guess when we get more telephone time he will tell me what he has been cooking.

Jos really is a creative chef, so when we get in rhythm here, I might have some exciting things to report.

The crew may well be the limiting factor in Jos' expression of his creativity.  His chief aim must be, of course, to nourish and please them.

April 8, 2013

Gene Herde 10:44 AM  Illinois River 013 N (upstream from Grafton)

This is Joseph's first day solo on his new job.  The process which began a little over a month ago is complete, and he is a full-fledged river cook on his first flight - or should I say float.

Floating is not exactly what the Gene Herde is doing at the moment, I don't think.  It is heading up the Illinois River towards Chicago, although the plans do not include going quite that far.

I haven't heard from Jos yet today.  Yesterday evening he reported the boat was going through locks.  This involves, for the boat itself, mostly waiting its turn.  That was on the Mississippi, which of course has the highest traffic.  Due to the load they were carrying at that time, they could only see straight ahead and straight behind.

I hope that situation did not last, because they might be going through what I have read is the most scenic part of the Illinois River today or tomorrow.

Since there was little going on with him otherwise, I asked Joseph about laundry.  Evidently the laundry facility on board is very close to the engine, so members of the crew have to wear heavy-duty headphone-style ear protectors while they are washing their clothes.

Did I mention before the crew must wear life-jackets when they go on deck?  Going through the locks can be perilous even with a life jacket on.  Carelessly leaning against a lock has resulted in at least one death when the boat moved sideways suddenly, Jos was told.

Gene Herde  3:35 PM   Illinois River 037N  (roughly midway between Hardin and Florence, IL)

Have not heard from Jos all day.  No cell phone function, is my guess - or maybe he's too busy, being on his own now!

April 7, 2013            

Gene Herde  10:32 AM:  Upper Mississippi 172 N

Joseph called me a few minutes ago to report that the towboat was approaching St. Louis.  He could see the arch in the distance.  His trainer, Red, is getting off the boat in this city and now Jos will be on his own.

I bet they are looking at the arch right now!  It always takes a while to effect embarking and disembarking - not as simple as walking to the parking lot and getting into your car.

Today Jos put on the cook's bulletin board, "Mistakes are bricks on the road to perfection."

I Googled it to see if he was quoting someone else, and didn't see anything up high on the list (which is where it should be, dammit! if someone else already said it.)  This may be one of Jos' gifts to posterity!

I promised him to mention something else, but truthfully I cannot remember what it was.  Maybe he will.

April 6, 2013                              

Gene Herde  location 12:38 PM:  Upper Mississippi 085N

I spoke with Jos aboard the Gene Herde this morning.  He has been sleeping just fine.  The boat has a gentle rocking motion, sometimes side to side, other times forward and backward.  Talk about a water bed!

There have been some switches of pilot personnel in the last day or so.  Maybe they are training people, but all the coming and going makes it seem as if our concept of an unchanging population for four week terms was a little off from the truth.

The towboat goes in and out of our cell phone range, so communications are touch and go.

Jos has gained information about towboats that you can't easily observe from the riverbank.  For one thing, there are often more barges being pushed than it appears.  As of when I spoke with Jos, (10:30 or so this morning) the Gene Herde was pushing 20 barges.

Larger towboats can push as many as 42 barges - six across and 7 long.  Sometimes there are tugs involved in controlling the tow.  (Three tugs might help at one time.  That's a lot of coordination.)  Boats as large as this are to be found on the Mississippi River, not on the Ohio - at least not with such large loads.

There is a lot of work involved in loading and securing barges.  I don't know the exact division of labor yet - maybe the people who load are all shoreside workers. The crews often work very hard on their six-hour shifts.

No wonder they eat so much meat!  Jos has been told that if these folks don't like what is put before them (or on the menu, don't take everything I say too literally) they eat cereal.  What I want to know is, what do they eat if they run out of cereal?

The only conclusion I can come to is that these river cooks are pretty good at pleasing their crewmates. 

April 5, 2013

Gene Herde   location:  9:31AM  Ohio River 978S

The mileage along the Ohio starts at 0 in Pittsburgh, which is technically the beginning of the Ohio River, created by the Allegheny and the Monongahala Rivers.

Jos is on "rattle watch" in the galley.

I gather the Gene Herde is in a holding position.  One engine is on forward, one engine is in reverse, and the rudder is crosswise.

This makes for some heavy duty vibrations and bumping, Jos reports, which could have dire consequences in the kitchen.  He is there now on rattle watch to make sure everything stays put.  The cupboards have special latches and there is a stove guard, but evidently these safeguards might not be enough when the vibration is at its worst.

Jos' river cook trainer, Red, is an excellent cook, Jos reports, who can take a good cut of meat and make it into something special.  Unfortunately, Jos reports he can feel he is gaining weight already!

Ha!  All that vibration and jostling is one way to get some exercise!  I've always wondered if those passive exercise machines accomplish anything.

A little later:   If I understood Jos correctly, the Gene Herde is near Wickliffe, Kentucky.  I just looked on a map and see that is where the Ohio River meets the Mississippi.

No wonder they are experiencing so much turbulence!  Not only do two big rivers meet, but the boats navigating each of these waterways have to jockey into position like airplanes on a runway.  (Ha, ha, I'm making reference to, in my experience, airplane terminology, which probably originated with horse racing and nautical slang!  Ah, the wonders of the English language!)

Anyway, I was about to say the Ohio was joining the great Mississippi, but I learned yesterday that at the confluence of these two rivers, the Ohio actually has the greater flow.

In other words, the Mississippi River owes a good deal of its greatness to the Ohio River, which Thomas Jefferson thought the most beautiful and beneficent river on earth. 

P.S.  Just got a call from Joseph that he heard the boat is heading back toward the Illinois River.  Location as of 2:51 is UM 002N.  I guess that is the Upper Mississippi and they haven't hit the mouth of the Ohio River yet.


April 4, 2013                             Gene Herde OR 894S

Jos' mentor aboard told him the food these crews are mostly used eating is Southern home-style cooking.  How much the menu varies to suit individual tastes and requirements, I haven't heard yet.  Jos jokes that so far the menu is meat, meat, meat and meat!  Three meats for breakfast!  (I wonder if they even have oatmeal on board.)

One very cool thing I have learned about the system of towboats, at least as practised by the ACL, is that you can get their exact location via the Internet!  Starting right now, I am going to post their position on the top line with the date.

The tows move at about 5 miles per hour.  You might be able to keep up with one for quite a ways, riding a bike along the shore!

The original plan for his boat when he boarded was to go up the Ohio River a little downstream from Louisville.  Then yesterday, he told the towboat was heading up the Illinois River to make a switch of loads with another towboat, which would go back up the Ohio with what was formerly the Gene Herde's load, while his boat would turn back and head back on the Mississippi River.  Modern communications allow for highly flexible routes and scheduling.

The Captain determines what time zone the boat will be on.  The Gene Herde is on Central Time, but if it is absolutely necessary to make a switch in zone observance, the Captain is the one to do it.

Did you know that there are locks in our river system?  I thought locks were for canals, but Joseph has already been through two sets of locks in three days.

Right now the Gene Herde is on the Ohio River, but I'm not sure exactly what the 894S refers to.  I'll ask him the next time we speak on the phone.

If you are interested in working on a towboat, where you live will make a difference, because if you are too far away it makes it too expensive for the company to get you to and from work.  They do pay for your transportation.  Fortunately, we are living in the region of acceptability, my guess is that anywhere along the Ohio or lower Mississippi would work!

For those of you most interested in the food, have patience!  I will tell you more as the information comes. 

April 2, 2013

Yesterday morning Jos was ready to board transportation to get to his assignment on the Gene Herde.

A driver from C&C came to pick Jos up at the hotel, and stayed with him onshore until he was safely on the tugboat that was taking him to his towboat.

Once Jos was on the tug, the dispatcher asked him if he was a cook.  When Jos said yes, he called over to the towboat and said, "I have a fat lady in a tutu here that's coming over."

Jos was downcast.  "You know the part that really hurts?  The tutu!"

Everybody had a good laugh at Jos' expense and the dispatcher said he knew Jos must be a cook because he was too green to be a captain or a pilot, and too old to be a deckhand!

When Jos got onto the boat he was going to live on four the next four weeks, the words that greeted him were, "Where's the tutu?"

Jos was gratified to learn that he has his own cabin with a window!

Tomorrow I'll tell you more of what he has learned since boarding.  It will probably take me a day or two to get you caught up with where in his training he is now.

One thing we have learned already:  there are lots of dead cell phone areas on the river, especially away from towns.  Although we can still talk, communications via even phoney voice are not guaranteed!

April 1, 2013

Tensions are running a little high, but finally Jos has his departure location - back in Paducah, Kentucky where he had his four days' job orientation.  Looks as if I get to go along on the drive this time, and do a little sightseeing myself!

The folks at the cooks' orientation spoke of wanting to improve the health of the onboard menus, but of course the people who work on the boats have their tastes and decided preferences.  At present tradition dictates that they have fish on Fridays, steak on Saturdays, and fried chicken on Sundays.

This blog is not going to be a big foodie source, or even a detailed record of the daily menu.  Rather, it is going to be a commentary on daily life on a towboat plying the big Midwestern and Southern rivers of the U.S.A.

It may be most helpful not to eaters, but to those who may be considering employment on one of these boats.  At this time the most helpful fact I can offer is that yes, at least one company running one hundred towboats is actively hiring cooks at the present time.

This is a job I haven't seen mentioned in any of the job-related articles I have seen on the Internet in the years I've been reading it, so it might open up the idea of new doors (and galleys!) to you.

Jos will be on the water for four weeks straight.  He has never done this work before, so you will be hearing his impressions and observations (second-hand via me, I warn you!) of this exciting new phase in his life. 

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