The title got your attention, right?
We started today at 5:30 a.m. in an anchorage North of Cape Girardot, MO. An early morning storm delayed our start, but after the rain slowed down we retrieved both anchors. The primary plow anchor came up easily with the electric windlass, but the secondary fluke anchor (the one that really held us against the current of the stream feeding into the Mississippi) had dug in so well that (with directions from our delivery captain Danny) I drove the boat next to it and then twisted it out. We headed back to the strong current of the Mississippi later than we had anticipated, but with both anchors.
On our travel North, we watched for and steered around floating logs and other debris,
passed a handful of push-boats with barges (which for some backward reason are called “tows”), and made slow but steady progress.
The unprecedented floodwaters have moved many of the ATONs (aids to navigation) off station, usually into the woods with lots of other debris.
Despite the number of “pleasure craft” (the phrase that tow captains use for non-commercial boats) on the Mississippi, there are very few marinas or fuel stops on this part of the Mississippi. Because of heavy flooding, the typical options (Kidd Bothers fuel at Cape Girardot and Hoppies just South of St. Louis) were closed. So…by the time we saw the St. Louis arch in the distance, our fuel tanks were VERY low. Nearly empty, really. And a tornado watch had been issued for St. Louis.
When we checked with the Coast Guard by VHF radio, the dispatcher instructed us to find an anchorage or safe place to tie up for the night and weather the storm. Soon after that, we looked to our port (left, that us) and there was Coast Guard Station St. Louis. Captain Danny Meadows and I had the same idea – let’s ask if we can tie up to their dock! So we did. And were treated with overwhelming respect and helpfulness. We first we were ordered to tie up on the river side of the Coast Guard dock, but after consideration Gene (a 14 year Coastie from Guam) said he wanted us on the inside, more protected, dock. Three enlisted men helped us untie, retie, and get set up.
Shawn, a 19 year old from South Carolina who had just finished basic training and had only three months’ experience as an enlisted Coastie, was ordered to drive us in a GV (government vehicle) to buy fuel containers, then to a gas station to fill them with diesel fuel, then RTB (return to base) . He helped us carry our fuel back to the boat. Carrying 30 gallons of diesel fuel in yellow plastic containers past the razor wires onto a US government base? No problem.
A few minutes later when the tornado sirens sounded, Gene invited is to join his crew in their 125 foot buoy tender, offered us coffee, gave us a tour of the bridge, and happily discussed his Coast Guard career, the buoy tender, the deck with picnic table that floated by a few days ago, and the extended river flooding that had delayed his crew’s work. He told us that he would be on the nearby ship all night and we should stop in anytime.
A surreal, but very welcome, experience. We were safety moored by expert seamen who cared for our safety, protected our boat by adding their fenders to ours, tied dependable knots connecting our boat to their dock, and offered us hospitality beyond belief. A good day!