River Rules

I’ve been puttering around today, did some biking and walking around Memphis. Picked up a new capacitor for the generator.

But mostly I’ve been thinking about the last couple of days. I knew in the abstract what to expect, sort of. I’m not risk averse, figured I’d survive, and really wanted to experience it. But the realities made me a bit uncomfortable the last couple of days. Mostly an acute conciousness of the raw volume and power of the river, but also the volume of tow traffic, and the maneuvering constraints they’re under, particularly southbound.

To be clear, I am confident that I’m not in any more danger here than I have been elsewhere in my travels. There are risks inherent in operating solo that I’m quite comfortable with, and that I try to manage. But I’ve had to get my head around a new set of risks.

Mostly I’ve had to make a new plan in case I lose power or steering. I’ve come to realize that the chance of the boat surviving may not be great if that happens.

Once I made that clear in my mind the focus shifted to individual survival rather than saving the boat, and that’s relatively easy to solve for.

Here’s my plan if I lose power suddenly and/or unexpectedly.

1) Declare an emergency and ask for help. Pull that red tab on the VHF immediately.

This is going to be really hard for me. My instinct is always to buy time. Sometimes I can fix problems, and I have abiding faith in self healing. But in this case there is no time, and it truly is an emergency. Take any help and advice offered. Let the pros tell me what to do. I can try to resolve the problem while this is in progress.

2) Be prepared to get into the dinghy and get to safety if things do not look good. Choose my moment. Get off well before the boat hits the bank or a barge.

So I have an action plan for tomorrow and then I can leave here happily.

a) get the genset running, operate for a while under load. Make sure no water in separator.

b) change fuel filter. My fuel system is very clean but it’s been more than a year.

c) make sure my spare rode is ready to deploy.

d) pump up and launch the dinghy, take it for a spin around the marina. Tow it downriver.

e) have a ditch bag with VHF, passport, etc.

There! I’m as well prepared as I feel I should be. This actually lifts a great weight. I’m ready and excited. And it’s going to be warm enough to hang out on top 🙂

Of course I’m going to remain vigilant in dodging debris and piloting, as well as the usual monitoring of systems. Honestly I think the biggest risk is having debris damage the prop or rudder, but it’s hard to imagine complete incapacitation from that.

My plan is to slow down, stop anywhere that looks interesting, and do more moderate days. The rush is over.

I’ll sleep easy tonight. Leaving Wednesday. This is so cool.

2 thoughts on “River Rules”

  1. It’s good to have your ducks lined up at least in your head and hopefully you won’t have too many problems come up all at once. Being on such a large body of water like that must be a little overwhelming sometimes. Hope all goes well

    Liked by 1 person

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