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Excerpts from The Delta Queens Captains Log, 2003

Posted 01-06-2012 at 11:21 AM by Capt Mike
The following are a few random excerpts from the logs I kept while Captain of the Delta Queen. I just pulled a few from my book about my experiences aboard, which I hope to release this fall on board the Delta Queen...
November 18, Tuesday... It's 5 am, the phone rings and I sit up instantly awake. "It's the mate. "Capt. Mike, we have shut out rain". "I'll be right there" I reply. Outside my door I can hear the roaring wind and pounding rain. I fumble as I slip on my shoes and try to quickly slip into my rain suit. I finally zip the jacket up and slip my walkie talkie into a small plastic bag to protect it from the rain. I take a deep breath, open my cabin door and step out into the tempest.The wind buffets me and is driving the rain in raging torrents. I stumble up into the pilot house, where the mate and pilot are standing and staring at the radar screens intently.The heavy rain has obiliterated the picture, making it impossible to see the shore lines or any bouys or dikes. I carefully try to tweak the old radars to get a better image, but it's no use! God Dam those idiots in the office! I have been calling, writing letters, and begging, trying to get a modern radar that can cut through heavy rain, but they keep claiming that we can't afford it due to "budget constraints". I just wish they could be here right now, in zero visibility, and feel the tremendous stress and concern I have for my passengers, crew and vessel!
We can't slow down or stop now, if we do we'll be quickly blown into the shore by the now 80 mph plus winds! We can only hope to keep moving down the middle of the channel until the storm eases and visibility improves, please, just a radar picture of one shore line! We are starting to get several trouble alarms on our smoke detection panel in the back of the wheel house, which the watchman quickly silences, The alarms indicate that we are starting to get rain leaking into the walls and ceilings on the upper decks as it is being driven in through the window frames. Every once in a while the radar picks up a brief outline of the river banks, helping us to a least stay near the middle of the river. Our brand new GPS electronic chart system stays on, unaffected by the storm, bless its heart! Using it for reference with the occassion radar picture we are able to maintain course down the pitch black river.This extreme stress continues for an hour and a half until the rain begins to subside and the wind to ease just as daylight begins to show. The radars start showing a beautiful picture of the river, banks, bouys and all, gee, thanks alot, my fair weather friends! There are just a few miles down the river to Natchez, and we can see the lights on the landing below.
The wind had eased considerably and the rain had stopped suddenly, almost as if it figured we needed a break since we had made it to our destination. We turned the boat north bound about a quarter mile above the landing and let the current set us back down river until we were just above the boat ramp, where I took control and eased her very gently into the rockly shore. The mate swung the gangway out over the bank and the first deck hand jumped off onto the shore with the spring line in his hand. 8 am, right on time, in spite of the weather! We had the boat secured quickly with 4 tight lines and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I thanked the pilot and mate, who were obviously also greatly relieved, and I headed for my cabin to decompress. What a night! Well, I wanted to be a steamboat captain! As I was about to step into my cabin, an elderly gentleman opened the door just down from mine, seeing me and the wet decks said, "Good Morning Captain, did it rain last night?"
Sunday June 22...At Natchez, Ms. alongside Mississippi Queen
The departure went smoothly, as I easily swung the Delta Queen away from the side of the big boat, and came ahaed full on the engines. Happy passengers on both boats waved and shouted goodbye back and forth as we widened away and fell out into the river, and down on the bow of the Delta Queen a deckhand feigned a dog howling and placed his hand over his heart as he said goodbye to his sweetheart, a cabin attendant on the Mississippi Queen, just one of the many intra boat romances amonst crewmembers...
The evening was very warm and humid, and I took a few minutes to stroll the decks and chat with passengers as a beautiful sunset flared over the western horizon. The sky this night was a painters canvas;the setting sun and weightless clouds were the masters brush and pallette.The faint scent of lavender and honeysuckle hung suspended over the river, their sweet fragrances blended and tempered with the muddy aroma of the glass smooth dark river.
So here I sit, in this tiny cabin, writing in my journal at a lamp lit desk, as this old steamboat up pushes up this remote and mysterious river. The boat gently trembles and creaks in reponse to the turning engines, the palpation of the paddlewheel against the river revealing that she's in deep water, and "patting her foot". Pray that the moment is not lost by me....
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WOW! What a treat! I can't wait to read more. And I can't wait for the book! Jo Ann Schoen
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Posted 01-07-2012 at 08:02 AM by Jo Ann Schoen Jo Ann Schoen is offline
 
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