*'Grasshoppering' a steamboat*
Morning, Steamboating colleagues:
Franz, what an irony reading your posting here this morning RE: 'grasshoppering' a steamboat as I had this topic on my mind briefly last week. No doubt there are others we know who could add more data. I'm sure Capts. Don Sanders, Bob Reynolds, others like Frank Prudent, Jim Reising etc. could add more. The technique used more common with wood hulled steamboats as I've never read/heard a reference with an iron or steel hulled vessel. Also more common on very shallow rivers or those with few to any lock and dams. Basically, the two tall spars on the bow were dropped in the river on an angle similar in shape to the letter 'A' to give leverage in 'lifting' the forward part of the hull up with the engines driving forward. 'Grasshoppering' was slow and laborious with, hopefully, the boat advancing with the process starting all over. Sand bars often saw it used but how it worked on gravel bars or bars in the river with stone another matter. And to some degree it could be hard on the hull which often was flexing. There are classic period photos of steamboats on the Yukon River in Alaska with devices mounted on the bows used for 'grasshoppering' up there. Fred Way, and other old timers, mentioned/wrote about it here on the Ohio and other rivers way, way back but construction of new dams here pretty much eliminated it.

Another technique sometimes used was when a boat came upon shallows they 'sounded' in front some distance. The boat would back away, come ahead driving waves of water that would lift the boat up and over. Another approach was to reverse the sternwheel or sidewheels to drive waves of water ahead to lift the boat. The trick was to not get totally stranded. My late grandmother often told of riding the big sidewheelers here on the Ohio during low water with the boat laboring through the shallows. The long cabin floor actually would visibly lift and bend as the boat slid over. When I mentioned her memories to Capt. Fred Way he confirmed it. She never mentioned it on the steel hulled big KATE ADAMS but did witness it on the last wood hulled BONANZA. Some rivers saw crew run lines from the bow of boats to trees and rocks ashore to use the wheels to drive ahead and capstans to pull them forward. That's all I know. I know somebody will chime in here soon. Hope all well with you and yours over in Germany.

R. Dale Flick
Old Coal Haven Landing, Ohio River, Cincinnati.