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Date: August 23, 2002 at 17:56:15
From: Captain Mike, [user-119at1j.biz.mindspring.com]
Subject: The Captains Log


The dawn this morning was special; clear with no rain. Yesterday was a huge wash out as the late summer thunderstorms did their routine after noon performance. The crew focused on inside detail work, hanging new curtains, hanging artwork, polishing furniture. The dining room is fully set up, the tables set in neat rows and draped with fresh linen cloths. The galley sends the tempting aroma of the chefs labors drifting through the vessel. Back in the engine room, engineers confer in huddles, scrutinize the many gauges and tweak the valves of this now living entity. A special day has dawned; the day that mother of the fleet will sail again, under her own power. We have decided to take a 2 hour river trial cruise up the river to check out all vessel machinery and systems.
At about 7:30 am, Coast Guard inspectors arrived aboard, and we discussed our intentions for the morning. Soon, two tug boats arrived, one to escort us up the river, and the other to stay behind and prop wash away the ever accumulating mud along the wharf. At about 8:30, I made an "All ashore" announcement, and five minutes later called for the mate to bring in the gangway. As we were about to depart, a couple of late arriving servicemen came running along the dock, and were quickly boarded by the mate via a ladder kept on the bow for just that reason. A couple of more minutes waiting for a southbound ship to pass, then, I called to the pilot (Captain Mike Swigert) To come ahead slow, and full left rudder. As the deckhands trew of the stern lines the Delta Queen swung slowly out into the river, and finally cleared the bow of the American Queen. With a straight rudder, she pulled her bow out of the soft mud of the bottom and backed quickly out into the river. Full right rudder and thrusting her head full to port got her swinging around like the proverbial outhouse door, then steadied up and facing up river, I asked the pilot to come ahead slow, and very gradually go to half ahead, and then to full. This lasted on a couple of minutes when the pilothouse phone rang, and the Chief Engineer asked, "What are you waiting for?" I explained that I was trying to take it easy on the machinery and bring him slowly to full power. "We're ready to open her up if you are" came the reply. Without further delay the pilot swung the shining brass engine telegraph to FULL AHEAD, and the Delta Queen surged ahead. The wharves of the New Orleans harbor slipped by, owing to the fact that there is very little current and that the chief was turning the paddlewheel at 16 RPMs! All was going smoothly when the marine radio crackled with a call. It was the escort tug boat "Shane C" calling us. "Cap, how far up are you gonna go, we can't keep up with ya, do ya want us to wait?" The 75 year old Delta Queen was out running the tug boat! We slowed the spry old gal down to 12 rpms, and watched as the tug slowly caught up. The Coast Guard inspector who sat quietly on the bench just smiled. After about and hour, we turned the Delta Queen downbound just below Upper Nine Mile point. As we went, various tug boats, docks, and big towboats called to say that they were happy to see us back, wishing us luck, and glad that steamboats had survived. Bless them! All river men and connected to the river in their souls, kindred spirits! The morning continued to favor us with nary a wind, and a sky decorated with fair weather cumulus clouds. 10:30 am found the Delta Queen slowly drifting past the American Queen, where we carefully spun her around facing upstream and nestled her gently against the wharf just below her grand daughter, the AQ. It was if the Delta Queen was telling the big ,new boat "That is how you make an entrance, dear!" Once secure, and gangway in place, the flurry of activity began again. "Bucket brigades" of crewmembers passed boxes, bundles and crates, hand to hand, arm to arm, which was then shuttled below for storage. At 1pm, I surprised the gallant crew by sounding the General Alarm tone, to signal an Emergency Drill. They moved quickly and manned all stations and reported in to the wheelhouse, like clockwork. The Coast Guard instructed us to perform several emergency procedures, and the crew responded in unison. After 25 minutes, the inspectors were satisfied and I rang the all clear signal. The 2 mates, myself and the inspectors all met in the pilot house. The mates and I all stole anxious glances at each other as the Inspector summarized his review of the inspection. Dammit already, did we pass, do we get the Certificate of Inspection? You can never really tell, sometimes we have to go do other things to satisfy them. My heart leaped as he opened his blue binder, and I saw it! The Certificate of Inspection for the Steamer Delta Queen! He smiled and said congratulations as he handed me this most hard won document. It meant that the last obstacle to the Delta Queen sailing was now past! I quickly notified the chief and thanked him for the dedicated effort of his staff, and I hurried around the boat telling everyone of our success. What a superb crew! A fine steamboat! And a very lucky, blessed man I am to be called Captain!


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