April 20, 2007
The river levels finally dropped, after a winter
of rise and fall, enough to allow a venture onto the
mighty Kanawha River, located in West Virginia. The
26 foot, converted cruiser-come riverboat was taken
from under its winter wraps and with a general spruce
up was ready for a trip on the falling river.
1) The 26 foot, converted cruiser-come riverboat
was taken from under its winter wraps and given
a general spruce up.
About the boat: The boat, (photo
2) a 1962 Lonestar Aluminum Cruiser, was purchased
as a stripped hull and converted to a diesel/ hydraulic
sternwheeler in the early 1990’s by Ronda “Bugs”
Wright for a planned trip down the Kanawha to the
Mississippi via the Ohio river. Due to an unexpected,
chronic illness, Bugs couldn’t make the trip
and the boat languished many years on his property.
In 2001 a deal was struck and the boat was purchased,
by me, to use on the Kanawha river. After a refit
and fine tune the old girl performed admirably and
plies the waters with a cruise speed of 4.5 mph and
a blazing top speed of 6 mph in still water. The 1980’s
vintage Volkswagon Rabbit Diesel hums along at a leisurely
pace and burns one third of a gallon of fuel per hour
making time on the river (not necessarily distance)
economical. In 2006 completion of the interior yielded
a small double berth, confinement of the engine to
a separate compartment, separate portapotti head and
a small kitchen/sink/ galley area. Combined with the
6 X 10 foot covered rear deck, this space makes a
great, casual, camp boat. The boat is trailer able
as long as a reasonable speed is used and short distances
are no problem.
2) The boat was converted to a diesel/ hydraulic
sternwheeler in the early 1990’s by Ronda
The trip: On a lowering river, we
launched from Leons’ small public dock and journeyed
downstream on a good current making 7 mph towards
our destination 14 miles away – Point Pleasant
WV. – Home of the Moth Man legend. The crew
(Granddad), first mate (son) and Captain (Dad) settled
in for the cruise, after casting off (photo 3 and
4) , leaving loved ones behind.
3) The crew (Granddad), first mate (son) and
Captain (Dad) settled in for the cruise.
4) We launched from Leons’ small public
dock and journeyed downstream on a good current
making 7 mph.
We were able to keep up with a down bound tow boat
and barges (photo 5) As the engine sipped fuel, we
motored into the 10 mph NW head wind with nary a care,
watching the Mason county farm land glide by. During
the 2 hour journey the crew took watches at the wheel
with the first mate drawing the straw to run the “Gauntlet”,
the congested 2 miles stretch of the Kanawha with
tugs, fleeted barges, and dry docks at the confluence
of the Kanawha and Ohio rivers (photos 6, 7, 8, 9).
The 13 year old, first mate stayed at his post and
guided us through the busy activity with the calm
assurance of a true river veteran. The perception
from the helm changes dramatically when going from
a ¼ mile wide river to 200 yards of commercial
hustle and bustle (photo 10). As he threaded the needle
we noted the small creek entrance where we would return
for the take out. Crossing under the bridges and rounding
the “point” in Point Pleasant, we viewed
Tu- endi- we Park ( photo 11) as we plowed into the
Ohio river upstream and our speed slowed to 3 mph
as we fought the swifter current of the big river.
With only a short journey upriver required, we quickly
spotted the Point Pleasant Ampitheater and RiverPark,
complete with a large wharf for the river boats (Delta
Queen, River Barge Explorer) and a smaller floating
dock for transients like us.(photo 12)
5) We were able to keep up with a down bound
tow boat and barges.
The 13 year
old, first mate stayed at his post and guided
us through the busy activity with the calm assurance
of a true river veteran. (Photos 6,7,8 &
9 - below)
10) The perception from the helm changes dramatically
when going from a ¼ mile wide river to
200 yards of commercial hustle and bustle.
11) Crossing under the bridges and rounding
the “point” in Point Pleasant, we
viewed Tu-endi-we Park.
12) With only a short journey upriver required,
we quickly spotted the Point Pleasant Ampitheater.
We slowly motored in trying not to disturb the few
fishermen who were fishing from the dock. We made
quick work of deploying the fenders and tying off
to allow a quick survey of the public facilities.
After a brief discussion with the starving and now
near mutinous crew it was decided to reboard and travel
across the Ohio river to Gallipolis (City of the Gauls)
and search for an acceptable venue to fill the crew
and captain with needed victuals. We tied up below
the Gallipolis bridge and walked the rock riff raff
up the banks to reveal a starving mans paradise and
quickly settled on an all – you – can
– stuff buffet, where crew were satisfied and
moods pacified. After dinner we waddled over the river
bank and to our waiting ferry, ( photo 13) crossing
the current of the Ohio without problems. Back on
the public dock and settling in, we made things ship
shape setting up our chairs and other amenities on
the boat. We decided to take a stroll thru historic
down town Point Pleasant and stumbled upon the stainless
steel ghost of the inhabitants before – General
Lewis, ( photo 14) primary leader of the local forces,
and Chief Cornstalk, (photo 15) who met his unfortunate
end at the hands of local hooligans. These life size,
welded, sculptures are made by a local artist and
displayed here on the river. Walking in the fading
light along main street and noting the old Lowe Hotel,
(photo16) (established in 1901) contrasted to the
funky, storefront, Mothman museum (established 2005),
one wonders the path this old river town will take
in the future. After a leisurely walk, it was time
to return to our good boat for the night. The temperature
began to fall with a low of 39 degrees expected by
early morning so a steaming thermos of coffee broke
the evening chill and crew and captain alike spent
an hour catching up on the doings of the world thru
print media. ( photo 17) As the late watch approached
bedding was brought out with the elderly crew taking
the inside berth and young crew and captain sleeping
under cover in the hammock on deck. The stars were
bright and the fuel tugs running up and down the river
rocked us to sleep. With appropriate chill-poof sleeping
bags, all was warm except for the required mid morning
vessel line check and personal relief trip.
13) After dinner we waddled over the river bank
and to our waiting ferry.
14) We stumbled upon the stainless steel ghost
of the inhabitants before – General Lewis
primary leader of the local forces...
15) ...and Chief Cornstalk, who met his unfortunate
end at the hands of local hooligans.
16) The old Lowe Hotel, established in 1901.
17) a steaming thermos of coffee broke the evening
chill and crew and captain alike spent an hour
catching up on the doings of the world thru
Waking up to an absolutely crisp and clear morning
(photo 18) revealed all had survived the night and
were ready for more mandatory grub. Leaving the boat
and journeying once again into town we found Melinda’s,
a small mom and pop kitchen, open at 6 a.m. with breakfast
on and waiting. We made enjoyed a leisurely breakfast
comprised of all of the things your doctor warns you
to avoid, along with hot tea to wash it down with.
Exploring the town more, we came face to face with
the town centerpiece, a “ life-size” sculpture
of Mothman, a local, legendary being, who appears
as forecaster of local ominous events such as Chief
Cornstalks murder and the collapse of the Silver Bridge.(
photo 19,20) The 12 foot high stainless statue watches
from its perch, seeking to intimidate the wary traveler.
We continued our stroll to the River Museum ( photo
21) but alas it was not due to open until 11:00 am
an hour after our planned 10:00am departure.
18) We woke up to an absolutely crisp and clear
19) Exploring the town more, we came face to
face with the town centerpiece, a “ life-size”
sculpture of Mothman
appears as forecaster of local ominous events
such as Chief Cornstalks murder and the collapse
of the Silver Bridge.
21) We continued our stroll to the River Museum.
Rounding the corner from the museum brought to Tu-
endie _ we park (photo 22) which commemorates the
Battle of Point pleasant with a stone obelisk and
the Mansion House an original log cabin full of period
pieces and artifacts.
22) The Battle of Point pleasant is commemorated
with a stone obelisk.
After a short walk along the river trail to the amphitheater
and wharf, we boarded our boat, began to rig for cruising
and cast off for the journey to our take out, a boat
launch a few miles away. The first mate was already
anticipating his maneuvers through the gauntlet and
into the small inlet of the ramp. With no great difficulty
he guided us among the working tugs and barges and
brought us into safe harbor. (photo 23) The Captain
took over for the loading onto the 1960’s vintage
trailer and caused the only damage to our beloved
boat, knocking off a starboard navigation light on
the trailer guidepost! Once on the trailer and out
of the water the river men completed their transition
to normal ground bound mortals but always looking
towards the water for the next adventure. (photo 24)
23) With no great difficulty the First Mate
guided us among the working tugs and barges...
24) ... and brought us into safe harbor.
Post Script: I have a soft spot
for recycled boats. Many good hulls are out there
which would meet our recreational needs and still
allow enough building/modification to satisfy our
construction bug. An example is this converted boat
BUGS LIFE. Although certainly not the best hull for
conversion to a sternwheeler nor the most efficient
use of space, the end result is an easy to use, shallow
draft, inexpensive, unique boat, which has worked
well for the last 6 years. It is ideal for going nowhere
and burning time on the river. At 4 to 6 mph the fuel
burn doesn’t empty your pockets and gives you
the time to slow down in an otherwise busy world.
I hope after looking at BUGS LIFE you won’t
look at all of those old derelict hulls quite the