Professional Mariner|April 2020

Tows running Ohio River get big lift at new Olmsted Locks
Brian Gauvin

As summer came to a close and high water finally receded on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, the fleets at Cairo, Ill., and Paducah, Ky., were busy making up tows following nearly nine months of disruptions.

Capt. Daniel Morgan, at the helm of the 145foot Jeffboat, maneuvered a 20-barge tow to American Commercial Barge Lines’ East Cairo fleet at mile marker 978, three miles upstream from the Ohio River’s confluence with the Mississippi.

The lead hand on the forward watch, Levi Harris, and deckhand David Jowers broke up the tow as Morgan turned over the helm to David Sylvaria, in training for his pilot’s license. Sylvaria steered the towboat to the ACBL dock for supplies.

Just before noon, the pilot, Capt. Tom More, and the mate, Jessie “Pineapple” Ziemer, appeared on the bridge to take the after watch.

The mate on a brown-water vessel, equivalent to a bosun on a bluewater boat, oversees the deck crew. “No one on the river knows me by Jessie,” said Ziemer, who hails from Hawaii.

Wilma Pickett, the cook from Benton, Ky., was in the galley assembling thick slices of corned beef and cheese on rye bread for a lunch that would not be out of place in a high-end deli. “I love the life,” she said. “I’ve been around boats and the river all of my life.”

Jeffboat was built at Jeffboat in Jeffersonville, Ind., in 1981. Once the nation’s largest inland shipbuilder, the company closed in 2018. The towboat is powered by two GE 8125OMDA9 main engines with Lufkin RHS 3624 gears, generating 6,200 horsepower at 1,050 rpm.


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April 2020