It's time for kudos and arrows for the deserving, plus some things that just didn't fit in the journal.
On the top of my list has to be some praise for Dumarse and the "Yamabunny." Dumarse is a 2001 Xpress 16-foot aluminum duck boat. It had survived nine years of duck hunting before this trip. I can't begin to describe all the stumps, logs, sand bars and mud flats I've run over in the past two years with this boat, plus all the ice I broke with it during an exceptionally cold week in Arkansas last year.
For years, aluminum boats lay flat on the water when running and even the smallest of waves would rattle your teeth. This boat has what they call a "hyper lift" hull that raises the bow about a foot out of the water when you are running on plane, and vastly improves the boat's ride in rough water. This boat took me through, and got me out of, some rough water situations that you should never put this size boat in. It is a rugged and well-built boat and as far as I can tell, there's not a bit of damage from this trip.
My son and I named the motor "Yamabunny" mid-trip because it just kept going and going. It's a 2010 Yamaha 4-stroke (electric start/tiller steering). That motor ran almost continuously for 10-12 hours a day for 18 days. It never sputtered (except once when I cut the gas flow off by mistake), it never failed to start and it never failed to respond when I twisted that throttle. It consistently got 10 mpg, and 11-12 a couple of times, running almost wide open.
I hit at least 20 logs of varying size, countless limbs, sticks and trash, and grounded twice on sand bars, once with a crash on a rock wing dam (how that didn't destroy the lower unit and prop is beyond me). It's got a few scratches on the skeg and that's it. I wouldn't hesitate to put that boat and motor in the water and head back to Minneapolis, I'm confident Dumarse and the Yamabunny would get me there.
Some things that worked equally well were my Humminbird 788ci chart plotter/depth finder/GPS. Except for two days when the depth finder wouldn't work at high speed (and there may have been something lodged around the transducer that I couldn't see), this unit was invaluable in showing me depth, what was ahead of me and my position on the various waterways. It was also great to see my elapsed miles during the day and at the end of the day.
Cabelas guide wear rain suit kept me dry, and it rained almost every day, sometimes several times each day. It also worked as a light jacket when it was cool at the start of trip. Almost as an afterthought, I put an inexpensive Attwater bimini top on the boat and I am glad I did. It provided shade from the sun and shelter from the rain which made the trip far more comfortable than it would have been in a completely open boat.
What I said about the above equipment is unbiased; I have no sponsors and received no discounts of any kind from the people I mentioned. Huggins Outboard in Albany, Ga. did a superb job in helping me rig the boat and just checking things over in general before I left (but they aren't free, either).
One thing that didn't work well was my Coleman five-day cooler. I suspect they put a 40-pound block of ice in that thing, taped the lid shut and sat it down in Alaska someplace, and at the end of five days the block of ice had melted down to the size of an ice cube, but it was enough to label it as a five-day cooler. In my experience with it, except in Minnesota, it took a bag of ice in the morning and one at night to keep your stuff marginally cold.
The Rule automatic bilge pump ended up being almost worthless. I bought this as an extra bilge pump so that I wouldn't have to worry about heavy rain at night filling up the boat with water. Unfortunately, it developed a mind of its own and started running whenever it wanted to and wouldn't shut off. We cleaned it, tinkered with it and nothing helped so we ended up just unhooking it.
I bought a Quimby's River Guide, which is supposedly the bible for river travelers. It listed a lot of marinas and information about them. I found almost as much useful information on Google Earth that wasn't listed in the river guide. I suspect if you are not an advertiser, you are not going to be listed in the guide. Also, the guide was almost worthless on the intracoastal because they listed locations by mile markers and there are no mile markers along the I/C.
I mentioned briefly in the journal about how marinas on the upper river seemed to be primarily bars with marinas as a sideline. I learned the first few days to call ahead and find out when a marina was going to be open if I planned to buy gas or tie up overnight.
If I do a similar trip in the future, I would seriously consider getting a little bigger boat and engine, an 18-foot boat with a more pronounced V-hull would enable you to lay the nose down and split the bigger waves, plus carry two people and their gear a little better and safer. A 40-hp 4-stroke would be perfect in that it would provide a little more speed and power. I would stick with the tiller steering. A steering wheel would be easier on your arm, but you would lose the ability to instantly change speed, which is critical to running rough water. To a lesser extent with a steering wheel, you would lose some ability to quickly change direction.
The top speed in Dumarse varied from 23-28 mph and depended on current and headwinds. It was a mile or two faster with just me in the boat. We typically ran 22-24 mph each day. The secret to covering long distances in a small boat is keeping it running all day long. We tried to do that, but you have to have a break every now and then, plus slowing to take pictures consumed a surprising amount of time. You have remind yourself every now then that if you average 20 mph for ten hours, you will have covered 200 miles at the end of the day.
Gas prices at the marinas were consistently around $3.30. About half of the marinas charged me to moor my boat overnight and the other half didn't. As for clothes for the trip, I carried four pairs of shorts, five shirts and half-dozen undershorts, plus a pair of long pants that you could unzip the legs and convert to shorts. Two pairs of crocs, a pair with holes and pair without. It was so cool running down the upper river that I wore the same pair of long pants and crocs for 5-6 days. After 4-5 days, I decided to use the washer and dryer at a motel to do laundry.
It only took one episode of sitting around a hot laundry room for an hour to decide that was a lot of time to waste for so few clothes. After that, I would just a run the sink in the motel full of water, stick a couple of shirts and shorts in there and rub them with a bar of soap, rinse and hang up to dry overnight. This wouldn't work for my wife, but it kept the buzzards from circling over me.
Regarding the oil spill and media circus, I traveled 200 miles across the intracoastal from Mobile to Apalachicola without seeing anything that resembled oil on the water. I did see numerous oil booms scattered throughout my route. Most of it just didn't make sense. For example, I saw numerous semi-circle or horseshoe shaped booms floating in the bays. How does a boom with an open end contain the oil? I idled up close to several of them and I didn't see sheen on the water or anything resembling oil.
Another thing that didn't make sense was 200 yards of oil boom along one stretch of shoreline then the 3-4 miles of shoreline exactly like it with nothing to protect it. Then another 200 yards of oil boom that appeared as if it was put there randomly. I idled by couple of those also, and saw nothing that resembled oil. I can understand them having booms stacked up at the passes in case oil from the ocean starts coming through them, but not scattered around the bay where oil would have jump over an island to get there.
One thing that I eluded to a lot in my journal was using my cell phone. I never used the text feature much previously, but I'm as fast as a teenager with my thumbs now. Texting proved to be a great communication tool because I could send the same message to several people at one time. Texting would also work when signals were too weak to make or receive a call.
I'm repeating myself but I never, ever thought this trip would attract the attention it did, and I attribute a large part of that to the guys on the bass fishing homepage coming up with the idea for the Children of Fallen Heroes Fund. I guess the biggest surprise was a call and an e-mail from two different locations in Iraq. One of my non-reverent buddies said it was like NASCAR people were really watching to see the wreck.
My next adventure probably will be the last 400 miles of the Mississippi River that I haven't traveled, from Cairo, Ill. to Greenville, Miss. I've already promised my support staff, Scott Gatlin, ribs at the Rendezvous in Memphis and a steak at Does Eat Place in Greenville if he will follow Mike and me down the river in the truck next summer.
After that…didn't Lewis and Clark go almost to the Rocky Mountains by boat?
If you've read this far, thanks for coming along with me.