Fern Briefing

1 October 2014

Below is the note that I took during the briefing at Hoppie’s Daily Boater Meeting. It’s run by Fern, she goes through a long list of items of importance to boaters going the next 250 miles. It’s a Looper tradition to attend the meetings. Fern is a very nice person, she’s been on the river all of her life and offers up some interesting comments.

Hoppie’s Daily Briefing – 4:40 PM CST

Admiral from the “Toba”, Fern , Admiral from the“Corkscrew”, Susan, Captain of the “Corkscrew”, Foster

When leaving in the morning – look below swim platform for large debris. Remove if needed. Start engines and tap into reverse to blow debris forward of the propellers out of the way. Wait a minute for debris to move and do it again.

To leave Hoppie’s dock – keeping a midship line, remove all other lines. Right Rudder, release midship, apply forward to port only. Bow will swing into the river. Drive directly across the river into the channel THEN move downriver.

When in the channel STAY in the channel. There are wing dams and dikes, sometimes they are below the surface and you can’t see them. STAY in the channel.

Tow operators want use VHF13, the navigation channel, on their radios. They do not use mile markers as a location, they use the info in the yellow boxes on the charts. (For example on chart 132, coming up river Hoppie’s is between Foster Light and Foster Upper light, Glen Park Light is down river 2 miles) Use that information when you contact them.

A diving buoy is one that comes up to the surface and then dives below the surface. This is caused by debris on the anchor line. At some point the debris will clear and the buoy will come shooting to the surface. Stay away. Note it’s location, since it may not surface again for awhile and steer around / away from it.

Critical turn list (these are the three most dangerous turns on the next section, but look at all the turns and take appropriate action) For each of these call on VHF13 to tows below (using the yellow box info) to see if anyone is down there.
– Chart 136/135 Mile 132-130 Crook Light, mile below is Establishment Bar Light. Run the RED buoy line
– Chart 144 Mile 85-83 Fountain Bluff, mile below is Wittenburg. Run the RED buoy line
– Chart 156 Mile 5-2 Birds Point / Greenfield Bend. Run the GREEN buoy line

Tows sometimes come apart. When they do the barges are silent, dark and don’t stay in the channel. When anchoring out, get out of the river or put something big and solid between you and the barge.

At night at anchor leave radios on VHF 16. If other Loopers need your attention / need your help, they will use VHF 16 to call.


Chart 138 Mile 118 – Kaskaskia Lock – (41 statute miles 36 nautical miles from Hoppies) Call Lock master on VHF14 for permission. Tie up on the wall on the South (Dam side), or anchor into the area below the dam. There are cleats. Do not tie to the fence. Call the Lock Master to get permission to leave the boat to walk your puppy. This is a popular place to tie up, and it’s because the Lockmaster allows it. Don’t mess it up for other boaters.

Chart 145 Mile 78-74 – Emergency anchorage behind the dike. It’s the third one coming down river. Go down and come back up into it. (My chart does not show it as a “L” shape. Fern verified it’s an L shape now. )

Chart 149 Mile 48.8 – Little Diversion Channel – (111 statute miles, 96 nautical miles from Hoppie’s) Good anchorage, but do not use in case of a flash flood. (Rain is predicted for tonight and Thursday, look at the weather reports). Room for a number of boats, depth is good. – When leaving this anchorage, call in both directions. It’s a long sweeping curve with turbulence. Stay in the channel.

Chart 156 Mile 3-2 – Angelo Towhead – ( 45 statute miles, 42 nautical miles from Little Diversion Channel) Do not stay here, trash and debris comes down the inside slough and will smack into your boat. Instead use the next place

Ohio River Chart 4 Mile 966 – Right Descending Bank (65 statute miles, 55 nautical miles from Little Diversion, 112 nautical miles from Kaskaskia Wall) – Remember we are going upstream, so the RED markers are on the RIGHT. The RDB is on the left side going up. Olmstead Public Access, Anchor in the little cove off of the ramp.

Ohio River Chart 14 Mile 923 – Left Descending Bank ( 108 statute miles, 91 Nautical miles from Little Diversion) – Go up into the chute and anchor. Come back out the same way to continue up the Ohio river. Do not cut the corner, go down around the marker. This anchorage will shield you from the tow wakes.


No locks from Hoppie’s to the Ohio River. Two working locks on the Ohio. The Olmstead Lock is not open yet /still. Both have wickets and it’s possible the wickets are down and we can sail over them. Call ahead on VHF13 to ask. Note that the anchorage at Mile 966 ( The Olmstead Public Access) is before the two locks, it is a good place to make a decision on how far to go.

(Crew of Midas Touch arrive at 5:00 PM)

Lock 52 at mile 939 is having repairs done on the chambers, it may be slow going through it.

For a variety of reason Fern does not recommend going through the Kentucky Lock. She recommends taking the longer but will end up being a much faster route farther up the Ohio and then down the Cumberland. She recommends doing the Cumberland route in daylight. It’s narrow and twisty.

Once we clear the Barkley lock, Green Turtle Bay Marina is about two miles away. Stay in the channel, do not cut the corner. It’s shallow and rocky.

In case of trouble call Gordon, Tow Boat US (270-994-9177 and 270-362-1043) for help. He comes from Green Turtle, so it may take some time for him go get to you, but he WILL get there. Check that you have full Tow Boat US coverage.

River is presently dropping 1.5 feet per day. (Wed / Thursday rain may change the rate). When anchoring, make sure you factor in the 1.5 foot drop to make sure you can get back out.

/end 5:20 PM

After meeting discussion:

From Olmstead to Green Turtle is 75 statute miles 65 Nautical miles
From Anchorage at Mile 923 to Green Turtle is 32 statute Miles, 29 nautical miles

It sounds like the best plan is to do:
Hoppies to Little Diversion – 96 nautical miles, about a 10.5 hour day (depending on barges)
Little Diversion to Olmstead – 55 nautical miles, about a 6.5 hour day
Olmstead to Start of Cumberland – 43 nautical miles, two locks 5 hours plus locks
Cumberland River to Green Turtle – 29 nautical miles, about 3.5 hours

Olmstead to Green Turtle – 65 nautical miles, but has two locks, could be long day. Choice if both wickets are down. Cuts a day off the trip.

2 thoughts on “Fern Briefing

    • Yes! I saw that video, it’s pretty amazing.

      I have to give the Tow Captains on the Mississippi and Illinois credit too. They move those 2000 foot tows around and make it look easy.

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