The Ghost Of Freebird


The ghost of ‘Freebird’ is back on the water, this time in 2011 ‘Joanie Belle’ is the call-sign for this vessel (renaming is common for Mississippi towboats)

Two summers ago (2009) and halfway down the Mississippi, Carl returned to work from Memphis as the same vessel “Freebird” went on to complete the ride to New Orleans (finally pulling out at Biloxi, Ms).

This year he and his brother Richard have rebuilt the vessel (with a different name) and are once again headed down river on the Mississippi’s current.

check for his trip-updates through the dated-links on his site.

1799 miles to go

“Anchors aweigh”

Each trip down the Mississippi is unique – the interesting thing about 2011 will be with the flooding that is occurring on the lower Mississippi.  Fuel along the river – it is likely that they will  have to walk for fuel which is not an insurmountable obstacle.  – It will take two weeks to reach that point so the water should subside to some degree.

As the flooding retreats there should be lots of neat things washed ashore, but only room for a special fewriver trinkets.

Later that day and thirty miles down-river, we met-up at the Blackhawk General Store to see how things were ‘weathering’ – all was well.

Bac additt once again – 1762 miles to go

Sure, I’d like to be there too….

Day 5 – Memorial Day Monday – motor swallowed another catfish near Clinton, Ia – boat is ashore before lock 13 while Carl awaits mechanic/stores to open after holiday in Clinton – doesent sound good.  

Tuesday; I think they are getting it figured out – motor; one catfish too many – river-life; can be addictive.

Wednesday, they are back on the river, great!

Open flow gates at Belleview

Thursday; the transom broke while adjusting for the lock at Muscatine leaving them to drift – OVER the dam (thank goodness for high water as the flow gates were open) but they only cleared the giant gate by inches.  Getting it figured out/repaired at this time – I’m thinking (and hoping) that it will continue (not their poor luck) and it will all be worth it.

Saturday; new transom; back on the river and only a single day behind “schedule’.

– and over the next week I think the crew found their ‘groove,’ when, well it’s their two-week 500-mile story.

check for updates through the dated-links on his site.


  • Vessels can be re-named, but having the proper ceremony is a must!
  • High-water years can be indications of severe mosquito/animal conditions along the shore
  • The year after extraordinary flood conditions (thinking that its less likely to happen two-years in a row) may be the best for planning a trip
  • Don’t try to fit this into a tight schedule, allow plenty of time to make this trip (60 days) and hope for less
  • Mother nature wins more than she loses
  • It’s your trip, discern ‘opinions’ from solid advice. Do not let an ‘opinion’ alter or deter your course for completion!!!! 

This was a year of flooding from the Ohio river valley, one in which it was anticipated that the initial surge of runoff would be settled by the time their ‘raft’ reached Cairo – things were working out in that order when the preceding winters high volume of snow out west (flowing down the Missouri river) arrived on the Mississippi (at St. Louis) complicating the timing of Carl’s trip.

Draining 40% of our country spring flooding is common for the Mississippi – it is also not uncommon for adventures to have to await the river to settle from time to time – the guys had to wait 2-weeks in 2008, the Doldrums.

Things to think about


“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones that you did do.  So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sail.”  (Mark Twain)

Carl and Richard “tossed off their bowlines” and “went with it.”

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