Tuesday, November 16, 2010

rafting the missouri

"We rafted the Missouri which allegedly is the fastest river in North America. There are barges. There are rocks. Snags. All of these things we feared terribly (remember the guy in the comic who said "Skinned him like a grape?"). I put that stuff in there because it reflected our terror when we set out. I never finished the comic, so you didn't get to see the part where we realized all those fools were trying to scare the shit out of us. I have no doubt gnarly things happen occasionally, but people have used rivers to get around for tens of thousands of years.

Within a day on the Missouri we were swimming away from the raft, falling asleep on watch, seeing how close we could get to snags, being amused by the behavior of swirling eddies. Much of the trip was lying leisurely reading Huck Finn or sleeping in the sun or shooting peanuts with a wrist rocket, not fighting off dread dangers.

Our only power were two paddles which were sufficient. And we had a couch and a shade structure on the raft. We didn't have a keep, dagger board, rudder or a motor.

A lot of what works on a sailing craft (rudders, keels) don't work on a raft. In sailing you are constantly moving forward, so it is important to be able to control your movement. In a raft, you are just drifting. You and the water are moving at the same speed. From the water's point of view, you are standing still. So there is no steering, except where you paddle your raft. So a rudder and a keel or dagger board would do nothing while you drift.

There are people who float crazy rafts form Minniapolis down to New Orleans (look up the Miss Rockaway Armada for instance), so you could start above St. Louis if you wanted to.

One thing that surprised me about every river I've been on is how few towns there are on the river. There are towns near the river, but they have long since turned their backs on it. First the railroad then the highways became the new vogue method of travel and shipping. It is a bummer because I too had dreams of pulling into towns and having people say, "What the hell?" and saying, "Fuck it all, I'm outtie," and hoping on. Still though met plenty of neat people."

from a previous email:

Hello again!

We did the Missouri, the Willamette, and the Sacramento twice.

We've only built one type that worked so well, we stuck with it. Innertubes lashed to plywood. The tubes are so bouyant, even fully loaded, the raft was hardly in the water.

The funny thing is that created some problems: Since we had so little drag, the current moved faster than we did and we were susceptible to upriver wind. We were like a ball bearing rolling in place on a conveyor belt. Also, since the raft had no keel but had lots of mass, moving it across the river was like pushing a truck around.

The floating neutrino's are totally wack. Have you seen the documentary about that guy? Funny and crazy and a little charming.

Have you seen our flickr sets of punk rafting?


What other projects are you engaged with? Where did you get the idea to do this? What river are you thinking of? What time of year?


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