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  Meantime I went on the flora, a stern wheeler engaged in freighting for a couple of weeks or so until the Itasca was repaired an I then returned to my regular berth.

  One other incident to illustrate a peculiar feature of night work that fell to the lot of the pilot. It was now late in the fall and the nights were long and often very dark.  A bad bar developed a couple of miles above where we were snagged and a few trips after that accident we were going down stream with my partner on the watch after supper.   It was dark before we reached the bar in question and he landed and prepared to go down in a yawl and stake out a channel.  This was done by sounding the depth of water with a pole and after finding the deepest water a stake would be driven at the proper place and a lighted lantern fastened to it, several stakes and lanterns being used generally.  The stakes were usually set in place where turns were to be made and not in the deepest water.  When the channel was thus marked the boat was run over it, and generally successfully, the lanterns of course being lost.

  Right here wish to call attention to the different aspect of the river from the pilot house, generally some thirty feet above the water and from the yawl close to the water’s edge.  The appearance of the river itself and all the marks by which a pilot knows the channel are very different and are frequently confusing.  There is also a radical difference in all of these marks at night from the daytime all of which is confusing and trying to the senses and nerves of the pilot.

  Now, my partner, West, had a lot of conceit as to his ability in our profession and was quite free to boast of his experience.  On the night in question I was in bed during the first watch but was conscious that the boat was not running and when midnight came I was called for m watch from that time until four o’clock.  On getting up I found him onboard and when I asked why he was not finding the channel he said he had been down two or three hours working at it but

Incident to illustrate I do not mean to assert my superiority as to personal capacity but feel that my training gave me a great advantage over nearly all the pilots of that day. It will be remembered that in my early river career my piloting was done on rafts which kept me close to the water and I had learned the river most thoroughly from that position and had learned not only to read it on the surface but underneath as ell and all this knowledge was acquired at a period in live when the mind and memory are most easily and fully impressed and all this had become so thoroughly a part of myself that it was like instinct in animal and my actions were governed many times by an intuition that has remained with me thru all my river life and this should be considered when examining my claim to more than ordinary skill a as a pilot.

  Note:_ The rafting days of Capt. Hanks, up to this time, were before there was any attempt to run rafts with steamboats.  The rafts floated down stream and the crews, including the pilot, returned on a steamer.  Consequently the raft pilot at that time was obliged to know the river only one way and, as there was no night running of rafts at that time, only by daylight.  Even the uninitiated will understand that the requirements of a raft pilot at that time were not as many as those of a steamboat pilot.  Later when rafts were run by boats and the boats brought back the crews and right running of rafts became popular the requirements of the two classes of pilots were very similar.  There was always however, a distinctive difference in that the steamboat pilot had to hunt a channel that would accommodate a boat, and some times a tow of barges, that rarely exceeded 80 by 300 feet; by the raft pilot must find water that would float a raft say 200 feet wide and sometimes more than 1000 feet long.

  The first rafts to be run by boats were, of course, handled by floating pilots and many of them had little or no experience with a steamboat.  The boat took the place of stern crew and for a time was merely considered as such.  She was hitched in at the center of the stern of the raft; a line from a cabil near her stern on each side was run to the corner of the raft on that size, passed thru a snatch block and then passed to crabs or spools windlasses, which were handled by one or two.


Collected and Transcribed by

Georgeann McClure


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