Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ghost in the Machine

Here is the issue with the outboard that's been keeping you awake at night, or should be.

The problem is that you can't swing it up during shallow water and then go straight back to the motoring position when it gets deep.  If you pull the motor back at all, you have no choice but to chunk your way    through every tilt setting until it's alllll the way up....then take it allll the way back down to reset it....before you can finally tilt it back to where you want.  About that time you usually hit another shallow spot.

It's more than just an annoyance.  If you're already in shallow water when this happens, you may not be able to get it to the alllll-the-way-down position at all.   And then you're stuck until you work your way through enough beer it will float through the riffle on its own.

This is what it looks like from the outside:

Here are the mysterious inner workings:

We are going to have a pre-trip meeting at Brown's and we'll bolt the motor to the bar until somebody has a good idea.  Gordie won't mind.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Frottoir Rub

Sometimes people wonder how there can be so much to write about a canoe club.   One reason is that everything we write requires a correction the next day, which doubles our post count.

And so, yesterday's picture of a washboard is hereby WITHDRAWN because it turns out it is not a washboard we want at all, it's a frottoir.

Big difference.  "Frottoir" is Cajun French for "vest to be rubbed," and is a "ribbed stainless steel length of armor that hangs from the neck." Not a washboard at all.  The first one was built by a welder who worked with Clifton Chenier, the King of Zydeco, in the oil fields of Port Arthur, Texas.

The welder's son, Tee Don, started a company called "Key of Z Rubboards" which claims it has sold frottoirs to ZZ Top, the Neville Brothers, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, and Rhianna.  That's what it says...Rhianna.  Think about that. 

ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons has done extensive research (extensive!) and it is his scholarly opinion that the frottoir rubboard is one of only four musical instruments that are uniquely American.  He doesn't say what the other three are, but another one has got to be his guitar made out of wood from Muddy Waters' log cabin.

For travel in a canoe the frottoir can be worn like a life jacket - you won't even notice the difference unless you tump.  Also, it's played with two metal bottle openers which could be handy.  When you buy a frottoir from Tee Don he throws the bottle openers in for free.

The frottoir player gets any big-boned gal he wants after the show.  Every time. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012


Does everyone understand that the Spring trip is Saturday - Monday, not Friday - Sunday?   Some people have been confused about that.  Mainly those people who get their information from this site.  Once and for all:  we are leaving early Saturday morning, April 28 and coming back Monday afternoon, April 30.   

Planning ahead is important because we have a record four RRCC members flying in, from three different time zones and two countries.  We'll also have drivers coming from all different directions.  For the first time in a long time, however, no one will be arriving by Vigor.  It passed away quitely in the off season of its 20th year, one trip short of its 10th canoe trip. 

The Acura Vigor may not have looked flashy, but she was definitely slow.  The Vigor had enough hauling capacity to carry the full sized grub cooler, all the Dutch Ovens and guitars, plus one wet Lab.  And was specially engineered to drive windows-down without ashing on the back seat.  Its finest hour was safely delivering Rob to the Eleven Point River, in the dark of night, through the washboard gravel roads and meth labs of southern Missouri.   Don't try that in your sister's white Lexus. 

1992 - 2012

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The RRCC Goes to Washington

We're here in our nation's capitol.  Scouting the Potomac.  

Ever since the Chicago River, Ian has been promoting a canoe trip in D.C.  He says he just likes urban padding better, but really we all know he's planning a counter-revolution.


Following the Chicago plan, we'll want to time our trip around a baseball game again, because this time we can paddle right up to the ball park.

Our other mission here is a research project at the Library of Congress.   To search the Folk and Blues Field Recording Archives to find as many verses to THIS as we can: 

Our version will be arranged for guitar, washtub bass, accordion, cow bell, triangle, saw, yodel, foot-stomp, and anything else that makes a ruckus.  Here are the lyrics we've found so far:

I thought I heard the Captain say
Pay me my money down
Tomorrow is a sailing day
Pay me my money down
Pay me, pay me
Pay me my money down
Pay me or go to jail
Pay me my money down

As soon as the boat cleared the bar
Pay me my money down
He knocked me down with a spar
Pay me my money down

If I'd been a rich man's son
Pay me my money down
I'd sit on the river and watch it run
Pay me my money down

I wish I was Mr Gates
They'd haul my money in egg crates

Well 40 nights, nights at sea
The Captain worked every last dollar out of me

If I'd a known the boss was blind
I wouldn't'a gone to work 'til half past nine

Wish I was Sherman Adamson
Get a coke and watch the fun

Wish I was Erv Jellison
Fly away and have some fun

I thought I heard the old man say
Go to shore spend all your pay

I thought I heard the men below
You don't pay me and the ship don't go

I need my pay to go to shore;
I'll drink my whiskey and get a whore

The bumboatman he said to me
Bottles o' rum I don't give free

My fancy gal she said to me
I don't give me favours free

The Madam said to me one day
You've had yer fun so don't delay

The tailorman he said to me
Ye'll pay me 'fore ye leave for sea

The judge he said, 'Look 'ere you mug'
Ye'll pay yer fine or ye'll go to the jug

I wish I was Mr. Howard's son
Sit in the house and drink good rum

I wish I was Mr. Steven's son
Sit on the bank and watch the work done


Sp throw away all your old set lists -  this is the only song we'll ever need.  It's like an All-Day Sucker.  Here are the chords:


[key change]

B-flat, B-flat, B-flat, F
F-F-F, B-flat

[back to G til the cows come home]

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Going Overboard

While we hate to lose a good coffee pot and First Aid kit, we sure are glad we're from the South so we can say "tump."  It is purely a southern thing to tump a canoe.  If we were the Yankee Rivers Canoe Club we would accidentally "upset" our canoes or turn them over or something.  Down here, you don't even tump just tump. 

"If you're etymological"...tump comes from the British word tumpoke which means to fall head over heels.  We prefer to think it's a combination of "tip" and "dump."     In fifteen trips, we have not had a whole lot of tumps, and so far nothing really hairy or in dangerously cold weather.  It doesn't even seem like the water has ever been dangerously cold, but that could be a matter of perspective.

Kirk had the first ever RRCC tump.  On the Duck River in the Spring of 2005, partially excused because of an immminent thunderstorm.

Tim tumped on the lower Buffalo.

We don't have any specific examples to cite to, but it seems like Phil tumped all the time.  Until he started stowing away in the bow of other people's canoes.

Big Swan Creek was one big tump-fest

Stuart and Jack were the last to tump.  Within sight of the take-out on the Duck last fall. 

Tumping is why we don't put all our beers in one basket.

Monday, February 20, 2012


If it seems like all we talk about is all the new gear we've acquired, it's just because of the time of year.  We're not that materialistic. 

Yes we are.  We can now report that the replacement coffee pot (pots) have arrived.  Everyone knows that the old one (which wasn't all that old unfortunately) sank to the bottom of Brian Jones Locker after a tump on the Spring 2011 trip.  We don't know specifically whose tump.  There are lots of candidates. 

The old coffee pot was huge (32 cups) and is probably now as much of a hazard to navigation on Big Swan Creek as barbed wire.  Bigger is usually better in this club, but since we were presented with the opportunity to rethink the coffee pot situation we decided to get two smaller ones instead.  The big ones take so long to perk.  And now we can stagger the start times so there will literally always be a pot of coffee on the fire, which is a good thing both for caffeine delivery and for aesthetics.

To really diversify, we got different sizes and styles. This one, with its sexy bail, wooden handle and rugged good looks:

 And this little teapot, short and stout, because we like enamel.

Now, has anyone seen the First Aid kit?


With the first touch of the sun the willows began to whisper as frozen leaves loosed their hold and fell side-slipping down through the others that were still green.  Titmice called, and flickers and a redbird, and for a monent, on a twig four feet from my face, a chittering kinglet jumped around alternately hiding and flashing the scarlet of its crown.... I sat and listened and watched while the world woke up, and drank three cups of the syrupy coffee, better I thought than any I'd ever tasted, and smoked two pipes.

Goodbye to a River, p. 154.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Speaking of prophylactics, we went to Peabody Shoe Repair and got them to make a custom sheath for the crosscut saw. 

We always meant to but never did do it for the old saw.  Which may have been part of the problem, banging around in the bottom of a canoe.  So we definitely wanted to get them to make something for the new one before they close forever.

Ask Jack if Peabody Shoe Repair knew how to get vomit off a pair of suede Bucks.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


We sent two RRCC reps to Tiptonville last weekend to visit the shop where the Reelfoot Lake "Stump Jumper" is made.

We want one, of course.  Real bad.  But this was not a procurement trip, it was to learn how four generations of the Calhoun family made a boat that can go full speed over submerged stumps and Bald Cypress knees without breaking everything from stem to stern.  Especially the propellor. 

The Stump Jumper has an 8 hp inboard motor, which used to be the motor taken from a Maytag washing machine, and the amazing, patented "bow-facing-oars" (got a pair of those for the wife for Valentine's Day). 

Back when we were mule shopping we actually thought hard about buying a Reelfoot Lake boat, but decided they really weren't much bigger than a big canoe and so we traded character for utility and got the jon boat.

Here's one inside the shop:

In the back room, miniature chair samples hang on the wall representing every type of wood your boat seats could be ordered in. 

Birch, Pine, Pecan, Lindenberry, Sassafras, Beech, Cherry, Cottonwood, Honey Locust, Apple, Peach, Willow, Sweet Gum, Sycamore, Walnut, Catalpa, Bow Dark *".   This is where J.Crew goes when they need to name a new sweater color.  Yes, they even have the wood that our Stump Jumper seat would have to be made out of: 

And the Calhouns' secret to safe propellering?    A skeg guard - just like ours!

So we headed back to Nashville well satisfied, though a little sad we weren't coming back with a wooden boat.

Watching this video will make you a Happy Jack:

* "Rock-hard bodark - Osage orange if you want; bois d'arc if you're etymological."  

Goodbye to a River, p. 163. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Mule Time

The jon boat is going to be on our minds a lot between now and April because it has now been on its first real RRCC trip.  That means we have a much better idea of what works and what needs to be improved.  For example, by Saturday morning on the Duck it became obvious that she has a pretty good leak somewhere in the hull.  That could be put under the "needs to be improved" column.  We also learned that two people is the ideal crew size, although it can certainly carry more when it's being used just as a personnel carrier like it was on Friday night.   And let's face it, the boat performed that task perfectly so we know it's always going to be good for that purpose.  The rest of our efforts should focus on how it's going to get down shallow streams without getting stuck or losing a propeller, and how to help it perform its second intended function/rationalization - which is hauling all the bulky gear we used to just heap into our overloaded canoes.  

Here is the current wish list of improvements:

- Fix the maddening outboard tilt problem
- Continue to protect the propeller and buy a spare
- Address the not-as-maddening-but-still-could-be-better tilt problem on the trolling motor
- Repair damage to running lights from the Friday night sweeper incident
- Show Josh about deceleration
- Improve mounting of electronics switchboard
- Make the carpeted deck in the stern removable (related to switchboard mount)
- Add carpeted deck to middle seat like the rest of the boat
- Convert under-utilized live well in middle seat into much more practical beer cooler
- The trailer fairy left us some new, homemade trailer guides while the boat was in the warehouse and they need to be mounted
- The trailer jack is horrible and needs to be replaced

We weren't even sure the Current River was going to be navigable with a motor because it is really considered a canoe-only river.   Most of the references to jon boat fishermen you find are about the sections much lower than where we will be floating and when we called the canoe outfitters they were all against it.   However, the National Park Service has a 25-horsepower limit in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways on our section of the Current which suggests that it must be possible, otherwise why regulate it, right?   We also happened to come across this picture, which isn't a jon boat but close enough:

Friday, February 10, 2012

Wood Work

We heard the complaints about the old crosscut saw loud and clear. It was hard not to hear them on the last trip. Bunch of whiney lumberjills.  Anyway, your new saw has arrived and it looks good.

This one is signficantly shorter than the old one but it's super sharp and has good handles.

"Wilh Putsch!" is what you say in Germany when the guy on other end's not doing his share. 

Wednesday, February 08, 2012


There has already been some procurement of equipment since the Fall Trip and there will be more.  Mainly in the areas of woodcutting, the jon boat and the kitchen.  But the first thing we did was go straight to the black market for some illegal, strike-anywhere Ohio Blue Tip Matches.  If you still want to use a little plastic Bic lighter try using it as a suppository.  There's no substitute for lighting a coffee fire in the morning with a wooden match.  Or lighting a readyroll in a slow pool at the bottom of a riffle by striking your match on the side of the canoe.   You can't even do that with regular matches.

These are not strike-on-box matches or safety matches, they are strike ANY where:  on a wall, the sole of your boot, a zipper, on your jeans. The ones you can buy legally at retail, like the Diamond "Greenlight," also have the white tips and may even say "Strike Anywhere" but they will only light on the box. The real ones were regulated out of existence for safety reasons because they will light in your pack if they get bumped or right out in the open if you look at them wrong.

You run a risk of thinking yourself an ascetic when you enjoy, with that intensity, the austere facts of fire and coffee and tobacco and the sound and feel of country places.  You aren't, though.  In a way you're more of a sensualist than a fat man washing down Sauerbraten and dumplings with heavy beer while a German band plays and a plump blonde kneads his thigh . . . You've shucked off the gross delights, and those you have left are few, sharp, and strong.  But they're sensory.  Even Thoreau, if I remember right a passage or so on his cornbread, was guilty, though mainly he was a real ascetic.  

Goodbye to a River, p. 157. 

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Bangers and Mash, Neaps and Tatties

This is earlier than we would normally talk about menu plans, but since today is Charles Dickens' 200th birthday we are going to go ahead and announce that Ian will be cooking a traditional English feast in the dutch ovens for our Saturday Sunday night dinner. We can't give you the details yet, but it will be both delicious and give everyone something to do sitting around the afternoon fire - peeling parsnips, rutabagas, carrots, leeks, beets and all sorts of other rooty vegetables while we get pissed and talk in cockney rhyming slang.

Please, Sir, I Want Some More

If we could find a Union Jack guitar that would really be the dog's bollocks.

Friday, February 03, 2012

We Need a Head Bucket

Since we are under 90 days already, those of you who still pretend to fish on these trips should start looking into a temporary Missouri fishing license. The fishing is excellent but the Current River is part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverway and there will be game wardens present at some point.

No one is worried that we will catch enough game fish to eat, but we do catch plenty of bluegill and they can be good eatin' too, you just have to know how to prepare them. So here's a lesson on how to clean and cook them in case we want to work them into the menu. The only thing not to like about this video is it's only 17 minutes long:


Thursday, February 02, 2012

Correction, the dates for the Spring Trip are Friday, April 27 - Sunday, April 29. You knew what we meant.
Actually, the original dates we put up were unitentionally correct.   We ARE leaving on Saturday, April 28 and we WILL return on Monday, April 30.   Sorry about that. 

All the leaves should just be out by end of April in southern Missouri. These pictures were taken there April 22 last year.