When I awoke Monday morning, the American Queen was tied up at Vicksburg. Before I got off the ship to explore the town, there was an opportunity for a tour of the pilothouse and a talk about how the steamboat works.
It was fascinating stuff.
The American Queen runs on a vintage 1932 steam engine that burns marine-grade diesel fuel. That kind of engine is no longer made, so the boat has a machine shop on board where the crew can manufacture parts as needed.
The Queen is a tall ship. The tops of its smokestacks are 100 feet above the water line, so they can fold down, parallel to the deck, as the boat approaches a low bridge. Even the pilothouse, mounted on scissor jacks, can be lowered, and the cute gingerbread top can be lifted off with an on-board crane.
When the stacks and the pilothouse are lowered, the tallest point on the ship is the wings that reach out on either side of the pilothouse, platforms with consoles (pictured at left) where a pilot has a clearer view of the river and can steer the boat. The railings on those platforms are 57 feet above the water.
We noticed that we were docked along an awfully narrow stretch of the Mississippi River and asked about that. No, we learned, we weren't on the river, we were on the Yazoo Canal. Looking back the way we came, we saw a bridge and learned that we had turned into the canal right after we had passed under the bridge, well before sunrise. The canal is too narrow for the boat to turn around, so in the afternoon, the captain was going to back the boat down the canal and back into the Mississippi River, then proceed upriver again.
We were fascinated.
After lunch, a lot of passengers gathered at the back of the boat to watch. You can see the Mississippi River bridge in the background.
... and on the boat, three crew members lined up to drag the heavy line -- as big around as a man's forearm and sodden with river water -- on board.
(Note: Out in the middle of the Mississippi, away from cities, we've had little or no Internet service since soon after we left Vicksburg on Monday)
Continued in next post....