By Dave Taylor
For three Elizabethtown men who are big fish in a small pond, being small boats in a big river sounds like fun. That’s exactly what Bruce Thompson, a retired Army man and dentist, Mark Cooke, who owns a telecommunications company, and Paul Gerard, a family doctor, were doing in Hawesville Saturday after a short kayak trip down the Ohio River.
The three friends were taking out their kayaks at the Hawesville boat ramp Saturday after a short overnight trip that began in Clover Creek in Cloverport.
“We use kayaks because Paul has all the kayaks so he lets us use them for free,” joked Thompson, as the men waited for their ride to pick them up. “But actually it’s a very easy way to travel on big water like this. It’s fast and there’s plenty of room to carry things.”
“You can carry all your gear with you, your tents and then you just camp anywhere you want,” said Gerard.
Kayaking is a way to stay in active and stay in shape, but it’s also a way to see not just the countryside but the country, as the men make routine trips to Land Between the Lakes, but have kayaked in places as far away as Montana.
Friday night they began in Cloverport in Clover Creek and wound their way to the Ohio River before pulling their tents and gear out from the depths of their kayaks and staying the night at Rocky Point, Ind. at the camping area there.
“We camped right next to the road last night,” said Thompson. “It was a little noisy at times but it was a nice (night).” Paddling in tiny kayaks in the same waterways traveled by barges and speed boats is a matter of being cautious and being ready for what the river is doing beneath them.
“It’s just a matter of getting the feel of the boat as it rocks,” said Thompson. “Because some of the wakes behind some of these speed boats here, you kind of just stay loose and ride over them.”
Even without the effects of other boats, just staying upright requires a little attention.
“It’s just balance,” said Gerard. “You keep your head over the middle and you won’t fall out. You get your head out over the boat and you’re going in.”
Although the trio has plenty of kayak seat time, this weekend trip included something none of them had done before. “The locks this morning were a brand new experience for all of us,” said Thompson, of the Cannelton Locks and Dam.
As they approached, they called the dam and told them they were on the way in order to figure out how to get through the locks. “I had called and they were watching and they said OK, we’ll get it ready,” he said. “So we were approaching the gates and then this siren goes off, a big whistle, one big blast of the whistle and that means go on in.”
It was just the three guys in their kayaks in the big lock, but about 20 minutes later it was time to paddle on down the river. “The gates opened downstream and they blasted the whistle again,” he said.
The men described being in the smaller of the two locks as being calm and like being in a swimming pool, with one enormous exception. “The only thing is there are these moving parts, these mooring spots on the side, and those are creaking and groaning and screaming,” Thompson said. “It’s really kind of creepy when you hear those things going because they’re going down with the water.”
“It’s like a huge beast moaning,” said Gerard.