THE MARITIME SALVAGE CAPER
DESERTED SUNKEN BOAT IN THE OHIO RIVER
I have previous chronicled two other capers involving my friend Skip Chaddock and one including our friend Dave Minor. This caper involves all three of us again. This occurred either in the summer of 1959 or 1960. My old mind has trouble remembering some details like time anymore. Skip, Dave and I spent time at the old Glen Dale airport. There was a little snack shop there. It was located on the eastern shore(West Virginia side) we often watched small planes taking off and landing. These were mainly single engine Piper Cub’s, but once and a while a twin engine Cesna would employ the field. There was no one in attendance at this small grass field. After we tired of watching the airplanes we often went down to look over the river. We had noticed an abandoned boat across the river on the Ohio side. We kept an eye on the partially sunken boat for about a year.
THE SALVAGE CAPER IS HATCHED
I don’t know whose idea it was, but we decided it would be a good idea to mount a salvage operation and reclaim the boat as ours. One summer day Dave and I were hanging out when a very excited Skip appeared. It seems he had built a flat-bottomed rowboat, which he thought would serve our salvage purpose. All of us rushed down to the riverbank to check out Skip’s boat. It was floating and tied off to a tree. I asked Skip if he had tried it yet, and he assured me it was river worthy. We had plans to make. We decided we needed about 75 feet of 1-1/2 inch rope and some hand tools including knives and for some reason a hatchet was brought up.
EXECUTION OF THE SALVAGE CAPER
It was about one week later and we had assembled all the things on our list. We all had visions of becoming rich by fixing up that sunken boat and then selling it to some willing sailor. We pushed off on our adventure and headed across the Ohio River. (At this point in the story those of you who are acquainted with Archimedes’s Principal may have an awareness of a shortcoming in our plan if not it basically talk’s about buoyancy forces.)
We arrived at our destination and tied the 1-1/2 rope to both boats. Skip began rowing and Dave and I were jerking on the rope to dislodge the quarry of our salvage operation. Dave and I both shouted to Skip at the same time it’s sliding. One more giant heave and it slid free of the sandbar.
Remember Archimedes the buoyancy of the sunken boat plus our flat-bottomed salvage vessel was less than the accumulated weight of both. The obvious flaw in our plan became readily apparent. The backside of our salvage vessel was instantly drug down and taking on water. We had all 75 feet of rope deployed so we were not close to either shore. Skip quit rowing and grabbed the hatchet and hacked the rope in two. Dave and I had been bailing water out of our boat. Once free we finished bailing and all three of us were bushed. We lay down in the boat to catch our breath and relax a bit. I’ll never forget the next sound I heard. If you live near a navigable river you have heard the blare of barge pushing boats. WWWWHHHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOTTTTTTT!!!!!!!!
We all three sat up and stared horrified at the barges full of coal about 100 yards upriver bearing down on us. WWWWHHHHHOOOOOOOOOOOTTTTTTTTTTT!!!!
Skip started rowing for dear life and Dave and I were paddling like dogs to assist. We finally saw that we had made it but the barge Captain yelled at us some not so nice things.
The barges had passed about 20 feet east of us and we did take on a small amount of water. We were already wet and the water didn’t threaten our buoyancy. I mentioned I had seen our salvage quarry slip beneath the mighty Ohio River. We decided that that would be our last salvage attempt. The boat was for cruising or fishing only and only near the shore