2007.08.26: August 26, 2007: Headlines: COS - Ecuador: Sailing: COS - Honduras: Writing - Ecuador: West Virginia Gazette: Ecuador RPCV Rick Rhodes explores the Ohio River system in a 24-foot pocket trawler

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Ecuador: Peace Corps Ecuador : Peace Corps Ecuador: Newest Stories: 2007.08.26: August 26, 2007: Headlines: COS - Ecuador: Sailing: COS - Honduras: Writing - Ecuador: West Virginia Gazette: Ecuador RPCV Rick Rhodes explores the Ohio River system in a 24-foot pocket trawler

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Ecuador RPCV Rick Rhodes explores the Ohio River system in a 24-foot pocket trawler

Ecuador RPCV Rick Rhodes explores the Ohio River system in a 24-foot pocket trawler

He lived on boats on the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay. “I couldn’t afford a house, so I moved onto a boat, and I never looked back. Except for a break with the Peace Corps, I’ve been living on boats since 1985.” Twice he took sabbaticals to sail his 33-foot sailboat to Central America, the second time to write a guidebook on Honduras. “I’d written small stories in magazines and books about sailing and boating,” he said, “and a publisher asked me to write a guide for Honduras.”

Ecuador RPCV Rick Rhodes explores the Ohio River system in a 24-foot pocket trawler

Guidebook writer finds scenic beauty on the Kanawha

By Sandy Wells
Staff writer

Caption: In his trusty pocket trawler Free State, Capt. Rick Rhodes traveled the entire Ohio River system, including the Kanawha River and six other tributaries, to gather information for a comprehensive guidebook for boaters.

He spent three months exploring the Ohio River system in a 24-foot pocket trawler. He traveled up and down the Ohio’s tributaries — the Allegheny, Monongahela, Kanawha, Muskingum, Kentucky, Green and Wabash rivers.

Of all the places he went, of all the things he saw, one place captured his fancy like no other.

“I really like the upper Kanawha near Montgomery,” he said. “The mountains and the river, it’s a gorge almost. It’s beautiful up there. Of the entire Ohio River system, that might be tops.”
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Capt. Rick Rhodes writes guidebooks for boaters. He published one on the Ohio in May, his seventh.

Earlier navigational advisories examined travel on Lake Michigan to the Gulf of Mexico, Florida’s upper Gold Coast, the Tidal Potomac River and the Bay Island of Honduras.

“But this one is my best,” he said.

The Monongahela inspired it. “I always wanted to go back to Morgantown where I went to college and start down the Monongahela,” Rhodes said from his home in St. Petersburg, Fla.

So he towed his trawler to Fairmont and boated the entire 130 miles of the Monongahela to its

confluence with the Ohio. When the Ohio water tour ended three months later, he’d covered about 2,000 miles of rivers.

Rhodes graduated from WVU with a forestry degree in 1975. “All my friends are still from WVU. Two of my books are dedicated to WVU friends. The Ohio book is dedicated to a fraternity brother from Morgantown, Stitch Wilson.”

Always an adventurous sort, Rhodes grew up in Washington, D.C., and the Midwest. By the time he was 22, he had hiked the Appalachian Trail and visited 48 states, mostly by motorcycle.

After WVU, he spent four years in the Army, then worked 16 years for the U.S. government as an international trade analyst. Work included contributions to NAFTA.

He lived on boats on the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay. “I couldn’t afford a house, so I moved onto a boat, and I never looked back. Except for a break with the Peace Corps, I’ve been living on boats since 1985.”

wice he took sabbaticals to sail his 33-foot sailboat to Central America, the second time to write a guidebook on Honduras. “I’d written small stories in magazines and books about sailing and boating,” he said, “and a publisher asked me to write a guide for Honduras.”

So much for the desk job.

“I couldn’t get my head back into government work after an adrenaline-rush trip like that. So in 1999, at age 46, I did something real stupid. I forfeited my $80,000 government job to join the Peace Corps in Ecuador. To make a long story short, I nearly died of malaria. I came back and tried to do guidebooks for a living.”
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The Ohio River project took two years. He journeyed once by boat, then twice by car to learn more about cities and towns along the way.

“My little boat is a research boat,” he said. “I averaged just under 30 miles a day because I was stopping everywhere. It’s work, from sunrise to sunset. I’m trying to keep from being run over by barges, annotating maps and charts and taping stuff on a tape recorder. I go to every little cubbyhole I can.”

His boating manual covers just about anything anybody needs to know about Ohio River boat travel — and then some. He delves into the Ohio’s history going back 300 years. He chronicles the evolution of locks and dams, the history of steamboats, and the rise and fall of river industry. He explains how to negotiate locks and dams, how to talk to lockmasters, how commercial towboats operate, towboat etiquette and how to talk to the pilots.

He covers river hazards such as fog and fluctuating river levels, provides boater-useful GPS points, lists nearby highways, hospitals and schools and hundreds of phone numbers, notes river festivals and other attractions and gives bridge clearances, ramp locations and docking facilities in 200 river towns.

He collected interesting tidbits, anecdotes and historical profiles on each community. Did you know, for example, that in 1953, Huntington surpassed Pittsburgh as the busiest port on the Ohio?

In 2000, the Corps of Engineers expanded Huntington’s port designation to include 86 additional miles along the Ohio, 90 miles of the Kanawha and nine miles of the Big Sandy.

“In terms of both total tonnage and ton miles, the Port of Huntington-Tri State is the largest inland port in the entire United States, and typically handles over 80 million tons per year of cargo,” Rhodes writes in his book. “In terms of total tonnage, the Port of Huntington has no equal. Second place St. Louis handles less than half of Huntington’s tonnage.”

The Kanawha River and Charleston impressed him, he said. “Charleston is a charming city, just the right size.”

He encountered three distinct personalities along the Kanawha. “The lower Kanawha closer to the Ohio is kind of bland, a flood plain on a wide mountain valley,” he said. “The first locks at Winfield are neat. The middle part is a mixed bag, a smattering of chemical plants, cities and towns and more chemical plants. But then you get past Marmet, and wow, it’s just beautiful!”

A color photo of a boat docked near Smithers appears on the back cover of the book.

he facility list for the Kanawha features lots of familiar names, among them Charleston Marine, Trojan Landing, Lou Wendell, Hidden Cove, Lock 6, Pier 54, Tomahawks, Charleston Boat Club and the Riverside Anchor.

An example of the detailed information is this entry about Haddad Riverfront Park: “... has two concrete seawalls, each at different heights, and about 200 feet long, with mooring bits. The park has an amphitheater and restrooms (no showers). A Holiday Inn Motel and a few restaurants are within walking distance.”

Area factoids pepper the book. Here are a few from his journey through West Virginia:
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# Construction of Yeager Airport was the second-largest earth-moving project in history, behind only the Panama Canal.
# In 1976, a drive that took close to an hour was reduced to about one minute, thanks to the New River Gorge Bridge.
# Mother Jones could be the inspiration for the song “She’ll Be Comin’ Around the Mountain.” The “She” was coming to organize miners in the coal camps and the “white horses” symbolized her mythological stature.
# Wheeling was the third city in the nation to have electric streetcars and the fourth to install electric streetlights.
# About half of all the world’s computers contain chips with silicon refined at West Virginia Alloys (formerly Elkem Metals), the largest silicon metal smelter in North America.

He uses several area photographs to illustrate the book — a picture of the State Capitol, a shot of the cruise barge River Explorer on the Kanawha and a Marmet Locks construction photo.

Rhodes believes writing water travel guidebooks is a calling of sorts. “It’s my gift,” he said. “I don’t want to sound hammy, but I do this really well.”

To contact staff writer Sandy Wells, use e-mail or call 348-5173.

Buying the book

The Ohio River guidebook published by Heron Island Guides sells for $34.95 and is available at Taylor Books, Tamarack, Lock 6 and Hidden Cove marinas; through www.heronislandguides

.com or by contacting the author, Rick Rhodes, at (727) 459-5992 (cell) or (727) 527-8287 (fax).

Links to Related Topics (Tags):

Headlines: August, 2007; Peace Corps Ecuador; Directory of Ecuador RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Ecuador RPCVs; Peace Corps Honduras; Directory of Honduras RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Honduras RPCVs; Writing - Ecuador; West Virginia

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