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Old 13-09-2015, 00:03   #1
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Sailing up the Mississippi River

I was wondering if anyone can give me an idea how long in days it would take to sail up the Mississippi River for around 250 miles? For reference, how long would it be to sail from Baton Rogue, LA to Greenville, MS in a sailboat?

To make responses less onerous, my question is related to a work of fiction I am writing and I'm using the MS River as a proxy for the river in the story. Since, I haven't sailed myself other than on ocean-going ships, I don't have a good sense of how long it would take to fight current and navigate all the bends in the river.

Can anyone shed some light on this?
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Old 13-09-2015, 01:00   #2
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Re: Sailing up the Mississippi River

You probably need to go look at the river. The current and the traffic make it almost impossible to sail up. Then there is all the floating debris at times.

It might be able to be done if the wind is perfect and there was no barge traffic etc but it could take months waiting for those perfect wind days.

And that is just thinking if the river were a straight North/South which it isn't.

The current speed of the river is around 3 mph in New Orleans. Less as you go North.
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Old 13-09-2015, 01:23   #3
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Re: Sailing up the Mississippi River

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Originally Posted by thomm225 View Post
You probably need to go look at the river. The current and the traffic make it almost impossible to sail up. Then there is all the floating debris at times.

It might be able to be done if the wind is perfect and there was no barge traffic etc but it could take months waiting for those perfect wind days.

And that is just thinking if the river were a straight North/South which it isn't.

The current speed of the river is around 3 mph in New Orleans. Less as you go North.
I appreciate the response. The second paragraph of my question might bear closer inspection here. There's no large barge traffic on this fictional river, so that wouldn't be a factor.

Would it be possible to tack or bear to windward on a river that wide? Meaning you wouldn't have to wait for a perfect wind. I know they used to bring ocean going ships up rivers during the age of exploration, did they have to wait months to do that?

Would it help if I used the Hudson river as the model rather than the MS? If so, how long would it take to go up river from Yonkers to Hudson Falls?
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Old 13-09-2015, 02:51   #4
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Re: Sailing up the Mississippi River

Interesting question and......there is a real life example that can be applied. Cause, you know, there are nuts everywhere

Years ago I read the account of a couple that sailed the length of Lake powell against the current. I belive this is the page
08-09 Sailing Lake Powell page 1

It took them, I recall, 3 or 4 months to travel about 3/4 of the way.
The notes are really detailed so ito an excellent resource for you. It might inspire some details in your story.

And....if that doest help, Google. ...
https://www.google.com/search?q=sail...obile&ie=UTF-8
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Old 13-09-2015, 03:45   #5
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Re: Sailing up the Mississippi River

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, Broken Keel.

A week to 10 days might be plausible (daylight sailing only).
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Old 13-09-2015, 05:57   #6
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Re: Sailing up the Mississippi River

250 miles might be doable with the right wind. The problem is unless the wind is pretty strong it gets blocked by the bluffs one side and the trees on the other.

My knowledge though is of the river near Memphis, TN and watching barge traffic at the Park in New Orleans.

I think back in the day they used lines to pull the boats upstream...........or after the days of steam had other boats motor them up.

Mainly though I believe it was rafting down river and hiking the Natchez Trace back North which was dangerous if you were carrying money from the sale of some product you sold that you had moved down river.
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Old 13-09-2015, 06:37   #7
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Re: Sailing up the Mississippi River

Well, since it's a work of fiction...

I'm basing this on the little bit of river sailing I did as a teen, back in Louisville on the Ohio river. Two of us were in a little lateen-rigged Sea Snark, while my dad and a buddy of his were on his Hunter (25?) sailing around and keeping an eye on us.

I seem to remember we had a nice breeze, maybe 10 knots. We were close-hauled and headed up river. We were heeled and the water was rushing by. I looked at the shore, and we were going backwards. The boat just could not overcome the current. Luckily, dad and his buddy towed us home, under power.

So for your story, have a wide river with little current. The folks doing the sailing will need a boat that will have a hull speed of something like double the current velocity. So, not a raft, but a real vessel with a length of 30 feet minimum (as a guess). The current varies greatly around bends, so use that little detail to allow the sailors to make progress upriver.

If you are looking for a hint, personally, I like stories where the hero and captain are named Steve - just sayin'.

Cheers!

Steve
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Old 13-09-2015, 07:09   #8
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Re: Sailing up the Mississippi River

And, if you make it a steel vessel, you can write about how all that river-borne debris just bounces off the hull.

Whatever you do, don't ask this forum if your fictional boat should be a catamaran or monohull.

Cheers!

Steve
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Old 13-09-2015, 08:18   #9
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Re: Sailing up the Mississippi River

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Originally Posted by steve77 View Post
And, if you make it a steel vessel, you can write about how all that river-borne debris just bounces off the hull.

Whatever you do, don't ask this forum if your fictional boat should be a catamaran or monohull.

Cheers!

Steve
Well, if it was a small beach cat you could seek out the shallower water where the current is less than in the deep. Plus beach cats can hit 23 knots or so.......

Racing out Pensacola Pass for the Sea Buoy Race, the beach cat sailors would pull their boards up and hug the shoreline while the monohulls had to stay in the deeper channel. If the race occurred during an incoming tide, the mono's had a hell of a time just getting out and really got slowed up and push right/west away from the buoy 3 miles further out.
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Old 13-09-2015, 08:30   #10
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Re: Sailing up the Mississippi River

Steve77

You're on a tear man... funny stuff !

Broken... There's a bunch here that are familiar with the river system... They'll be along...


You could also consider the TennTom from Mobile... A lot more navigable...
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Old 13-09-2015, 08:34   #11
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Re: Sailing up the Mississippi River

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Originally Posted by Sea Dreaming View Post
Interesting question and......there is a real life example that can be applied. Cause, you know, there are nuts everywhere

Years ago I read the account of a couple that sailed the length of Lake powell against the current. I belive this is the page
08-09 Sailing Lake Powell page 1

It took them, I recall, 3 or 4 months to travel about 3/4 of the way.
The notes are really detailed so ito an excellent resource for you. It might inspire some details in your story.

And....if that doest help, Google. ...
https://www.google.com/search?q=sail...obile&ie=UTF-8
Not sure the Lake Powell analogy helps. There is no current on Lake Powell, or at least not enough to notice. We have sailed there many times and the only thing that makes a difference is the wind. It is actually easier to sail north against the current than it is to sail south with the current as the prevailing winds are generally out of the southwest.
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Old 13-09-2015, 08:46   #12
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Re: Sailing up the Mississippi River

Broken, a few more details would help us give you better suggestions. A period of time would help determine what kind of boat we would be talking about. Such as, pre 1900 would be no engine or steam engine. When you say ''sail'', are you talking about actually sailing or just moving in a boat?
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Old 13-09-2015, 08:56   #13
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Re: Sailing up the Mississippi River

In 2006 took the mast down on my 45' Gulfstar sloop in Chicago down the Illinois River to the Mississippi to the Ohio River to Paducah Kentucky. Keeping in mind the tugs are pushing 16 barges and ALL have the right of way. There is no way to sail up any of the above Rivers. Motor sailing a chance, if you don't get run down by one of the tugs. There are far too many Tugs to take a chance with your life. I was half throttle and going 10 knots on the Mississippi. My wife was on the bow of our boat looking for trees floating down the Ohio River because we were going up River at 2 to 3 knots. Three of the worst days of my life on our sail boat. Pick another River is my advise.

Captain James
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Old 13-09-2015, 09:05   #14
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Re: Sailing up the Mississippi River

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In 2006 took the mast down on my 45' Gulfstar sloop in Chicago down the Illinois River to the Mississippi to the Ohio River to Paducah Kentucky. Keeping in mind the tugs are pushing 16 barges and ALL have the right of way. There is no way to sail up any of the above Rivers. Motor sailing a chance, if you don't get run down by one of the tugs. There are far too many Tugs to take a chance with your life. I was half throttle and going 10 knots on the Mississippi. My wife was on the bow of our boat looking for trees floating down the Ohio River because we were going up River at 2 to 3 knots. Three of the worst days of my life on our sail boat. Pick another River is my advise.

Captain James
Sounds like you made the trip during high water, (spring, early summer). Later trips usually not that bad.
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Old 13-09-2015, 09:17   #15
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Re: Sailing up the Mississippi River

Interesting question.

My sailing rule of thumb is that it takes 10 times longer to sail somewhere than to drive. Its simple math...we drive at 60mph and sail at 6mph (roughly, you know, on average, in theory, sometimes). So a one hour drive becomes a 10 hour sail...or pretty much one full day (not counting night sailing like on a passage).

Next, sailing into the wind. Actual speed to weather, when tacking with good boat speed, I usually estimate at 2.5 knots directly into the wind. If there is a favourable tack, this can go up to 3-4 knots.

River current can easily be 5 knots in a narrows, or 2 knots everywhere. It could be impossible to sail upriver. Other means, like being towed by a steam packet, rowed tender, or even pulled by horses along the shore (more common in canals).

Where both wind and current are against you, kedging is a solution. You row a small anchor upwind/upcurrent and pull the boat the length of the anchor line each time. Painstakingly slow and hard physical work. Everyone should try it sometime. Speed would be 1-2 miles per day, depending on the size and strength of the crew.

For a great example of sailing with no engine in confined spaces, you need look no further than Joshua Slocum's fine work, Sailing Alone Around The World. He spends weeks (months?) working his way through the maze of straights at the tip of south america.

In a perfect world, the wind would blow you upstream, and the current would bring you back.

So, best case scenario, 250 miles, 5 knots, 10 hours per day, equals 5 days. Reality...about a month or so. A fact you may be neglecting is that sailors tend to plan their trips based on favourable winds. If I wanted to go that far up river without an engine, with a strong current against me, I might just anchor, and get out and walk.

My experience with river sailing is in the Niagara River.
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