Obviously, it's been done but few have done it with s/v's as large as your own. I'm sure you'll be draft
challenged, the lock & dam system "assures" (wink, wink, cough) a 9' channel. Considering the water
you must draw, you'll want pay particular attention to holding a sailing line (marked on the charts). Even then, your options for putting her anywhere off the channel overnight will be severely restricted.
As mentioned elsewhere, you'll have to drop your mast, what else ... current
. The Mississippi
is one big river and drains a huge landmass. The current
is formidable. The Ohio
less so but the Ohio
Valley is still a substantial drainage & the river runs with deceptive power. You might also be surprised by how much junk you’ll find in the rivers, fast moving & massive junk like trees. Six foot + diameter, 4 & 5 bladed towboat props can eat them whole but the pieces they spit out could well sink you. A whole trunk in immediate proximity to your ketch
requires little speculation. If you do the Tenn-Tom your jog up the Ohio, against the current, should be your worst exposure to flotsam.
You are talking about the busiest commercial
waterway in the country, & not just the Mississippi
. The Ohio moves considerable freight & the Tenn-Tom does as well. Though I don't have that much trouble with tows & their crews (they're great people, mariners no less) they do get priority at the locks & you'll do some waiting on the Illinois Waterway in particular.
Once out into the Mississippi you’ll generally be able to give them a wide berth & stay out of their way but you’ll be more restricted on the Illinois WW, the Ohio & the Tenn-Tom. The up side, the tows typically move very, very slowly … the pilots are well aware of how long it takes to stop or redirect that kind of tonnage. I have on occasion seen a tow make some wake but it’s far more typical for them to be moving at an almost imperceptible speed.
The trick is to stay clear of them as much as possible & avoid their sterns at all costs … those towboats are powerful, powerful boats. One of the ugliest things I’ve ever seen was what happened to a bass boat that crept in too close for a look … the tow was pointed downstream but holding against the current, effectively backing down at about six knots. The bass boat driver apparently just never thought about what was happening under that towboat’s stern, she was just sitting there (with 15 loaded barges) … right ? Wrong.
Even so, you would love the proposed trip, or I at least hope you would. I’m not sure you want to do it in your ketch
, though. I have a hunch that caring for a boat so not appropriate to these waters would take all the fun out of it. Add to that your boat’s “one of a kind in the world” status & I simply wouldn’t do it.
If you do decide to go for it, by all means enjoy the heartland. Consider a guide as an aid to enjoying the experience, somebody that knows the route
& knows it well, knows moving water
(fast & forceful moving water), locking through, etc.
Let me emphasize though, you’re talking about my own cruising grounds & I do love it here. I would also like nothing more than to find a sailboat like your own & put my own back into her knowing that she’s unique & beautiful & well worth it. If/when I do make that happen I won’t even consider bringing her up the Mississippi or the Tenn-Tom, it just won’t happen.