Tugboat Going Underneath Bridge : Full Story

It was on the old Rooster Bridge at Demopolis, Ala. It occurred in April, 1979. The pilot rode the boat by means of. When he noticed he couldn’t kill the tow out earlier than hitting the bridge, he despatched the crew onto the tow. He tried to again the face wires out however one fouled and the tow dragged the boat into the bridge had been the wire lastly broke. Some native simply occurred to have a digital camera on the proper time.

Tugboat vs. Bridge

April 28, 1979- the CAHABA, Capt. Jimmy Wilkerson, was dropping 2 of his 4 barges via the east span of Rooster Bridge- mm 200.(one thing), with intent of working round via the carry span and catching them under. Pilot Earl Barnhart was on the tow serving to the two deckhands take off security wires, winch wires, and so on. Wilkerson under-estimated present, and obtained too near the bridge, and for some purpose they’d taken free all rigging besides the stbd. tow-knee wire. This wire pulled the stbd. tow knee underneath the bridge, and when it broke, the towknee popped up and hung within the bridge metal. Now he is caught, and the present laid the CAHABA onto the bridge, stbd. aspect to. When the decrease port deck went awash, the vessel rolled, went by means of the span, and got here partially again up as soon as it cleared. Capt. Wilkerson remained on the sticks; nonetheless, at one level he was straddled the stbd. pilot home door body, and the port entrance pilot home window blew out, filling the place with water.

The boat with the blue trim you see is the CATHY PARKER; she was ready above for her flip. The CATHY radioed to the TALLAPOOSA, who was down the attain under Blacks Bluff, that one thing had occurred to the CAHABA. Capt. Gary Grammer tied off the TALLAPOOSAs tow, and light-boated to the CAHABA, the place he pushed her out right into a flooded corn discipline. The stbd. 16-149 of the CAHABA was nonetheless working. The TALLAPOOSA then rescued the three crew members, and secured the two free CAHABA barges.

tugboat under bridge

The photographer was from the Linden, AL DEMOCRAT, en path to Meridian, MS, and occurred to get caught because the CAHABA blew for a draw on the Rooster bridge. What stored these photos out of circulation for thus lengthy (we consider) was that the President of Warrior & Gulf, homeowners of the CAHABA, purchased the negatives instantly after they had been printed within the LINDEN DEMOCRAT. I’ve a replica of the unique printed model, though it is a little bit worse for put on after 23 years.

What righted the vessel? She had simply topped off with gas at Demopolis, 14 miles upstream. The CAHABA has one central gas tank fwd. the engines; had that tank been 1/2 full, she may need by no means come again up.

Earl Barnhart handed away sveral years in the past. I do not know the place Jimmy Wilkerson is.

When you’ve got a replica of the original newspaper I might like to receive a replica of it for the corporate that owns her now. She is presently named the M/V Captain Ed Harris and nonetheless runs immediately.

Many of the outdated bridges on the Tombigbee occur to be in-built bends ( Rooster, within the outdated days, Naheola mm. 173, and Jackson RR, mm 89.0) On Rooster and Naheola, throughout excessive excessive water, it was simpler ( and safer) to get subsequent to the east financial institution, out of the heavy present, and ease your tow by means of the span closest to the financial institution, the place the present wasn’t so fierce, than making an attempt to drive or flank the tow by means of the carry span of a draw bridge, with 150′ or much less of horizontal clearance. So the thought was to “drop” (minimize free) the barges by means of the slack water span, run light-boat by means of the draw span, and catch as much as the barges just under the bridge. In case you had a superb deck crew, and winches whose brakes would not lock up on you on the worst doable time, this process took about quarter-hour. At Jackson RR bridge you do not have a alternative, as there isn’t a “alternate” span to get the tow by means of; you both run or flank it in excessive water.

Capt. Wilkerson was trying this process when, within the phrases of a fantastic Tombigbee river pilot “the music was enjoying quicker than he may dance to…”

The incident occured on the outdated rooster bridge (US HIGHWAY 80), mile 202 on the Tombigbee river. The bridge was blown out and changed by a brand new bridge simply up river within the early 80’s. There’s a wooden chip loader on the sight of the outdated brige now. The river was at a file highwater stage. If I keep in mind accurately the gage was round 73 toes at Demopolis. A traditional low water gage is round 13 toes.( They measure the gages on the Warrior and Tombigbee in a different way now so you will have seen larger numbers.) It has not been that prime earlier than or since. Focal point: The now imfamous M/V Mauvilla which belonged to the identical firm picked up the Cahabas’s tow and carried it on to Cellular.

This textual content was from my guestbook by Bjarne v, thanks !

A buddy of mine tracked down the next account of the Tug Boat photographs. It is attention-grabbing to learn the story behind the photographs. This occurred on April twenty eighth, 1979.

Towboat MV Cahaba turns over under bridge

The river is the Tombigbee River and this occurred to be the file excessive water ever for that space. The towboat you see coming down on the bridge is the Motor Vessel Cahaba owned by Warrior Gulf Navigation out of Cellular, Alabama. Warrior Gulf is a subsidiary of Pittsburgh Metal.

In case you are conversant in Birmingham, Alabama’s coal mines and metal mills, this is among the firms that may haul iron pellets as much as Birmingport and off-load to make metal plate. On the return the barges had been stuffed with coal for export on the McDuffie Coal Terminal on the mouth of the Cellular River and on the head of Cellular Bay. The Bridge was the Outdated Rooster Bridge (since demolished and eliminated – I noticed the explosion to tear it down additionally) situated under Demopolis, Alabama. The land-side freeway lifeless ends on the bluff, and you may nonetheless drive to this web site and picture how excessive the river needed to be to resolve the bridge…

The cross or Channel Span of the bridge the ships use to navigate was situated on the far West aspect of the river, or on the alternative financial institution from the photographer’s standpoint. In regular river circulate, we’d drop down close to the rock bluff and steer by means of the opening to cross southward with our tows of coal barges. Regular hundreds had been six barges, every measuring 195′ X 35′ and loaded to a ten’ draft. This allowed every barge to hold roughly 2,000 tons of coal (occasions six = 12,000 tons X 2000 kilos = 24 Million kilos of cargo.) The boat is 1800 Horsepower twin engine diesel in-built Pine Bluff, Arkansas. It’s named after one of many eight “pleasant” Indian tribes. It’s the Motor Vessel Cahaba. On the “sticks” or helm is Captain Jimmie Wilkerson, a very long time river pilot and was my private buddy – since deceased.

The river present was so very treacherous that we had been compelled to drop right down to the bridge within the slack(er) water on the left descending financial institution and once we obtained right down to the bridge, we uncoupled the boat from the barges and let the barges drift down underneath the bridge. The underside of the bridge would “shave” the coal stacked within the barges off to a stage floor. The following step was to again the vessel upriver after which go over to the far West aspect and traverse the bridge’s channel span with the boat, and run down and catch the barges. It was simply too harmful to attempt to carry the barges by means of the bridge span within the present.

Anyway, Jimmie dropped down correctly and with all the remainder of the crew standing on the barges for security, he started to reverse his engines to again away. His stern must be stored immediately pointed into the present or the boat would journey sideways like a kite with out its tail. Captain Jim was a nice pilot, however he made a small mistake and his stern was caught within the present, twisted sideways and the river smashed him into the bridge sideways. Discover that the boat re-surfaced proper aspect up on the down stream aspect. What luck you say? Nope, WGN ballasted all their vessels with three to 4 toes of cement within the backside. The boat was like a little bit yellow rubber duckie, and got here again up like a duckie oughta do. The boat suffered main beauty damages, however little flooding due to water tight doorways, besides within the pilothouse. Discover the image the place the boat is just not fairly righted and you may see water pouring out of the wheelhouse door. The chair washes out, and Jimmie advised me he was holding on to the controls with all his may to maintain from going out the drain and into the river. Every thing was washed out of the bridge aside from the Captain and one life preserver. He was very shook up and you may see him strategy the tow of barges downriver. Properly he did not get it collectively fairly quickly sufficient and he smashed into the barges, inflicting additional harm. Shortly thereafter, the Motor Vessel Cahaba was laid up in storage the place it remained till bought by Madison Coal, re-powered, refurbished and re-named the Capt. Ed Harris.

I subsequent noticed Jimmie a few month after this and we had a cup of coffee collectively and talked in regards to the incident. He was smoking a Camel Non-filter however did not even want an ashtray as a result of his palms had been nonetheless shaking an excessive amount of for the ash to construct as much as any diploma.

How do I do know all this? I used to be on the boat that went by means of the bridge instantly earlier than the Cahaba. The Motor Vessel James E. Philpott made the bridge and was headed south at shut to fifteen MPH. For all you who do not perceive, that could be very quick on a business towboat with that a lot tonnage. Glad to cross this on to everyone…

Captain Michael L. Smith

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