This is an homage to Captain George. Many Pittsburghers remember CG, he was quite the driving force behind the boating scene in the Three Rivers Area:
Once again, I am looking out my picture window which overlooks the Allegheny River's main channel and back channel between 12 Mile and 14 Mile Islands.
The moonlight is sunburn bright, reflecting on the ice floes that are drifting by in the slow moving current. The light from the moon bouncing off the ice appears to be millions of tiny fairy lights just under the surface of the ice. The sereneness of it is astounding.
Then I hear the announcer on the radio say that the current temperature is 14 degrees and I am thankful that I am safe and warm inside my little cottage and not exposed to the bitter cold temperatures outside my window, not out waiting for help.
On my travels through the Midwest a couple months ago, I had occasion to drive through College Station, Texas, where my friend and former captain lives. He is retired now, but still gets calls to take care of large ships into and out of port, performing inspections. While there, my truck got a flat on the front passenger side. I was on the Highway 6, where the speed limit is 75 mph. Those cars were flying past. I called a tow truck from my phone. Let me just say thanks to the tow truck driver for College Station Towing Service, their website is www.csbtowingservice.com. He was courteous and reminded me of the carefulness of the men and women that run the lochs and dams with precision, professionalism, and courtesy. My thanks to him. He really made that part of my traveling vacation easy to endure.
My thoughts flash back to last month's column and what I wrote about the sturdy men who ply our waters each day of the year to assure that our commerce traffics its way along our rivers.
When I wrote last month's column, I had no idea that there would be such a tragic occurrence on our local rivers as befell the towing vessel Elizabeth “M" at the Montgomery Lock & Dam on January 9. I'm not going to go into any specific detail about the accident because there is a Coast Guard investigation underway at the present time and all details are not yet known.
Suffice to say that when the Elizabeth “M" was departing Montgomery Locks, up bound, the Ohio River was high and current was swift and, somehow, the triple length of barges got caught sideways in the current and, despite the efforts of captain and crew, the tow was swept over the dam and sank, resulting in the loss of three lives, plus another crew member missing and presumed dead, and the rescue of three crew members.
I get chills up and down my spine when I recall that last month's column was dedicated as a tribute to these hardy men who brave all the elements to keep our commerce flowing. Little did I realize, at the time of last month's writing, that I would be sending a final tribute to four of these brave men who gave their lives in that endeavor.
May the God, who watches over seamen everywhere, receive them fondly into a Paradise free from storms, swift currents, and bitter cold ice floes.
All you readers can be of great help to this effort if, in advance of my visit, you will communicate with your congressmen. Please take the time to contact your legislators; they need to know the will of the boater people.
We just have to keep reminding our legislators that "Boaters Are Voters!" We will reward their efforts on behalf of our boating interests with the support of our votes. We dare not allow budget cuts to take away any of our ability to navigate our waterways.
I will do my part in this effort, and I ask that you please do yours. Take the time to write or call the politicians whom you support and tell them you want no further budget cuts for Army Corps of Engineers operations.
If we lose any of the locks on our upper rivers, I doubt if we will ever get them back in our boating lifetime, if ever. Don't allow this to happen. Go right now to your desk and write those letters. History has proven that legislators respond to voters’ requests.
So, just do it!!!
(If you have a boating or maritime question, write to "Ask Captain George," c/o Anchors Aweigh, 548 Juniper Court, Mars, PA 16046, or fax it to 724-779-7003, or Email it to: Email: email@example.com. Captain George W. Boyle is a U.S. Coast Guard licensed captain with a master's license for vessels up to 100 tons. He is a Flotilla Staff Officer in the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and has achieved the rank of Advanced Pilot in the United States Power Squadron. Captain George is also a Director of the Pennsylvania Boating Association; a member of the User's Committee of the Riverlife Task Force; Treasurer of the Pittsburgh Safe Boating Committee; Vice President of the Professional Marine Operators Association; Vice President of the Pittsburgh Scuba Divers Organization; Executive Director and founder of Boaters Are Voters . He is a Certified Safe Boating Instructor for the PA Fish and Boat Commission.)