Ohio History Journal

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The first pilots to navigate the Muskingum river were men

who handled floating crafts. This was before the advent of

steamboats, and also before the improvement of the river by a

series of locks and dams such as we now have kept up by the

federal government.

In the handling of such crafts, the pilot was guided very

much by the draft of water, by which at such places as island

chutes and other ripples the "best water," as they termed it, was

plainly indicated to an experienced eye. Especially at the head

of a chute is this true. The glassy appearance of the surface

of the water and the funnel shape of the current when entering

at the head of an island, made the pilot quite confident; but at

the foot of the chute this was not equally certain, as in the choppy

water this natural chart was lost.

Reference is made to down stream trips, and with the best

management boats often were aground. And it is worthy of

mention that the crew of such boats were not helpless by any

means, and when aground one of the first things to be done was

to lay a line ashore in the proper direction and rig a Spanish

windlass, which was quite powerful as well as dangerous. All

that is necessary for the machine is two handspikes and the line

-and to know how to use them.

The steering apparatus was an oar placed on the bow of

the boat and another of similar pattern on the stern, the latter

called a gouger. To get a boat in position to enter an island

chute it often happened that the entire crew would operate the

two oars. Much care must be taken in operating the gouger, for

if the blade should be dipped in the water too deep it would

catch on the bottom and you would soon be minus an oar, and