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Old 03-31-2001
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Dan Dickison is on a distinguished road
Houseboating Down the Mississippi

Can I take a 65-foot houseboat from Lake Michigan to the Gulf? And if so, how many days would it take?

Dan Dickison responds:

OK, even though your request came to us on April 1, we're going to assume that you're not foolin,' and we'll take your question seriously. Without knowing much about your boat, my answer is yes, but a qualified yes. To start with, size isn't a limiting factor. Barges and other commercial traffic much larger than your houseboat ply the waters of this route on a regular basis. But those craft are largely stout, steel vessels that are intended to withstand occasionally inclement conditions and situations that include going aground or banging into a bulkhead. Ask yourself these questions: Does your houseboat have sealed chambers for flotation, and is its construction sufficiently strong to withstand the eventualities mentioned above? If you're confident that the vessel won't pull apart or experience other problems borne of a long trip, then you probably could make it.

I hope you understand why I'm a little reluctant to fully endorse this trip. The Mississippi is a busy shipping waterway subject to the demands of commercial traffic and the vagaries of the weather. If you do decide to make the trip, research shipping schedules for the areas that you'll be transiting, predetermine where you'll be stopping to refuel and overnight, and find out about the specific locks and canals on your route well in advance. (Transiting locks and canals takes a little getting used to in any vessel.) And by all means, get yourself a reliable source for weather forecasting over the course of the trip. Once you've covered those bases, you'll have a much more better handle on how long such a trip will take.

Good luck.

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