Cofounder of Cincinnati-based AlloyFx and resident of Crestview Hills, KY, Marc Phelps will attempt to break the world record for longest journey by jon boat. The 2017 River Record Adventure is sponsored by Grote Industries, headquartered in Madison, Indiana.
"I’ve spent a lot a lot of time on the Ohio River and always dreamed of achieving a world record,” said Phelps. “The idea for this trip was born at lunch with the Grote marketing team in Madison."
Phelps will begin the River Record Adventure on August 26, 2017 from Cincinnati and travel more than 1,500 miles by jon boat past New Orleans to Mobile, AL. The trip is expected to take three weeks.
"We’re excited to sponsor Marc’s effort to set a new world record,” said John Grote, Global Vice President Sales and Marketing, Grote Industries. “His passion for boating and achieving his dream of setting a world record are inspiring to the entire Grote team."
The 1968 jon boat, named the “John Yoder” after a late close friend of Phelps, is 20’ long and 7.5’ wide with a flat bottom and 50 horsepower motor. The boat will be illuminated with Grote XTL LED Light Strips and various other Grote LED lights.
After months of planning, preparation, sweat and worry, the day of launch has finally arrived. The Jon Yoder is loaded down with everything a sea-going, Huck Finn-wannabe could need... beef jerky, canned fruit, water, and loads of Grote lights! We shoved off with a few interviews for local media early Saturday morning (one being WKRC), and then made our way to a local marina in Cincinnati for a bigger send-off. What a crowd! Even the monster yacht folk were smiling and scratching their heads at this intruder into their world.
Lots of smiles, hugs, high-fives and even a Bloody Mary (or two) and we set sail down the Ohio. Let the adventure begin! With any luck—and some good, old-fashioned river smarts—we’ll steer this old boat into Mobile and walk away with a world record!
I’m sure there’s plenty of drama to come...
Uh, yeah... I guess we ARE really doing this!
After an early morning interview (or two), and wild send off in Cincinnati, and a brief stopover at my brother’s place in Warsaw, Kentucky, we’ve officially set sail down the Ohio toward Madison, IN. I’ll drop anchor and head ashore for one final round of goodbyes, hugs, well-wishes and photos at the Grote Industries River Record Adventure Kickoff Party. These guys have raised the bar in how many lights they outfitted this boat with, how many hours the engineers put in hooking everything up (hats off to you, Will Corwin!) and how much trust they put in me making this record happen. So let me touch dry land one more time before I get to floatin’! Captain Phelps out.
Ah, the life of a riverboat captain! Well, jon boat, but hey—even the tug drivers are giving me wide berth and wishing me good luck on the voyage. Woke up at Harrods Creek. Ran into an old friend and took him for a quick spin! Then stopped at Juniper Beach Docks to gas up. Even left with some rad koozies to keep me drinks cool.
Around 10:30am, I passed by Louisville, Kentucky -- what a beautiful city. I then passed through the McAlpine locks. Gotta say, pretty fancy!
Few small snafus with the boat popped up, but what could go wrong with a trip like this, right? I got them fixed and pointed her in the right direction again, so we’re making good time.
Ended the day at Blue River. Cairo...Paducah...Memphis, here I come! Captain Huck Phelps out, for now.
Up and at it early this morning! Leaving Blue River soon. My climbing "brother of the rope" Jim from Everest is heading out today. He's a great soul, really looking forward to time on the water with him. Hoping for 100 miles today.
This awesome dude right here is Jim
Stopped in at Derby Landing and wow what a really great experience! Got some t-shirts, met some locals ... saw a giraffe.. True story, and freaking hilarious! Feels like we're on the Serengeti!
We've gained an hour, due to a change in time zones -- 29 miles from the next lock!
Well, been stuck here at Cannelton Locks for some time now. Just heard they are doing some crane work on lock approach, said an hour wait. We had a guy at the Marina offer to put The John Yoder on his trailer and take it around. But I wasn't into that idea :-) They're hoping to get us through tonight, but they are only operating one lock -- the small one -- and they have ten northbound barges and five southbound barges.
I considered taking a brief nap while tied here to this log, but that dadgum marketing team of Grote's, they never sleep. That's okay though, I enjoy their company. Even if they did post a picture of me half asleep at the helm on their facebook page!
After some serious waiting, we finally got through Cannelton Locks. Even though I put in my time waiting -- 4 hours! -- I felt pretty darn bad looked over at all the barges lined up on the river banks just counting down the hours until it's finally their turn to go through, as they locked us through alone.
Oh man, it's seriously insane dark out on the river right now!
Wow, yesterday was nuts! Woke up this morning in Troy, Indiana. It was well after midnight by the time the ship was ready to sleep last night. I spent a fair amount of time driving on the river in the dark. My Grote lights were amazingly super helpful and I was really glad I had them. I was able to use the front, side, and back lights to tie up in the mouth of the creek.
I was able to spot driftwood by using the two top lights pointing down as I was coming down in the dark. There were a ton of mayflies and many of them still decorate the boat this morning!
Today has gone really well. Little overcast, open river. It’s beautiful. Stopped in at the Redneck Marina for some ice — yea! That was actually the name of it! I wasn’t able to get a photo because the sign was totally blown out but we met a guy named Danny and he even invited us to stay and hang out for the day! Had to turn down the offer though — no rest for the captain of a jon boat!
Other than that, and a run up on a sandbar, it has been a quiet day. We locked through in a world record speed at Newburgh, mile market 776. I called ahead and they opened the doors for us. Pulled in and right back out. It was beautiful.
One really unique thing about today, we’ve had butterflies of different types, all day, flying around the boat. There’s one doing it right now — pretty weird/kind of cool. I did pause and try to take a picture, but I must have startled him because he flew away. But seriously, it’s really freaking cool. We’re out here out in the middle of the water, so you know that wasn’t an easy flight for the little guy.
Any-who, we just got $52 in gas, topped off and targeting a spot to spend the night!
PS - check out my current view!
Took on a passenger and her little dog, too, this morning. Cheryl and her pal, Tula, joined me for part of my journey. Up at 6am with an alarm clock that none of us wants --mosquitos! They’re freakin’ awful out here. Did a little makeshift patchwork on the gas tanks. Ripped up some water bottles to use as hole fillers so no storm water seeps in. Getting ready for whatever Harvey has to bring my way...rain storm preparedness plan is to tie two anchors off the front out into the river, tether the rear of the boat to the shore and seek shelter in a lightning storm. Still, as you can see, it sure is “purdy” out here before the storm!
Captain’s log, stardate...ah, who knows! Still looking to chug 80-100 miles a day. Paducah is less than 100 miles away. Planning on going 74 miles through to Myers lock to end up at a marina to ride the storm out tonight. All the creeks we have been in would be washed out by 3 1/2 inches of rain and don't want to be in the river with the current and debris. Hope to be landing by 7 or 8 o'clock. I’m averaging about 8 miles an hour, so let’s run full speed for one hour at 15 miles an hour and make our miles...that is, if we don't get hung up at the lock.
Marco de Gama signing off for now.
Current condition: This weather is out of control! No, I'm just kidding (thankfully). We are about an hour and a half away from the Golconda Marina. Still no rain.. actually looks decently nice out. We have the wind in our back which has been great because it’s blowing hard waves on the stretch. Not too bad for the remainder of the time. They were pretty big.
I’ll be changing the prop once we get to the marina — I toasted it on that dang sandbar yesterday. Yes, I’ll be posting pics for all of you to see. Maybe even text one over to that Cowboy Ken...let him poke some fun at me about it :-)
Oh man, real decent day on the water I tell ya. The wind was never in my face, always at my back. Thats such a rare thing to have happen. Made it to the Golconda Marina. Got in a solid twelve hours today but literally no where to get gas, at least not easily. Went through about 18 gallons since the last fuel stop. Sure, today wasn’t critical, but definitely was on the look out for somewhere to stop and fill up. Fortunately there is gas here at the marina. Currently I have a 44 gallon capacity and I figure we are getting about six miles to the gallon at this point, so I am working on finding someone to bring down four more 5 gallon cans. This marina is nice though — public and nicely sheltered. Couldn’t be better luck for a place to ride out the storm! That being said, I may not get the prop changed until the morning. It got dark pretty quick and man, it’s super windy. My good buddy Jim, gotta hand it to him. He was such a huge asset to getting us through today. He was tracking mileage and estimating gas usage — ensuring we didn’t get caught up in a storm. Oh yeah, I didn’t get to post a pic of Tula earlier — see below!
Oh hey, something exciting, total brainiac here — I pulled into the covered slip at the marina and snapped the 10ft antenna to the marine radio. Yeah, broke the mount and snapped the top right off. Gosh, I tell ya..
Oh right, something even more exciting! Mayor and Muffler Meat are at the dock! No John, I’ve not been drinking (yet), you read those names right. So, Mayor and Muffler Meat, real great guys, Mike and Tony. I’ll post a pic below of their boat — these guys are so much fun! They’ve built a double hammock system over their boat with PVC and oh man it’s freakin’ awesome! These guys and I, we go way back. The Mayor is a brilliant industrial designer, Tony, yeah so one day we’re riding ATVs by the side of a lake and I look over and man he had just slid right down over the hill, into the lake — he’s swimming with his ATV! Seriously, I have a picture of this on my phone somewhere. Will definitely find and post with this update. Now Muffler Meat, haha, ohhh man, okay so we’re out running ATVs and the whole time it just smells like someone is grilling out, like right there with us, everywhere we went. So finally we stop and he unwires some aluminum foil from his muffler — He’s cooking brats! Right there on his muffler! The guy had buns under his seat! Literally just lifted his seat, pulled out some buns, and we ate lunch right there.
So anyway, these guys want to follow down river tomorrow, spend a day in the life with the captain of John Yoder. Should be a killer time. Okay well thats quite a bit for tonight, I’ll update you in the morning. Cheers!
Ended yesterday with a shower (even Tula the dog was starting to look at me funny!) then squatted over somebody's grill to make steaks last night. It was glorious, the Mayor surprised us with kebabs. We left ‘em money in a couple of keychain floats for the use of their fire.
Big waves on the river today. Biggest I've been countered on the trip yet, but rain seems to be going away. It's actually okay out right now, just a lot of wind which is still at our back. Awesome as we head southwest at the moment.
35 miles outside of Paducah --going to head past that tonight! At least, I think...haven't got down to the chart because I’m still answering emails and texts!
Oh, and here’s a quick primer for all you wannabes on how to get on the roof to get antenna installation done. I swear, by the time I get there this whole boat’s going to be held together with duct tape and clips!
Captain Jack Sparrow out.
Just a quick, weather related update. The waves are slowing us down. Yesterday, we were running 8 miles an hour at 3000 RPM's. Here's a pic of how we're running today -
So I didn't change the prop today after all. Instead, I filed it down with a Leatherman tool to make it smooth. I’ve been watching the channel markers more closely and man, there are a ton of sandbars on the way to Smithland Lock.
Well, we are hiding off the main river, in a tributary called Clarks River that is off of the Tennessee tributary. Only manged to go 35 miles today and it was rough! The waves were absolutely insane, just couldn't continue. The weather is cool, but we're pretty well protected pulled off of the main river right now.
Been a rough start to the day. We were Northwest in the river on a straight away and big waves got through again. Currently I have three other people on the ‘Yoder with me — Mike, Dave, and Cheryl (and Tula pup, too!). Mike owns a store that got totaled in the storm, so he’s out here with us for a bit while he waits for the insurance adjuster.
Tula doesn’t like the waves, so she’s currently hopping from one person to the next. It’s pretty dang cute. And my wife Linda has been doing a phenomenal job keeping track of my crew.. she’s gone full mission control!
Last night I slept on the room and got real dewy. We ran in the high winds and could not dry out our sleeping bags. Currently laying them out on the roof to dry to dry them again. We did pick up speed a bit today, a mile per hour to be exact, with the current. No debris in the river yet, but I am expecting to be dodging logs before this trip is up.
So, all that beings said, I’m 1/3 of the way finished with the journey and I’m really enjoying it. It’s been a different experience every day and it’s so fun getting to have people on the boat with me. I feel pretty confident and haven’t had any “oh shit, I should have packed...” moments (yet).
We're two hours from the Mississippi, passing through our last lock, Olmstead lock. It's under construction, but they're close to completing it. I've been told it's the only damn of its kind — super high tech. Check it out.
Today was a really great day, now finding a spot to settle down and enjoy the sunset at Obion Creek in Hickman, Kentucky. But don't be fooled by the beautiful sunsest in the photo below -- the bugs are so bad that we had to put up a bug net to make dinner.
Beautiful weather today, it’s great! Gotta give a big shout out to Allcraft Marine — they really hooked up the ‘Yoder! They donated a prop, oil pump, and oil for an oil change! I’m guessing the current is about three to four mph right now. Theres a bunch of debris in the water from the storm. Ran into a fisherman a bit ago and he said the river was going to rise a good two feet today — I tell ya, it went up half a foot just while I was standing in the water, giving the boat an oil change.
I picked up my brother-in-law Rich and his wife Kelly in Hickman, Kentucky. Really great having them along today! Signal is spotty — I’m sure that Grote marketing team is going nuts not being able to fully track my location today! Looks like they’ll just have to trust that the ol’ Blackbeard Phelps has the ship under control.
Over and out!
Rich and Kelly said they can’t believe how beautiful the Mississippi is. It’s really such a beautiful day today, even if we are dodging driftwood in big seas ;) Water has been splashing in through a gaps on the front edges — too funny! That is what all the duct tape is about. Maybe I’ll set another world record with my use of tape. I’ve not yet calculated where we will end up tonight. We didn’t moving along this morning until 11am. The plan is to run until around 7pm and then start looking a place to stop. Check out the bird I caught sitting on driftwood!
We’re out in the middle of nowhere and going by what is by far the most massive sandbar I’ve ever seen! Just goes on for miles. I’m pretty excited about this — definitely going to camp on the sandbar tonight.
We camped next to a really, really fast cut through on the sandbar, so we kept the 'Yoder pulled close, using three anchors. Changed the prop first thing this morning and now on our way!
Hello Memphis, Tennessee!
Geez….the Mississippi is some seriously fast-flowing water. Could almost ski off the back end of this thing!
Ate last night with the food Memphis is known for—BBQ, baby! Alex & Justin brought some of Memphis’ finest last night and got us set up with a marina. Million dollar boats all around us down on the Bluffs, but we weren’t able to stay on the Jon Yoder in that marina, so we opted for a more rustic marina in Riverside Park.
Good friend of mine, Bryan, is on board with me now. A seasoned, veteran boater, he has a place on Lake Cumberland, but like me has never been on the Mississippi so he’s pretty jazzed to be out here!
Apparently, the Asia carp are as excited about the world record as we are—had ‘em jumping all over, with one even bouncing off the back of boat. A little higher and it could have landed on the roof.
May shoot for another 100-mile day, but need to keep an eye on the weather. Some thunderstorms heading our way. Can probably handle a lightning strike, but not sure if we want to find out. Chatting with a barge captain, who told a story of a crew member going out to take a pee and the ship got hit-- burnt up his feet!
Oh, and a major shout out to Lois and Michael for giving us frozen water bottles and freeze pops. Really great people! Time to hit Ole Man River again!
Definitely going to need sunscreen today — there’s not a cloud in the sky! The river level went up six inches from the rain the night before. Not too bad, but we were concerned last night because the sandbar we camped on was only three feet tall. We slept with jackets on and triple anchored!
We’ve picked up another mile per hour. Our cruising speed is now 12mph which is amazing. The current is moving at 5mph! That being said, we’re still a bit behind schedule but I plan to make it up over the next few days.
In Greenville, MS, and you know what that means? That’s right...Beers!
No, not that kind, I mean my buddy from art school, Mark Beers, is with me to enjoy a ride for the next three days. Spent the night at Greenville Yacht Club—genuine, southern hospitality in these folks, and they know their river! They can write off mile markers in town is without even thinking about it. Had the Jon Yoder tied up by the fuel pump in relatively calm water and slept like an old porch hound! Brian and I were sitting on the back of the boat after we landed talking, when all of a sudden a giant fish hit the motor and almost seemed like it could've done damage. We were kidding around that it was that Asian carp I got a glance at, and I would say that this had to be two or 3 feet long!
Getting a nice start today hoping to get 100 or 110 miles downstream. Weather looks sunny and calm so it’ll be another ideal day…and yes, I'm gonna be wearing sunscreen!
The old river is giving us some excitement again! Camped at a perfect no-current sandbar and around 5:30 noticed I could feel a slight bit of wake from barges that I didn't feel when I went to bed. Looked out of tent (up on the roof) and noticed the big driftwood tree we tied to was in deeper water, and also have a little current in water.
So we got out another anchor and dug holes in sand, planted the anchor, then dug another hole and tied rope to a piece of driftwood and planted it horizontally with the rope pulling vertically. It is something I learned about in alpine rescue with snow stakes or an ice axe. Also changed the water anchor to front cleat in order to point the boat into the current.
Now I am trying to go back to sleep. Night y'all!
Finally saw the most sunrise that I've been able to see in two weeks this morning! We had a good evening but called it a night early. The mayflies came to visit again. I thought it would be really hot on this trip but I've found myself wearing a jacket almost all the time.
Looks like it is going to yet another beautiful day. I think Mark Beers brought the best weather on the trip! The gas situation isn't looking so hot, started the motor today with primary tanks, full seven gallon reserve. I would love to find a fuel stop with a cheeseburger!
I need fuel and sunscreen -- Onward!
Well, today was sort of uneventful but with that, all went well. At the end of the day we went up a small bayou looking for a place to rest the ‘Yoder, but decided to turn around and find somewhere else. In doing so, we passed a couple of fishermen. As we cruised back by one of them yelled something at us so I cut the motor so I could hear and he yelled, “You guys are good luck! I got a bite each time you passed!” Hey what do ya know! The ‘Yoder provides! So we wound up here in a protected but fast current island backside (yeah Cowboy Ken, I’m talking about backsides again!). The moon has just come up and I am sleeping in my tent on the roof with no rainfall so I can see the stars... yes will get dewy I know, but so worth it!
Rob Heist is in da house!Getting fuel has been really tough today. Since Rob Heist is coming on board, our plan was for Mark to take Rob’s car up to a gas station and grab some fuel before Robb and I take off — well that turned into a three hour fiasco. There wasn’t a dock within miles so we thought we were going to have to do the switch from the shore. Finally found a ramp but man, this place is remote.
Rob Heist is in da house!
Today was pretty eventful. We encountered some pretty wild deep water waves that were stirred up from the river going from two miles wide to a quarter mile wide. We averaged around 10.5mph earlier in the day, making it to Baton Rouge. Saw some pretty interesting things such as the ship and dredger pictured below!
I’ll tell you one thing though, well two, the boat is getting dirty and I’m as red as a lobster! I did manage to make what Mark Beers names the “Phone Garage” out of duct tape due to the heavy spray we have been taking. Maybe I am delirious because of sun and lack of sleep but hey! Duct tape is wonderful and I’ve gotta keep my phone dry!
We did end up losing one to two mph later in the day because the river has been slowing down. The sandbars are getting smaller and still no place to stop for gas but all in all, decent mileage, decent day!
We didn’t get much sleep last night due to being across from a huge factory. What sleep we did get though consisted of two anchors, two landlines, and life jackets! Yep, thats right. We slept in our life jackets down here in the big river! Mike Gordon, who will be joint the trip shortly, just text me and said, “You are on a section of the river called Chemical Corridor, also referred to as Cancer Alley. No joke.” So, there’s that for a Monday-funday fact.
Gave the ‘Yoder another oil change today. AllCraft Marine did it again, river magic! Mike sent a care package that is huge — more engine oil, gear oil, and fuel stabilizer. Also tools and directions!
We got through Baton Rouge and the river changed again. We’ve been sharing the river with monster boats and tons of activity. They run 24.7, fog, rain, shine — you name it, by radar. Tom has friends that operate on the river so he called and asked if there was a place we could stay. We scored river magic!!! He gave us directions to a barge company and we had to do some night driving that turned out to be rather challenging but alas, we found it! Thomas and Amelia Kish had us over so we were able to get showers and gather a ton of information about the river. It looks lie there is no way to take the ‘Yoder into the gulf at this point. Its not a matter of if it would be rough, its a matter of us making it, period. So, thats unfortunate. However Thomas gave us some options to get into the salt water — I’ll update you more on that as we go. We have one five gallon gas can left we’re about to pass through the busiest port in the world in New Orleans!
This has been one amazing, unpredictable, beautiful adventure!
Oh man. Wednesday. Day 19. Heck yes.
So we found a marina off the main water last night. Met a cool guy named Tim who was cleaning wild hog and fish at a station there. Great guy, gave us a slice last night and then a big salmon fleet this morning. Really nice to be of main channel! We spend nearly the entire day trying to figure out a way to get coastal without too big of waves. I did make a new friend, a dragon fly. I named him Gonzolas. Its Spanish for one who flies in every direction. Well, maybe. I don’t know Spanish. So the ‘Yoder is firing up at 9am tomorrow tomorrow to push out to the gulf — this trip ain’t over yet! We’ll be shooting for Biloxi, which seems doable! I know I know, a little crazy but I really want to bust the record in some saltwater.
The filet mignons that we ate tonight were complements of Kremer’s Market. These guys... they’re awesome and damn do they have some great meat!
We'll be adding several updates over the coming few weeks so be sure to follow Grote Industries on facebook and check back here to see how the project is progressing!