Friday, April 27, 2007
The largest diesel-powered towboat in the U.S. docked in Helena Harbor. The towboat has quite a few ties to Helena as several employees that work on the vessel either live in Helena or have Helena connections. They are first mate Joe Schafer of Marion and chief engineer Mike Buie of Lake Cormorant, Miss., (both formerly of Helena), deckleaderman Irinza Smith, deckhands, Louis Chandler and Dennis Barnes and Marine machinery mechanics, Eddie Evans and James Trice. They are all proud of their Helena heritage as well as their work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. On hand to welcome the boat were students from the KIPP School. Schafer explained to them the boat's operations. They also received brochures explaining the purpose and use of the boat. Schafer said the students' visit was a real special surprise as were the other visitors who were there to welcome them. Also on hand to welcome the boat and those from Helena were Joe St.
Motor Vessel Mississippi, Largest Diesel-Powered TowboatColumbia, who is a member of the Helena Improvement District-Levee Board and the Helena-West Helena City Council, and Jay Hollowell, another council member, who had been in contact with Schafer. Schafer's mother, Linda Hopper, and her husband Harold also were there. The boat is 241 feet long and 58 feet wide, weighing over 2,700 tons. Its rated horsepower is 6,300 and has a crew of 37, but can carry up to 78 people. It is a dual-purpose vessel, serving as an inspection vessel and public meeting hall in the spring and fall of the year and a towing vessel for the Corps during the construction time of the year. Currently, they are on the final leg of their spring trip, which took them from Memphis to Cape Girardeau, Mo., on what is called the up-stream trip. They proceeded down river to Baton Rouge, La. and several public meetings were conducted along the way. They were in Helena to pick up Memphis employees who were allowed to ride the last portion of the trip back to Memphis. The Corps of Engineers, under the direction of the Department of the Army, is responsible for all levees and tributaries along the Mississippi River.