to release them. Trapped for days, they ran out of coal oil, their
only source of heat, then ran low on food. After eight anxious days,
enough ice melted, the river level rose, and they escaped.
The hungry boys pulled into a sheltered cove and shot rabbits to
eat. Desperate for supplies, several times they made the 10-mile hike
inland to Commerce, Missouri, the nearest town, telegraphing home
for money. Art Morrow became seriously ill, weakened by the numbing cold and short rations. He was delirious and ran high fevers.
No doctor was near, so they cared for him as best they could. Their
money arrived after six days, they restocked Gazelle, and continued
downriver. Art slowly recovered but, try as he might, he couldn’t
carry his share of the load for the rest of the river trip.
When the boys stopped in Memphis and visited a plantation, Ken
studied the loading of cotton bales on paddlewheelers. In Vicksburg,
they visited the national cemetery and memorials marking Civil
War battles. In Natchez, they endured another ice storm that saw
temperatures drop to - 5°. Fierce winds blew river
spray onto the boat, which froze into ice
so thick it threatened to sink her. The
boys frantically chopped ice from
the boat with hand tools during
the worst of it.
Gazelle arrived in New
Orleans on February 21, 1899,
The crew lost one of their own when Clyde Morrow got a
message from his family that he was desperately needed back
to help on the farm. On May 1, 1899, down one man, Gazelle
departed New Orleans and worked her way east and south along
the Gulf Coast, while the boys fished and gathered sponges with
the working boats along the way.
Disaster nearly overtook the crew on Sanibel Island, which was
farmland in 1899. Ken and Frank rode their dinghy to the farmer’s
dock, followed a path through thick mangroves, then cut across the
gnarly mangroves to the beach. They spent the afternoon swimming,
running races, and tossing seashells – happy to be in such a pretty
place. As the sun set, they looked for their way back to the boat,
until realizing they’d failed to mark the spot where they came onto
the beach. They searched for the path until darkness fell and spent a
miserable night on the beach – cold, dehydrated, hungry, and beset
by hoards of mosquitoes.
At dawn, they washed all the blood from the mosquitoes off and
renewed a desperate search through the mangroves, knowing they
were in trouble in their weakened, dehydrated state if they were
unsuccessful. A dog turned up on the beach and saved them. They
threw small shells at him until he ran away, leading them back to the
path and Gazelle.
58 | BoatU.S. Magazine AUGUST | SEPTEMBER 2015
For more on cruising the
Great Loop, see this article online.