Old "salts" navigate the Mississippi River

Error message

  • Warning: array_merge(): Expected parameter 1 to be an array, bool given in _simpleads_render_ajax_template() (line 133 of /home/pdccourier/www/www/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/simpleads.helper.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to get property 'settings' of non-object in _simpleads_adgroup_settings() (line 343 of /home/pdccourier/www/www/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/simpleads.helper.inc).
  • Warning: array_merge(): Expected parameter 1 to be an array, bool given in _simpleads_render_ajax_template() (line 157 of /home/pdccourier/www/www/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/simpleads.helper.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type null in include() (line 24 of /home/pdccourier/www/www/sites/all/modules/simpleads/templates/simpleads_ajax_call.tpl.php).

Longtime friends and former high school classmates, from left, Norm Kulow and Arlen "Doc" Zierck of Hubbard, have embarked on a journey down the Mississippi River. Captain Kulow and first mate Zierck are both retired and in their 80's. They are navigating a 32-foot Coronado sail boat named "Music." (Press photo by Caroline Rosacker)

By Caroline Rosacker

Longtime friends and former high school classmates Norm Kulow and Arlen "Doc" Zierck, of Hubbard have embarked on a journey down the Mississippi River. Captain Kulow and first mate Zierck are both retired and in their 80's. They are navigating a 32-foot Coronado sailboat named "Music." 

Zierck, a retired veterinarian, shared, "As a small town veterinarian I took care of all kinds of animals, even some exotics."  Zierck recently lost his wife, Sana, to a sudden cardiac arrest on their 58th wedding anniversary. 

Kulow is a retired farmer, auctioneer and real estate agent. The sailing vessel belongs to Zierck's granddaughter, Rachel, who will be joining the voyagers when they reach her current location. 

"We are currently motoring, because the Mississippi River is too narrow to utilize the sails," Zierck said. "We launched at Lake City, Minn., – 35 miles east of Rochester. 

Zierck and Kulow refer to themselves as "salts," an endearing name for old sailors. "We started out on Sept. 21, and have made it this far," Zierck explained. "We have about 1600 river miles to go before we reach our destination in Pensacola, Fla. We are heading down to Granite City, Ill. — the last Lock and Dam, then down to Cairo, Ill., and heading up the Ohio River where we will enter the Tennessee River at Paducah, Ky." 

The "salts" will enter Tennessee Kentucky Lake, which is the start of the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway where they will encounter a series of locks and dams which will take them to Mobile Bay in Alabama.  

"We have river charts for backup that we can refer to, and a chart plotter similar to a GPS," Zierck noted, "Our final destination is Pensacola, Fla. It's a little bit variable because there are several marinas when you get to the Gulf. The hurricane has also created uncertainty. We have to wait and see." 

Zierck's granddaughter will eventually live on, and work from the sailboat once the trio of sailors locates an agreeable location. "Rachel works in marketing. She has a degree from Iowa State – a double major in clothing design and photo journalism and works for a large clothing chain," he proudly shared. 

"We won't put up the sails until we get to the Gulf. Prevailing winds from the south and narrow waterways have forced us to use the diesel inboard motor." He added, "We average about seven and a half miles per hour. One of the things we have found is that most of the marinas don't have diesel fuel. We have a 30-gallon tank and two auxiliary cans for backup." 

Their current journey is one of many the two men have shared throughout the years. "We have done quite a bit of sailing together on Norm's boat in addition to canoeing, kayaking and other fun outdoor recreational sports," he pointed out. "What gives us credibility is this is the first time either of us have stepped onboard this boat. It is sort of like getting behind the wheel of a new car. There is a learning curve before you figure everything out." 

"The Mississippi river is beautiful," he commented. "Further north we were starting to see some brilliant foliage.  We are enjoying the migrating birds. We have seen a lot of pelicans, eagles, all kinds of ducks and cormorants – a diving bird. So far we haven't encountered any problems."

Zierck described the pair as 'a couple of tight old Germans.' "When we stop for the evening we find a safe place out of the way of towboat traffic and throw out an anchor. We are too cheap to pay $40 a night to park in a marina. We stocked up on supplies before we launched, – canned goods and noodle mixes, stuff like that. We have 40 gallons of water to wash with and we are in communication with my granddaughter daily in case we need to restock. Her diet is more esoteric than ours so her tastes will be much different than ours," he said. 

The "salts" trade off cooking. "We choose what we want and take turns. We set our supplies up in my garage and separated them into milk cartons to get organized. We are not quite where we want to be with organization, but we are getting there," Zierck chuckled. 

"One of the people on the fuel dock asked if we were David Crosby of Crosby, Stills and Nash. Apparently he has a sailboat named 'Music' also. The only music on this sailboat is after I have a few beers. I may sing a couple of old German songs," Zierck said with a hearty laugh.

Rate this article: 
Average: 4.6 (32 votes)