Boatgating in Pittsburgh

Ahoy from Pittsburg

The crew would like to welcome the skipper’s cousin, Brian, aboard. Hope you enjoy the voyage.

Summary of the Week

This week the crew traveled four days to arrive in Pittsburgh at mile Zero on the Ohio River. They made the following stops along the route: 1 – Sistersville where they landed at the town courtesy dock, 2 – Wheeling where they landed on the town public dock, 3 – Chester where they stayed at the Holiday Yacht Club two nights to allow some rainy weather to pass, 4 – Then the crew arrived in Pittsburgh for the 4th of July weekend. The crew could not find a slip anywhere in town so they moored next to the Pirates baseball field and took up residence along the river walk wall. And with even more good news, the Pirates are playing at home Friday, Saturday, and Sunday against the Milwaukee Brewers.

To see more detail of each days travel, click on the link: Still Waters II Travel Map and view the Captain’s Log, pictures along the day’s route, and a short narrative of the day’s observations. The Travel Map also has a feature where you can follow the daily voyage updates. From the Travel Map site, just click on the menu, then click follow, and add your first name and email to the pop up box. You will receive an email each day the crew travels and updates the map.

The voyage of discovery did answer the following questions this week:

  1. Who was a Revolutionary War Hero and also a River Pirate on the Ohio River?
  2. Who holds the title for America’s first serial killers?
  3. What is the name of the first steamboat to cruise the Ohio River?
  4. Who hit the only Game 7 World Series walk off home run?
  5. Where was the first professional football game played?
  6. What is the steepest grade street in the continental US?
  7. What is the grade?

Early Boats of the Ohio River

The first mariners to navigate the Ohio River did so by the trusted canoe. It was not much effort to steer while drifting down river, and it was easy work to paddle back up river along the shore.

However, once the Ohio River Valley was opened to settlement after the Revolutionary War, a new boat was invented to float the pioneers down river from Pittsburgh. This boat was designed to carry the pioneers and all their worldly possessions including livestock by drifting down stream with the current.

Once the pioneers settled and built their homes, they needed a way to ship their goods to market. They once again used these flat boats to take to the Ohio River, where they floated down to the Mississippi River at Cairo, Illinois. Then they drifted down to New Orleans, where they would sell their goods and boat, then walk back north via the Natchez Trace Trail to Nashville. From there, they would find their way back home through the woods.

All this traffic along the rivers was just too good to pass up for some folks, so they began their careers as River Pirates. They would lure the floating ark to shore by offering to help with navigation or some other ruse. Once on board, the River Pirates would murder the crew and take the goods to market down to New Orleans. Then on the way back north on the Natchez Trace Trail, they would become highway robbers.

One of the more famous River Pirates was a Revolutionary War Patriot, Captain in the Virginia Militia, and an associate judge in Kentucky, Samuel Mason. In his spare time he led a gang of River Pirates along the Ohio River and highway robbers along the Natchez Trace. He earned his nickname “Mason of the Woods” by leaving a message in his murdered victims blood stating, “Done by Mason of the Woods.” His gang’s hide out was Cave-in-Rock, mile 881 along the Ohio River.

Samuel Mason’s demise began after he crossed paths with another gang, the Harpe Brothers. The brothers were so bad that Mason actually kicked them out of his Cave-in-Rock hideout. The Harpe Brothers are sometimes called America’s first serial killers. They are believed to have killed some 40 people during their career of crime as River Pirates and highway robbers. Big Harpe was killed when a posse was formed to capture him and his brother.

Harpe Brothers, also known as Big and Little

Samuel and Little Harpe, Wiley, rendezvoused again, but were finally arrested on the Mississippi River in Spanish Territory. They were taken to New Orleans to stand trial. Samuel claimed he was just a poor farmer, but the $7,000 in currency and twenty human scalps found in his bag when arrested told a different story. After his conviction, the Spanish authorities were taking him and Little Harpe to American Territorial authorities when the guilty all escaped. During the escape, Samuel was shot.

The Mississippi Territorial Governor, William Claiborne, issued a reward for the escaped prisoners capture and return. What happened next to Samuel is still a mystery, but Wiley Harpe and Peter Alston showed up with Samuel Mason’s head to claim the reward. Unfortunately for them, someone recognized them as the criminals that they were, and they were both rearrested. The pair were eventually tried in federal court and found guilty of river piracy. Their lives ended in 1804 on the short end of a hangman’s noose.

The Age of Steam

The first steam boat to voyage the Ohio River was the New Orleans. She was launched in Pittsburgh and steamed all the way to New Orleans in 1811. Pittsburg, Wheeling, and Cincinnati all became centers for Steam Boat construction. These new steam boats revolutionized trade along the rivers. They could actually move products and goods up river at the astonishing unheard of speeds of 5 mph.

The Ohio River Museum in Marietta told the history of the steam boats along the Ohio River. The museum also has the last steam powered tow boat, W.P. Snyder, on display. She is the only intact steam driven stern wheeler towboat still on the western rivers.

But with most steps forward in innovation, someone came up with a better light bulb. They took that steam engine technology and put in on rails. In 1830 there was just 30 miles of railroad track in the US. By 1860, there was more that 30,000 miles of track. Transportation of goods and services shifted to the railroads and the Ohio River towns began there slow decline.

Wheeling, West Virginia

On September 5, 1936 a different kind of Pirate entered the world in Wheeling, West Virginia, William Stanley Mazeroski. He grew up to play Major League Baseball for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was called up to the majors at the age of nineteen, and played his whole career for the Pirates. He won 8 gold gloves and is considered one of the best defensive players ever to play the game. He is also enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

However, it is for one swing of the bat that he is most remembered. It occurred in the World Series against the New York Yankees in 1960. It was game 7, tied 9-9, bottom of the 9th inning when Mazeroski stepped up to the plate. He took ball one, putting a little pressure on the Yankee pitcher. The next pitch was launched 406 feet over the fence at Forbes Field for the first, and still only, game 7 walk off home run.

Mazeroski rounding second base after homerun
Statue commemorating the homerun at Forbes Field as he rounded second base
Actual wall from Forbes Field where the ball cleared the fence


The crew decided to take the Double Decker Bus Tour to see what Pittsburgh is all about. The tour lasted just over two hours and was filled with way too many historical events to document here. However, this is a list of just a few of the nicknames that Pittsburgh has accumulated over the years:

  • City of Bridges – home of 446 bridges, most of any city in the world
  • Iron City – This is a nod to the city’s early days through 1870 when the city was known for its iron production.
  • Steel City – the city shifted to steel production becoming the backbone of the industrial revolution
  • City of Champions – Six Super Bowl victories, Five Stanley Cups, and Five World Series certainly helped earn this nickname
  • Blitzburgh or Sixburgh – another nod to the great defenses of the football team and their Super Bowl wins.
  • The Burgh – William Pitt is credited for keeping the “h” at the end of Pittsburgh and the locals affectionately refer to their hometown as the Burgh

Pittsburgh also has many firsts in its long history, a list of just a few:

  • George Ferris invented the Ferris Wheel in 1892
  • Clark Candy Bar, introduced in 1917 was initially manufactured in Pittsburgh
  • KDKA radio was issued a commercial license on October 27, 1920
  • Headquarters for the Klondike Bar invented in 1922. What would you do for a Klondike Bar?
  • Civic Arena’s retractable dome built in 1961
  • Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine was claimed a success in April 1955

Burgers, Baseball, Bicycles

Today is July 4th, and to celebrate the crew plans to partake in all things American. A good burger from the best burger joint in Pittsburgh, better known as Burgatory.

The skipper went for the Elk Burger, while the Admiral went with the original Burger with a secret sauce and a blend of short rib, sirloin, and brisket. Both were par excellence. While waiting on the food and enjoying the burgers, the crew watched most of the Pirates game. They finally won a game, beating the Brewers 2-0.

The crew then waddled down the trail to walk off all the calories to the Bicycle Museum. The museum has over 4,000 bicycles jammed into two floors. If you need a bike part you should be able to find it at Bicycle Heaven.

Want to know what a $38,000 bike looks like?
Just a few of the 4,000 bicycles
Hey, Hey We’re The Monkeys
The Admiral wanted to take this out for a ride

The skipper finally found a souvenir to remember the Ohio River Adventure. Bicycle Heaven sponsors a bike ride called the Dirty Dozen. It rides up 13 of the steepest streets in Pittsburgh, culminating with a ride up Canton Street with a grade of 37%, renowned as the steepest street in the continental US.

Want to know what it looks like to ride the steepest street? Check out this video……

The only thing left to close out the 4th of July is the fireworks show scheduled for later tonight. Hope you had a good 4th!

Boat Name of the Week

That is a decal of the Tasmanian Devil next to the name, Attitude.

Next Week –

The crew will spend the Holiday weekend in Pittsburgh, then begin the long run back down river on Monday. They plan to travel 5 days per week, and try to hit some ports they missed on the way up river.

Loop On – Where the road ends, the water begins. The water goes on forever, and the adventure never ends.

Eric the Red

3 Comments on “Boatgating in Pittsburgh

  1. Thanks for the wonderful reminder and pics of the treasures along the great Ohio River! We made pretty much the same stops as you along our way up the river and look forward to doing it again after our Loop is completed someday.
    We are multi year loopers located 65 miles up the Muskingum River from Marietta. We love our rivers!
    Pittsburgh ranks high in our list of cities we’ve visited aboard. When we were there we were moored on the point side of the river and were treated to a Billy Joel concert at PNC Park. We too found the bicycle museum and enjoyed it.
    Who in the H@$L would want to bike up that street?!? Safe travels back downriver.


  2. Hope you guys enjoyed Pittsburgh! My dad’s mom grew up in Pittsburgh, so we had family ties to the city. We would go probably once a year when I was younger until my great grandparents passed, and I always enjoyed the trips there! I thought the trolley rides and the mountain tram were just the coolest things when I was a kid. I haven’t been back since I’ve been older, but I’d love to spend a week exploring the city! Safe boating amongst the holidayers as you travel back south!


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