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Honest Abe had better weather

PADUCAH — Remnants of Hurricane Ike churned up high waves and interrupted a flatboat tour that re-created young Abraham Lincoln's 1828 journey from southern Indiana to New Orleans.

The crew of Lincoln's Journey of Remembrance braved 7-foot waves as Ike's remnants brought harsh winds into Kentucky and Indiana last week.

Two men from Paducah are on the five-man crew, licensed pilot Bob Cherry and chief cook Sterling Edwards, The Paducah Sun reported.

Cherry described last weekend's encounter with unfriendly weather. "It was the hairiest I've ever seen it on the river. If I hadn't had a lot of experience on the Gulf (of Mexico), I'd have been scared."

The 60-foot vessel made from yellow poplar was tied up beside a floating restaurant at Mount Vernon, Ind., on the morning of Sept. 14 when bad weather set in. Unable to stay in place without endangering the craft, Cherry cranked up the flatboat's two 150-horsepower Mercury outboards and pushed downstream at a top speed of 5.2 mph.

"I wanted to run to Paducah, but as bad as it was, we had to take shelter at Golconda (Ill.), the first place we could get into and get out of the wind," Cherry said.

John Cooper, a retired Gallatin, Tenn., marine contractor who built the flatboat, said the force of the waves against the bow caused as much as a foot of flexing in the forward section of the boat. The movement dislodged the connection of the stairs from the main deck to the upper deck.

"This boat wasn't built for that," Cooper said.

Cooper said he was preparing for emergency abandonment during Ike before managing to ride out the storm.

The boat and crew are visiting 20 towns en route to New Orleans, marking a trip taken by then-19-year-old Lincoln. The trip is considered significant in American history because Lincoln witnessed a slave auction at the terminal end, an experience that cemented his anti-slavery views.

The trip is scheduled to end Oct. 5. The boat will then be trucked back to the Rockport, Ind., area to become a display in a museum in a Lincoln Village historical park, Cooper said.