Excerpt...

      By this time, we felt rather confident on the water. We had a lot of the Mississippi under our belts, and we were becoming familiar with commercial traffic. We knew the difference between a boat pushing eight barges and a boat pushing 16. And so we got a bit bolder.
      I was at the helm [of our 30-year-old houseboat], and I had a couple of towboats behind me and others pushing in front of me. They were trapping us in. I needed to cross all the way over to the other side of the river. Only problem was, there was a freighter coming upstream on the other side of the river. I would have to cross in front of it. I had to quickly figure out the mechanics and make a decision. The freighter was traveling fast and we were traveling slowly. Could we get across the front of the ship in time?
      I made the turn. I cut in closer than I ever had before, and everybody turned to stare at me in alarm. Arris gave me a dirty look and left the helm so he wouldn’t have to watch. He retreated to stand by the life vest we had stowed for emergency. I turned around to see Jimer wearing two vests, on front and back, in jest. At least, I hoped it was in jest.
      Once I’d made the decision, however, I couldn’t change it. It would take three or four minutes to cross the river. If I changed my mind in a move like that, I would create confusion among all the boat traffickers. I had to stick with it.
      As we neared the freighter, I had more reason to question my judgment. Oh, this is going to be bigger than I bargained for. The freighter was bearing down at about 15 knots, and that’s a view you don’t want to see.