Chapter 9 – Enjoying the Outing – Modern Day
That first morning, Jason was in his element, out on the mighty Mississippi singing a few bars of ‘Ole Man River’ and not caring who could hear his atrocious rendition. He was on the water, enjoying nature and waving at the few other boaters he passed along the river, this was the best time he had had in a while. Jason almost forgot his purpose for being there, but, in reality, the quest was just an excuse to do something different. Although he had enjoyed the chat with Chuck and the research he had been forced to carry out for this trip, he really wasn’t expecting to discover any new information. There was one thing he thought he could do since his meeting over lunch with Chuck the previous day. The marina that had come up in the conversation, The State Marina of Missouri, that was new information to him and quite the coincidence that it had opened only a short time before his grandfather’s trip and had closed at about the same time as his grandfather’s demise. According to Chuck, the marina had been appropriated by the government, nobody had known why. Jason would be sure to keep a close eye on the shoreline for a possible opening into the old marina. Chuck had said it was about five miles north of his marina, so after about thirty minutes of traveling he unpacked his new binoculars from its case and began to scan the river bank.
Amazingly, many miles of this stretch of the Mississippi is devoid of any habitation, trees, bushes or wildlife. In fact, it looks quite desolate and there are stretches where you could travel over 200 miles between gas stops. This made what Jason then saw even more surprising, as he continued to look through his binoculars, a large wall topped with barbed wire had come into his view. The wall was about 500 yards along and it appeared to be unbroken. On the wall, at regular intervals, were signs but he couldn’t quite make out the wording, he would have to wait until he was slightly closer to distinguish what they said. He checked around for boat traffic and seeing it was clear he made a bee-line for the wall. It seemed a strange coincidence that this wall would be situated at about the same location as he expected the old marina to be.
Jason brought the boat as close to the wall as he possibly could while maintaining his position within the channel markers in the river. It appeared to be an old wall made of solid concrete, not those pre-fabricated sheets that fitted into columns. Now he could clearly see the signs, ‘Restricted Area – DANGER Keep Out’ they stated, in bold red characters. The signs were of the old metal type and some were badly rusted and illegible. The stanchions holding the barbed wire on top of the wall were badly rusted, as was the wire and much of it was hanging in rusty strands down the wall. It seemed obvious to Jason that the original reason for building the wall to protect what was on the other side was no longer relevant. Something else, now that he was closer to the wall he could also make out a slight opening on the left side of the edifice, it was barely ten feet wide where the wall had crumbled and left a gap. Jason studied the gap for a full minute before letting the binoculars hang down from its strap that was around his neck.
“In for a penny, in for a pound!” Jason said to himself and headed towards the opening.
As Jason neared the gap he could see lumps of concrete protruding from the water. The good news was, his boat only had a draught of one foot, so he was relying heavily on his depth sounder to make him aware if the water level got too low. The bad news was, at a slow speed the boat’s steering became less controllable when both the centerboard and rudders were in the up position. He would be relying solely on the engine as a rudder, but that was a risk he was prepared to take because it didn’t look like his boat would be able to clear any underwater obstructions if the supplementary steering was employed. Jason felt a couple of bumps and scratches were made to the boat as he traversed the gap, but he made it safely through, except he couldn’t help but notice that the perimeter wall must have been at least two feet thick, made of solid concrete and re-bars. There was something else, in the center of the concrete was an insert of some type, but he couldn’t quite make out what that was. But Jason soon forgot all about that once he turned his attention to what he discovered within the confines of the wall.