The Kentucky Caver Quarterly Proceedings of the
Bluegrass Grotto: the North Central Kentucky Area Chapter of the National Speleological Society
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 vol. 41. iss. 2, June 2006
long since entered the Gulf of Mexico.”  Stephen, however, formulated the rules for underground water navigation, including the delightful tradition of serving wine to his passengers and singing songs in unison until their words slurred.

The tradition arose to throw the empty wine bottles over the left side of the boat.  That became known as the port side. (You can imagine the laughter today if the Captain of a ship yelled “Hard a left!” instead of “Hard a port!”).  Stephen taught a succession of guides, slave and free, the rules of the road and fine points of navigation until 1990 when the Echo River boat ride was discontinued forever due to guides getting sand in their shoes.

Stephen’s important and historic cave navigation rules bare repeating here:
1.    Keep to the port side of the channel.
2.    Motorized boats must give way to boats under sail.
3.    Only the captain will give commands*
4.    No touching of stalactites which are the hang down thingies.
5.    Singing of “Ninety-Nine Beers on the Wall” is prohibited.
6.    Tip the Pilot but not the boat.**
7.    The Pilot is not to be addressed as “Pirate”, except by Japanese passengers.
8.    Blindfish may be taken only during April and must be larger than four inches.
9.    Cavers must use inner tubes painted white for maximum visibility.***
10.    Anchored boats must use an anchor larger than a fish hook.

True tales of the Underground Sea

My great uncle Nelson was the originator of the accounting fund set aside to buy a new boat.  He 

called it the “sinking fund.”  Since my teacher promulgated Stephen’s historic underground boating rules, his honorific position in the boat was called Commodore.  He spent many hours on the Commode, as that marine seat of honor came to be known.

The U. S. Coast Guard in 1925 set up a series of licenses for marine officers, together with a certificate suitable for framing to be placed on a bulkhead aboard the boat.  Mine reads Master of Vessels on All Underland Waters of the World.  You can tell my certificate is genuine because it contains an official seal, an eyeless cave seal.

My most thrilling adventure was as a Pilot in Howe Caverns in upstate New York.  We did not use oars then, but poles to get our boat under way.  At two knots per hour we switched to propelling the boat by hand-over-hand pulls on protruding wall rocks. When I placed 15 passengers in the two seats in the stern we began to plane at high speed.  The wake wiped out the dock behind us, and became the first Polish wake to exceed the destruction of an Irish wake.  I hope those Kentucky Pilots can learn from this Lore of the Under Sea.

*I ran into serious trouble on this one: I used to have the passengers row the boat.  One day I commanded, “Oars in the water!”  Two women dressed as tarts hit me aside the head with their handbags just as the other passengers hoisted them over the rail.

** Obviously violated by the Lost River Cave crew.

*** This is the origin of white life rings found on surface vessels worldwide today.

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