Coast Guard to inspect homemade raft traveling the Miss. River - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Vicksburg

Coast Guard to inspect homemade raft traveling the Miss. River

The U.S. Coast Guard plans to inspect a

homemade raft on Monday that has carried three adventurers more

than 1,000 miles down the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.

James Burkart, Libby Hendon and Laura Mattingly have been

floating on the raft since July 21, when they embarked on the

journey from Missouri as part of an art project.

Their goal was to go from Kansas City to New Orleans, but their

trip was cut short about a month ago in Vicksburg when they were

ordered off the raft.

Coast Guard inspectors said it was unsuitable for navigating one

of the most dangerous stretches of the Mississippi River.

"Safety of the rafters is our first priority," said Chief

Petty Officer Mike O'Berry. "The Coast Guard's responsibility is

to balance the use of the waterways between recreational and

commercial use and act in the interest of safety based upon our

knowledge of the waterway and it's dangers."

The group has been making inprovements and hope they'll be able

to continue down the river.

The craft, which is made from recycled goods, has been somewhat

of a hit in this Mississippi River city. It was even blessed by a

Vicksburg priest.

But the Coast Guard inspectors say the problems that must be

addressed are steering, propulsion and a sagging bow.

Chief Warrant Officer Doug Chapman said the raft, as is, can't

safely navigate the busy lower Mississippi, which is filled with

massive barges.

The group wants to continue their trip and agreed late Saturday

to install an outboard motor that would allow them to change course

more quickly. The only power the craft had was a paddle turned by

two stationery bicycles.

Burkart, Hendon and Mattingly met while students at the

University of California-Santa Cruz.

Their journey started July 21 from Kansas City.

Burkhart said the project is about more than reaching any

destination, it's about "experiencing the river."

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