COOL COMMUTE: Riding a boat to get to work at Trimble County schools “is the coolest way to school ever,” Holly Harmon, third from left, said as she, Carla Goins and Bob Lauster got ready Wednesday for Ben Canida to drive them across the Ohio River from Madison in a ski boat. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie)
COOL COMMUTE: Riding a boat to get to work at Trimble County schools “is the coolest way to school ever,” Holly Harmon, third from left, said as she, Carla Goins and Bob Lauster got ready Wednesday for Ben Canida to drive them across the Ohio River from Madison in a ski boat. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie)
Driving to Vevay or to Louisville aren't the only alternatives for crossing the Ohio River while the Madison-Milton bridge is closed for five days.

Watercraft have been carrying passengers across since the bridge closed Wednesday.

Bob Canida and his son, Ben, are taking Madison residents Carla Goins, Bob Lauster and Holly Harmon across in their ski boat so they can go to their jobs at Trimble County schools.

They have a car parked on the other side for the ride to work. Goins is the coordinator of gifted programs, Lauster is a high school physical education and health teacher and Harmon, who lined up the water transport, teaches special education at the high school.

"This is the coolest way to school ever," Harmon said. "It's so much better than the other option."

The three educators rode sitting down, not skiing to a spot the Canidas had checked out for landing ahead of time. Almost directly across from the Madison boat ramp at the foot of West Street, there is a shelf of packed sand where Ben Canida can pull in to let the passengers out without getting their feet wet.

At the end of the day at their dental practice, the Canidas bring the three back to the Madison side.

Troy Burkhardt, owner of the BP station on the Milton end of the bridge, helps fellow Milton business people get to their jobs. Mindy Stackhouse, Terri Cosby and Debbie Turner work at Farmers Bank of Milton and live on the Madison side of the river.

"It beats driving the extra hour and a half," one of them said as they settled in for their first ride across for work Wednesday.

Burkhardt and his deckhand, Joe Helton, dropped them off a little ways downstream where one of them had permission to leave a car.

Burkhardt also takes Madison Courier General Manager Curt Jacobs and bundles of the newspaper across the river.

The crossing takes only a few minutes in a boat.

Clint Smith, who lives outside Bedford, transports himself across the river in his kayak. On Wednesday, his boss, Greg Sanders, picked him up at the river and took him to work at Chandler Select.

He crosses the river in seven to eight minutes, and doesn't need to pack dry clothes. "You don't get wet," he said. "You just climb in and go."

He is kayaking for time and money.

"I don't know how people can afford to drive to Markland Dam with gas prices what they are," he said. "I can't afford it," he said.

He kayaked to and from work Wednesday, was off Thursday and planned to kayak today and Saturday "if the weather's not too bad."

Kayaking across the river saves commuting time, especially since he works 12-hour shifts, he said.

Water commuting is a family thing for Kevin Hudson and his daughters Amanda Hudson and Savannah Mullikin.

They canoed across the river from Kentucky to Indiana on Thursday. None of them went to their regular places Wednesday on the first day of the bridge closing.

"This morning was foggy and we couldn't see things like barges," Mullikin said.

She lives next door to her father and sister, so it was easy meeting up to venture out in her father's canoe.

All three had oars, so no one had to do all the rowing. And they came ready for anything, Mullikin said.

"I had my big boots," she said, laughing at all the gear they packed. "We all put stuff in a trash bag" to have dry clothes on the other side, she said.

When they got to Madison, they put the canoe on her father's truck with bungee cords, and he took Mullikin to her job at King's Daughters' Hospital and Amanda to Hope Baptist Academy in Chelsea, where she is a high school student.

Other students who live in Kentucky and go to school north of the river stayed with friends for the last half of the week, and at least one family moved across the river into a Madison hotel room to make a holiday of the disruption caused by the bridge closing.

Some people who live on one side of the river and work on the other also made lodging arrangements that are keeping them on one side until the bridge reopens. It is scheduled to open at 12:01 a.m. Monday.

There's another way to cross the river on the water, but it won't be done voluntarily. A push boat, also sometimes called a ferry, waits around the clock to take ambulances across the river.

The boat, named Little Boone, is based at the Milton boat ramp because most of the ambulance crossings on the Madison-Milton bridge go from Kentucky to King's Daughters' Hospital, said Phil Mullins of Madison, the contractor for the emergency ferry service. A test-run crossing Tuesday from Madison to Milton took six minutes.

A captain and a deckhand are at the Little Boone 24 hours a day. They brought a runabout to travel between Riverboat Inn where they are staying, which is near the Madison ramp at the foot of Ferry Street next to the city campground.

Capt. Paul Anderson and his wife, Debbie, have owned Anderson Ferry in Constance, Ky., for 26 years, taking passengers year-round across the Ohio River to U.S. 50 in Cincinnati.

Anderson brought another captain and two deckhands. They take turns working six-hour shifts at the Little Boone.

Since 1867, all the ferry boats have been named after Daniel Boone, Anderson said.

Little Boone, which is 59 years old, followed Boone 1, Boone 2 and so on through Boone 9.

Little Boone technically is a push boat, Anderson said. A ferry travels across a waterway, then returns without turning around. A push boat has a swivel that enables the captain to turn the cabin around for the return trip.

Mullins got a little bit larger boat than he had originally planned to use so there is room for an ambulance, a police car and a car for family members of the person in the ambulance.

Anderson brought the Little Boone down from Cincinnati on Monday night. The lights were not yet up at the boat ramps on both sides of the river, and he was concerned about security.

So Mullins drove his car onto the push boat and slept there for the night.