Monday, October 31, 2016


     We get back to Columbus Marina mid Thursday afternoon. We check on SummerTime, and make an inventory of supplies needed to resume our journey. We drive the rental car back up to the shopping area of town. We buy the few provisions we think we will need for the next four days. We are to be at Grand Mariner Marina on the Dog River Below Mobile, AL the coming Tuesday, 18Oct. We had scheduled to have SummerTime there the coming Monday morning for a bottom cleaning and paint job. Also they are going to repair the diesel leak on the engine. Since our interruption, we have re-scheduled our arrival to hopefully Tuesday, 18Oct, mid day. So where before we had a leisurely trip to Mobile, we are now going to have to work to cover the 335 miles in 4 days. Enterprise is near the marina, and they drive us with the rental car and our provisions back to the marina. We spend Thursday afternoon prepping the boat to leave.
      Friday morning we are up and fill the water tank. We want to  make sure it is as full as can be for the next few days, as there are only two available stops for supplies in the remaining miles. There are other boats already at the Stennis (Columbus) lock waiting to lock down. A sailboat pulls out to join them as we head for the fuel dock. We put in 63 gallons, and I think that we have the tank totally full. We will need this as we do not plan to stop at the two fuel stops that are between Columbus and Mobile.
      After our fueling of the boat is complete, we call the lock. We are told there is a short wait for an upbound (lift) tow. We wait the time and call back. We enter the lock to head down with another boat. It is well after 9 when we get out of the lock, so our goal to cut some time out of this trip to Mobile is not good. It is mostly river going down this route, no wide parts like a reservoir. There are a few houses, mostly weekend, along this route.

There are some quarries along the way. And a couple of yards where they have logs stacked for perhaps the paper industry. It appears that logging and excavating are the primary industries along the river. There are no towns that can be seen. At mile #307 we get to the Tom Bevill Lock and Dam. There is a visitor center here that I want to visit, but  we do not have the time. The last steam driven boat built for the ACOE to pull trees out of the river with is here. it is called a "Snag Boat". It can be seen well before you get to the lock, as it has been placed up high in an impoundment that I am going to assume is meant to protect the boat from normal floods.

We lock down and continue on our way. We hope to make 80 miles today. It is not going to be. It is getting late when we get to the Sumter Recreation Area. There is a sand bar in the entrance to the recreation area, but by the guide books we should be able to clear it. We do, and as the books quoted, we have over 10' of water to anchor in. We move to near the head of the little bay just in case other boats should show, there is room for them to anchor also. We run the generator for about an hour to cook. After dinner I notice another boat has arrived, and is just inside the entrance across from the boat ramp. It is quiet until just after dark. And then I hear a strange noise that I have not heard in many years. It lasts only about a minute, and then it is quiet again. It takes a few minutes to recall what the noise is. It is a pack of coyotes gathering with yelps and yips to start their evening hunt. I have not heard this since living in Seneca, Illinois in 2000. It is beautiful and eerie if you have never heard it. Just before turning in for the evening, I hear the pack again. After that, all is quiet.

Sunday, October 30, 2016


      We leave Aqua Harbor on Monday morning after fueling and servicing our boats. We are headed East on Pickwick Lake to have one last raft-up with "Somewhere In Time" before we head separate ways. We get to "The Rockpile" in the afternoon. We get a swim in. And we grill some chicken and have  a nice potluck dinner. There are two other boats in there. One, we will see again as we travel down the river system. There is fog in the morning when we get ready to leave. The air temperature dropped during the night, and made the fog because the water is still warm.

      Barbara and I head back west and turn down Yellow Creek towards the Tenn-Tom waterway. The waterway is a long straight ditch. It has a rock rip-rap to protect the levy which runs down both sides.

We see deer and some wild turkeys along the levy. We do not pass or meet any looper boats in the canal. Most all of the loopers have left going east to the America's Great Loop  Cruisers Association Rendezvous at Joe Wheeler dam on the Tennessee River. We do meet a tow going north. It is not too tight, but if two tows were to meet in this canal, it would probably  be close. We eventually break out of the canal and into the reservoir area, Bay Springs Lake, of the canal. We go all the way down the lake and pull into a small bay area to the east side of the lake and just north of the dam. It is called Cotton Springs Boat Ramp, and we go up the arm past the ramp to near the end. The water is 17' deep most of the ways.

The guide book warns of trees, stumps, and other snags in this "chain of lakes". The guide advises to put a trip line on the anchor so that the anchor can be retrieved from the "non-business" end if it gets into a snag. For the first time in my life on the water, I rig a trip line to the anchor, a short rope attached to a buoy and the non pointy end of the anchor, that theoretically can be used to pull the anchor out backwards if it gets hung. It is a nice quite anchorage, no one uses the boat ramp or surrounding park area. And the tows seem to have quit running by dark.
      We get going on Wednesday morning, and head out to Whitten Lock, a few hundred yards away. It will be the first of 4 locks today. It has an 84' change in elevation. This will be the deepest lock we have been in, including the Erie Canal System, Illinois River, Mississippi River, and Cumberland River. We get out to the approach and are told by the lockmaster we will have to wait for a tow arriving who has right of way to go down. We move our in front of the lock and drift in front of lock entry channel. At about 9 am we get into the lock.  An 84' deep box by 650' long and 110' wide is not for someone who is claustrophobic. When you are at the top, everything looks good. You look behind, and see the water and land at your elevation surrounding you.

You look ahead, and can see the tow going down stream, much lower than you, and he looks small. It takes a little longer to drop twice as far as we have been lowered or raised before.



One lock raised us 44' on the Erie canal, the tallest lock I can remember. We get out of Whitten Lock, but there is no need to hurry as there is that tow ahead of us, and he has enough lead that we can not catch him and get far enough head in the 5.2miles to get preference in locking into Montgomery Lock. We slow down and get to the lock as the tug with barges is being lowered. Another Looper boat radios the lockmaster after we are in. We agree to hold and wait for him, as that tow is stilll in front of us when we leave.
       It is going to be a long day as we head out of the Montgomery Lock, with the tow still holding preference over us for the next lock. It is 8.4 miles to the Rankin Lock. No need to hurry again. These are small lakes, or reservoirs between the locks. They are not wide, maybe a mile at their widest point if they have a small bay to one or both sides. There are some houses, both permanent, and summer homes along both side of these lakes. The boat traffic is mostly small fishing boats. There are some marinas along the way, and they have the fishing boats as well as some cruising and house boats at their slips. After Rankin Lock, we continue by the Midway Marina, which is probably the best marina along this route. After Midway, and about 6 miles after Rankin is the Fulton Lock. We get out of the Fulton Lock and head for Smithville Lock, slightly less than 25 miles away.
      We pull into the Smithville Marina just before the Smithville Lock. The other Looper boat goes to a peaceful pool just to the side of the lock and dam area. We covered approximately 36miles today, and did 8 hours of running. Smithville has a courtesy car which we arrange to use. We are told of a restaurant in town, and that is about all that is left in the town. The town was hit by a tornado several years earlier, and 16 people were killed. The grocery store was destroyed in that tornado. The restaurant is closed for the day, so we go back, and pass the marina and drive to Amory. We eat at a Hardees, the first fast food burger we have had in weeks. And we go to the Piggly Wiggly grocery store and buy basic groceries and carry back to the boat.
       The other looper boat has already left and gone down in the Glover Wilkins Lock when we get to the entry channel. We have to wait for a tow coming up. Another boat comes down the lake and joins us. Together we go down the Wilkins Lock at about noon. It is 5.3 miles to the next lock, the Amory lock. We go on through, and head for the Aberdeen Lock, a distance of 13.6 miles. Our new friends are not going all the way. They pull over at "Blue Bluff", a highly rated anchorage. We continue on the few miles to Aberdeen Lock. We lock through, and head towards Columbus, MS Marina. There are three of us together now going towards Columbus. There is a "Port" just before we get to Columbus. Most of the other "port" operations have been either, gravel, sand, grain, or logs/wood chips. The one at Columbus is different as it is doing grains and gravel.
As we approach the marina, we call to get directions in to the marina from the main channel. As we head in, we are now 5 in number. Our numbers have grown as we motored the 18.5 miles down from Aberdeen lock. The Columbus Marina is off the main channel, and the docks are in a pocket off this side channel. The manager, T, is on the radio giving specific instructions to each boat as they approach. I have not seen a marina manager this engaged since Delaware City when we took SummerTime to the Great Lakes. We did only three locks today, but we got 41miles covered in another 8hr day. We check in for 2 days, as we plan to do some touristing in Columbus. A haunt of Tennessee Williams, and home to some southern mansions.
      Friday, Barbara and I get up to do errands. Barbara gets a disturbing call from her brother while doing laundry in the morning. Her sister, who has been in the hospital since September 9, took a turn for the worse. The doctors are giving her hours to live. I have been working on cleaning up the Perkins main engine. There has been a small leak of diesel on the fuel injection side of the engine. I have not been able to see the leak, as it is either a mist, or drip with long times between drops. I only see the results. I use a cleaner to get all the surplus fuel off the engine. Sometime after lunch, Barbara's brother makes the dreaded call to her. I look at ways to get to SE NC where her family lives. On the suggestion of the marina staff, I arrange a rental car with Enterprise, who will pick us up and are having a special. The cost of the car, with insurance, is less than one plane ticket. And we can leave as soon as we get the car. We leave about 6 pm for NC and a family funeral. Family emergencies, even death, are a fact of life when you are older. And they do not care what your current plans are. Ours are now on hold. 

Monday, October 24, 2016


Saturday morning early, like midnight there is a lot of radio noise outside the boat. I get up in the middle of the night to see what it is, and outside our salon window is a steel wall, and the lights of a tug attached to the barge farther back. When I get up in the morning, to be ready for a 7am lock through, the tug has moved off of the "cell". But he is only about 30' to the side of us still.  And there is a small tug with one barge pushed up on the bank behind another Looper. Someone has contacted the lockmaster, and he is asking us all to get to the lock before 7. So we all start moving, and follow the small tug through the lock. It was a good thing, as the construction workers are starting just after 7, and it appears the tugs waiting by the cells are not going to get through for a few minutes. The one boat runs off and leaves the rest of us. There are 5 of us following the small tug with the single barge. About 5 miles from lock 52, the small tug calls to see if he can get locked through. He is told not for several hours. The small tug tells the lockmaster he is a government boat. There is also talk of an "Email" the lock should have. As we come near the west side of Metropolis, the small tug pulls out of line and runs his barge up on the shore again. I think we have lost our host for lock passage. The five of us get to lock 52, and are told to anchor with the other looper that already arrived there. Then the small "government" tug gets called by the lockmaster, and requested to come for a lock through when the two downbounds in the lock exit. I look at he AIS screen, and see the tug start to move again. In just 5 minutes he is making 7kt against the current pushing his one small barge. He goes into the lock and the lockmaster tells us pleasure craft to follow him in. I see that his stack has the "TVA" logo on it. I think this guy is nice to travel with, as he is a free pass for fast locking. But not to be, he turns up the Tennessee River, and the rest of us press on to the Cumberland River. The lock at Barkley Lake is friendlier to Pleasure Craft. The Cumberland is a true river, but you are in walls most of the ways up. And the width is pretty consistent, so it feels like a canal. I increase my rpm trying to keep up with Blue Moon a newer, 40' Mainship trawler ahead. We pass some quarries, and some fisherman.

Not much else. We see some eagles, but mostly buzzards that are starting to gather for migrating. They are usually found next to a dead fish on the river bank. There appears to be an hierarchy on which bird gets to eat first.

We get to Barkley Lock a little after 5, and have to wait for a tow to leave. The fast boat is waiting when we get there. All of us get into the lock. It is a very fast filling lock, about 5' per minute I am thinking. I call Green Turtle Bay where we have reservations for docking. I tell them we are in the lock, and may be a few minutes late. They wait for us, and get us tied into our places. As we motor in, I am surprised at the number of boats flying the "AGLCA" burgee, and all the states represented by the various boats. We have dinner at the "Yacht Club Restaurant". This county is dry, so there are lockers in the "Club" for the regulars to store their spirits.
        Sunday dawns, and Barb and I start getting ready for attending a church. We know it will not be the Baptist, their service starts at 9:30, and we are not through with breakfast clean up at that time. The showers are full at the marina, so we take a shower on the boat. We realize we are not even going to make the 11am service at the Methodist Church. We dress more casual, and take the hike into town. Google Maps gives us some bum directions to the local bank where we are seeking an ATM. We go the wrong way on Googles directions, and after 1/4mi, turn back. We find town on our own, and there is the bank. We eat a hot dog at "Dan's Cones", and get and ice cream also. Barbara buys some things in the local grocer, and we walk back to the boat. In the evening we go into town to Pattis 1880s Settlement Restaurant. There are 8 of us, and they send a van to the marina to pick us up. They are famous for their 2" thick chops and pies. I order the 2" chop. It is big, and I only eat half. I also want a piece of their famous pies. I get the pie, and glad I did not order one with a meringue topping. The topping is nearly 6" tall.
      On Monday, we decide to stay another day. I work on cleaning up SummerTime. Barkley Lock has done a number on the hull, leaving black scum wherever a fender touched and passed the scum on. And it has been awhile since SummerTime was cleaned. Chuck gets the courtesy car, and drives the girls to the next town over to buy groceries and other supplies. It is a productive day.
      On Tuesday morning, we get a pumpout and fill our water tank. We are going to buy our fuel farther down the Tennessee River where it is substantially cheaper. We take the connecting canal from Barkley Lake over to Kentucky Lake. The land between the two lakes is called just that: "The Land Between the Lakes Recreation Area". The East shore of Kentucky Lake, on the Tennessee River is undeveloped, with only campgrounds and boat ramps.

The west side of the lake has private resorts and camps, and the larger private marinas. There are a lot of fisherman here, bobbing around in the lakes chop with their bass boats, and some pontoon boats. It is a lovely area. We motor down to Kenlake Marina, and "Somewhere in Time" pulls in there for gas, where it is about $.50 cheaper than the place we left. We drift in front of the marina entrance while Somewhere In Time fuels. We leave there and head for our planned anchorage, Ginger Bay. Just before arriving, we get a warning on the radio from another looper. They have run aground entering the bay. They warn us the channel is not in the center, but right against the north shore. We motor in, on the north shore, and there are three other boats anchored in there besides us. Chuck launches his dinghy, and we go for a short ride. We see two young deer as well as an eagle in one arm of the bay. Towboat US arrives and pulls off the hapless boat. We raft with "Somewhere In Time". We get in a short swim. And we launch our dinghy for the first time since before Havana, IL. It is hard to start, but eventually it will idle. I had bought some ethanol gas conditioner at the ships store in GTB. We have dinner with our friends. It is a nice quite anchorage and a good end to a good day.
      We get up in the morning, and are off to Pebble Isle Marina at New Johnsonville, Tn. It is another choppy day, and the wind while cool, feels good. We see more fisherman today. And the Land Between the Lakes Recreation Area ends. After this, we start to see individual houses on both banks. Eventually the lake turns into a wide river. We pass some old building ruins from when the river was flooded to make  the reservoir/ lake.

We get to Pebble Isle Marina after 5hr from Ginger Bay. It is a quaint little marina inside a very protected bay, or pond area.

In fact, once through the channel, the air temperature which had been so nice, becomes hot. We fill up for the first time since Hoppies, and it takes 100.5 gallons for the 41hrs we have run. We have an ice cream bar from the store, as there is no town nearby, and some earlier arriving cruisers have the courtesy car headed for dinner.
      I get up, and have to tell the marina that I do not have the oil filter for them to do an oil change. I get them the number so that they can run to NAPA and get a filter. In the meantime, we all go to the little grill at the floating office and partake of the free cinnamon rolls. Pebble Isle's Randy and Tammy are renowned for these home made goodies they bestow upon cruisers. They are delicious. The oil and filter get changed (after 210hr), and we are off about 11:15. We are in the river full time now. Right after we get south of the town, and in the wide, flat, windy part of the river, I see the first cypress tree growing in the water. We are definitely getting into warmer climes. All is going well until about 3pm. We have been seeing lots of houses on both banks, and fisherman. I slow for a pontoon boat pulled up against the hill, and when I accelerate back to speed, the tach quits working. Barbara comes up, and I have her check the tachometer at the lower station. She comes back to report it has stopped also. And then a buzzer goes to making noise. I look, and the engine coolant temperature is up to near 240F. I slow and get SummerTime over to the shore that is out of the sailing line if a tow comes around the bend just 1/4 below us. I go and lift the hatch to the engine room, and the alternator is not turning. There is not a belt visible. We deploy the anchor, and shut the engine down. I open the hatches and let the Perkins start cooling as I gather up the spare parts and tools. I put a blanket over the head, and lean across to where I can get to the old belt. It is not quite in two.

I get the new belt on. "Somewhere In Time" has come back and is standing by. I see them start to lower their dinghy, and have Barbara call them, as I start the engine. It immediately starts cooling down from the 220F it was at when I shut it down. And the tachs are both working, a good sign with a diesel that your alternator is working. We weigh anchor, and start south again. Sue has determined we will not make our planned anchorage, and called looking for a marina. We head down river to Mermaid Marina where they say we can get in over their narrow channel's bar. It is good to have a "buddy boat" when you are traveling. We pull into Mermaid, and it is a narrow opening off of the river, and shallow. SummerTime clears bottom, but Somewhere drags and makes it in. The marina owner is apologetic the restaurant is closed until Friday. He does offer to make us pizzas. We order 2 large pizzas, and they are delivered to the boats about an half hour later. We all comment on how good the pizzas are, especially the cheese on them. We get a good nights rest in a protected marina. We get up the next morning to leave, and Barbara checks the store part of the Marina. They actually have an "Anti-itch" cream that she buys to put on her bug bites. It works immediately. This little place in the middle of nowhere is an old fashioned general store for the community. And they make great pizza even when it is non operative hours for the restaurant.
       I program the GPS to get us from Mermaid Marina at mile 140 on the Tennessee River to Aqua Yacht Harbor in Mississippi on Pickwick Lake. There are 65 turns involved in the route to get there. It is all river travel now, and the level is obviously down from the normal summer levels. We pass a farm family harvesting their corn. In fact, a tractor hauling corn from the picker to the hauling truck running along the shore is beating me at my high speed.

 There are a lot of boats at docks off of the river proper that are sitting in mud.


We get to Pickwick Dam about 4:15. The Lockmaster holds the lock for us when we call and tell him we are inbound, just a few minutes out. I contact Aqua while in the lock. They tell us that they leave at 5, we should just pull up to the transient dock and take one of the available spaces. We arrive at the marina at about 6:10, and tie to the transient dock as instructed. After securing the boat, we go over to the restaurant on the far side of the marina for dinner. The food is good, there is a musician performing, and we get dessert. I get the Peanut Butter Pie and it is very good. We are going to spend a couple of days here.
       On Saturday I mount the two antennas for the AIS system in permanent positions. This has become a very useful system. I regret not staying in Chicago and completing this system so that it was available all the way down the river system. In the afternoon we get the courtesy car, and both couples head off to complete errands. I am needing to pick up my prescription refills in Selmer, TN, where the closest Rite-Aid is. And we hit NAPA and get another spare alternator belt. Chuck gets some parts also. And we go to Fred's Dollar Store for a tv coax cable. And then we head to Pappy John's to get what is supposed to be the best ribs. They are out of ribs at 5:30. Pappy's staff sends us back into town to find ribs at another BBQ joint. After we sit down, we find out that they are out of ribs also, along with BBQ chicken. We get BBQ pork and brisket dinners. I order a piece of Strawberry cake, and the three layers must be 9" tall. From here we go to Corinth, MS on the way back to the boat. We do grocery shopping at the Kroger there, and fill the courtesy car with gasoline. On Sunday, Barbara and I take the courtesy car to a Methodist Church outside of town. In the afternoon, we go to Shiloh National Cemetery and Shiloh National Military Park with our friends from "Somewhere In Time". The Cemetery is still used for vets, though started many years after the Civil War Battle as a preservation. And later the military park was set up. Cannons are place around the large park as they would have been in the peek of the battle. This has been a very good week to be traveling and we have taken time to sight see at last.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016


     We are leaving the "IVY" Club this Saturday morning. We prep the boat, fill the water tank, and head to the bath house for a good civilized bath before heading out. We put 95.5 gallons in the tank, and 2.3 gallons in diesel container to mix biocide for diesel algae in. We are away from the docks at 9:50. We pass through Peoria, and head for the lock. The lockmaster when contacted on the radio says what Barbara wants to hear: " just pass by the lock". Peoria is a wicker dam, and when the Army Corps of Engineers want, they can lower the dam, and let traffic pass over. We are only traveling a short ways today. We are going to meet Mike and Kathy on "Easy Pace" at an anchorage and share it for the night. 33miles from "IVY" Club we are at Duck Island. We motor alongside "Easy Pace", and tie alongside them. The entertainment was getting Millie the dog (80#) to the shore. Millie must have thought we tried to humiliate her by making her get off in the mud to go do her dog business on shore. When she returned to the boats, she did the wet dog shake, and slung muddy water over 4 adults.
       I also put our inflatable dinghy in. And I put the motor on it for the first time since going to dinner in Detroit. It ran good at high speed, but when I returned to SummerTime, it would not idle, and died. It had to cool before I could get it re-started. Between starting, I decided to put the bow anchor out. I tried to row the anchor out in the dinghy. I could get out in front of SummerTime with a lot of effort, but the current would have me back at the bow before I could get the anchor out after I stopped rowing. Mike got on board at the third attempt. I rowed, and he heaved the anchor over when I thought we were far enough away. This worked. And after we tied the dinghy back up to SummerTime's stern, it started. And idled, for a few minutes. Then it shut down again. We pulled it back aboard.
       Sunday morning we got up, showered, and headed to Havana, Il. No biscuits for Rodney this Sunday morning as we did not wish to run the generator to cook and disturb our neighbors. We are going ashore in Havana to go to church. We walk only a short distance to the Havana "Southern Baptist" Church. The Pastor finds out what we are doing, and tells us about Cairo, Il where he is from. He also tells us the name of a good BBQ joint. After church we go to "Babes" restaurant, where Barbara and Mike get fried chicken for lunch. I see it as fitting that there is "fried chicken" after being in a "Southern Baptist" church. Stereotypes in my head from when I was a kid. We go to the hardware store for two items, and then to Dollar General for Barb to get something for her allergies. Mike and Kathy stay at the marina in Havana, but they have no slip for us, so we motor downriver a few more miles and anchor at Grape Tow Head just below Beardstown, IL. The "Guides" say to put out a stern anchor in this channel between the island and the mainland. Not sure why, as there is plenty of swing room, and we are the only boat in the anchorage. We put out a stern anchor for the first time with the bow anchor. A decision we will regret on Monday morning.
        We awake Monday morning to find we are where we anchored ourselves. Important as the current is probably still at 2knots, and the wind is blowing harder than when we went to bed. I think it may be pretty consistent at 12kt, with gusts to 20 knots. We pay out the front anchor rode, and drift back on the current (against the wind) towards the rear anchor so that we can retrieve it first. Not quite so easy. We get back there, but way to the side. We can only get about half the rear rode length in. The thruster will not move us that far against the wind and current. The main engine can not move us sideways. One of those times when twin engines are great. We try again. No luck. I rig the block and tackle for raising the dinghy on board to the rear anchor rode. I get the rear rode in far enough to tie a float on the end of the rode. We untie the rear rode, and toss it over with the float attached. We can now get the front anchor up, which went smooth as it normally does. We motor back to pick up the float and get in the rear anchor we had untied from. It takes two attempts, but we get the rear anchor retrieved also. We head down the Illinois River at a faster rate than normal as we are to meet friends in Grafton, IL at the marina there. We have an unusual wildlife sighting today. A deer is swimming across the river in front of us. Initially from a distance, it's head looks like a piece of log drifting crossways on the river. As we get closer, I can see that there are branches (antlers) on the log.

We follow at a distance towards the shore, and watch the buck climb the steep bank and dash off. We get to Grafton a little after 5:30. We get a quick shower after docking the boat, and meet our friends for dinner. It was a wonderful evening talking over old times and work acquaintances. A lovely end to what had started as a hectic day.
       We awake on Tuesday to lovely weather. We are set to head to Hoppies down the Mississippi. But it is not to be. Chuck comes by from "Somewhere in Time" to tell us that Hoppies has no room for us this evening at their limited dock. We make a decision to go to Alton, Il so as to save 20 miles, or 2-1/2hr on Wednesday. The marina for Alton is right past a main bridge crossing the Mississippi. And the entrance to the harbor is between the bridge pier and the mainline. The current is ferocious, and requires carrying a good bit of power to maintain steerage and get into the harbor, Power is cut the minute you get past the pier as you are out of the strong currents. We dock, and the harbor personnel are extremely pleasant. We have lunch, chicken lasagna, at the harbor grill. It was unusual, but great. The marina manager drops the women at a pet supply store while she runs errands, and picks them back up and drops them at a local grocer. The manager goes into the grocer to tell the owner that Sue and Barbara are marina guests, and to drive them and their groceries to the marina when they are through shopping. I walk downtown to a bakery specializing in homemade pies. The Alton downtown is full of antique stores. At the bakery, most of the whole pies are gone. I walk out with four slices of peach pie. Dessert for later.
We get going early on Wednesday morning. We have to pass through two locks before commencing the long run to Hoppies. The first one is time arranged, as they are just beyond the marina. We are to be there at 9am. There are two other boats in there with us. We all four get out okay and power on down towards the "Chain of Rocks" lock. There is a man made canal for several miles to this lock to avoid the rapids going down to Saint Louis. The lock is waiting for us, and we go on down. We are starting to see signs of St. Louis. What impresses me is the number of floating dry docks just above St Louis to service tugs and the barges they push. Here you can see the underside of one of those big tugs that push multiple barges up the Mississippi against that 2kt plus current. I guess I did not pay as much attention in geography as I should have. I am disappointed at the St. Louis arch. I envisioned going under/through it. I did not realize it spanned across the land area. St. Louis is very industrialized along the river. And there are barges parked everywhere, waiting to be combined, or split into rafts for a final destination. After St. Louis, the river side starts to become barren of dwellings. There are quarries, some industrial plants, and some cement plants. We get to Hoppies about 3:30 in the afternoon.

A pretty good run thanks to river current. There are other boats already there besides the four of us. I fuel up here, along with the others as we are about to make the longest run of  the trip, 250mi, without a fueling stop. We attend the mandatory river briefing with "Fern" at 4:30.  She is a wealth of knowledge on traveling the Mississippi River to our next stop. The briefing takes nearly an hour.

      Early Thursday morning we get going. We have a full fuel tank and a full water tank, which should carry us over the 250 plus miles to the next marina. We are traveling with the current on the river, and we make good time. We are getting over a 2mph add out of the current for a given rpm on our engine. There is not much along the river here. No big towns, but some quarries and other things like that along the route. We meet a lot of tows, and pass some tows also. The tows are much bigger. It is not unusual to see tows of over 30 barges as we travel. Just below Cape Girardeaux in Missouri, we come to an anchorage that Fern had told us about. We think that we will be the first boats in there, but there are 4 other boats in there when we pull in. It is called the "Diversion Canal", and we go all the way to a RR bridge with 20' of water under our keel. "Somewhere In Time" and "SummerTime" are rafted together to save space in case other boats show up.
       Friday we get up and get started to the Ohio River. One of the cruisers has contacted the Olmsted Lock and has been told if we are there before 4, we can probably get locked through. But if not this pm, it could be as late as 4am Saturday morning. The Mississippi is very crooked through here. The passing of slow tows has to be well calculated as there are not long straights to pass on. The passing has to be coordinated to keep from getting run over by a barge in a turn. We get to the Ohio River Junction at Cairo, IL about noon. There is no where to dock to go look for a BarBQ joint. We make the turn upstream into the Ohio River. We are now bucking a current and our speed is slower. We get to the Olmsted dam before 4. And we fall into a line waiting to go through the lock. There are two tows waiting to go up also. And they will get first priority. After several calls to the lockmaster inquiring as to when, we give up. Darkness is near at hand, and none of us will be able to find an anchorage after dark. There are no marinas through here to go to. We move behind the cells from the channel, and anchor between the cells and the shore. Cells are a "Corps" structure about 15' in diameter, constructed of sheet piles, and filled with concrete. They are at least 25' above the water level it seems. They are for the tugs and tows to moor to while waiting on a lock. We are not too far from the shore, and put out a stern anchor to keep from swinging beyond the cells and into the channel during the night.


Wednesday, October 5, 2016



Tuesday morning, Barbara and I get up, and start prepping to leave the Columbia Yacht Club for the river part of our Journey. We arrive at the first lock about 9:30, but have to wait for a Chicago Fire Boat to enter also. At 9:50, we are in the Chicago River headed south and west, away from the Great Lakes. One of the first things you see is a building flaunting the name of one of the current Presidential candidates.


We tried to get into the Chicago River before all the tour boats. But they are already moving around in the river when we get there. And there are water taxis also. Some were seen to being used by workers headed to their jobs . There are a lot of city bridges to go under. Most are Bascule lift type, and do not normally open for pleasure craft. We have lowered the mast, but it does not appear we needed to. There are some nice buildings on the water through the downtown area. And there is work going on at some of them, and some of the bridges. And there are restaurants with patio seating on the water, including a Starbucks and Panera Bread.

I am going to make an assumption the smart way to arrive is by "water taxi". As we leave the business area, we pass one building with a marina underneath. Your own condo, and your boat tied up ready for use just a few floors down. We come to a railroad bridge that is supposed to be open unless there is a train. We call on the radio, and no answer. We motor near the piers, and get a posted phone number. The guy tells us he will open the bridge for us shortly. About 10 minutes after our phone promise, a METRA train shoots across the bridge.

As we leave the downtown area, we start to meet the other commercial traffic. The tugs, with and without barges. They are known as "tows" on the River System. It is good to see them, as it means that our country is not all bad financially. The Calumet River comes into the Chicago River, or the "Sanitary and Ship Canal" as it is known at this point. The Calumet is used by boats, tows that can not get low enough to go under the Chicago bridges.

And the canal portion gets narrow. And there is a corporation about 3/4 the way to Joliet that is shipping sand and gravel into town on the canal. They have barges tied up waiting to be loaded or delivered, and the canal is one lane wide at the materials yards. We meet a tow with a wider barge, and we have to duck between two waiting barges so that he can go by.

We come to our first real lock. The lock dividing the lake from the Chicago River that we first entered is only for water flow control. It does not change elevations. This lock will change our elevation, lower us to the level of the Illinois River. Another power boat joins us in the lock. This will be one of two locks we will transition down river before we reach Joliet.

We eventually get to Joliet, IL. We have gone 38 miles, and it has taken us over 8 hours. Not a fast way to travel, but if you are moving materials, you can haul a lot of semi loads in one barge. We tie overnight to a city park wall provided for cruisers by the city of Joliet. There are three of us tied to the wall.
      We start moving again on Wednesday morning. We have to wait until after 8:30, as one boat is too high to go under the first bridge without it being raised. And they will not raise it until rush hour is over. Right after the bridge is our first lock for the day. We will do three locks on our way down to Ottawa, our destination for the evening. We have to wait at the second lock while the Army Corp of Engineers positions a barge with crane to work on the dam. Barbara and I are entertained by the couple on "Bright Angel" that is traveling with us. They use their twin engines and bow thruster to stick the bow of their boat into the shrubs on the shore to retrieve a fender lost by another hapless boater. They are successful on the second attempt, and about the same time the lock is ready to take us down, and we proceed downstream.
The river is getting wider now, and looks more like a river than a canal. There are a number of grain silos along the banks with barges waiting to be loaded with grain, or loaded and waiting to be pushed to the purchaser. We notice that the towns of Morris and Seneca (where we lived for 2yrs) have new highway bridges over the rivers for them. Before long we are at the Marseilles lock and dam. They have us hold for a few minutes upstream while a rainstorm passes. We go through this lock, and we continue with SummerTime to tie up at the town dock in Ottawa. Bright Angel turns into the marina just before Ottawa. Barb and I are entertained by a homecoming parade over the Fox River.

And there is a blue heron just off the back of the boat fishing for his supper. After watching him for five minutes with the camera hoping to photograph a catch, I lose patience and  put the camera down.

Five minutes later the heron makes a quick stab with his beak, and comes up with a fish about 6" long. Barbara and I walk into the downtown district to Tones Cones. They only have soft serve, but they do have waffle cones to put it on. And we go across the street to the IGA and buy some basic groceries to carry back to the boat.
      We awake on Thursday morning, and leave the Ottawa City dock and head downstream. Our first stop  will be Starved Rock Lock and Dam. About two miles away, "Bright Angel" radios the lock, and the lockmaster tells them he has a double to bring up, and then will take us pleasure craft down. We idle around about 1//4 mile from the lock exit awaiting our time to enter for lowering. The tug finally gets his barges (3 long x 3 wide) out of the lock. We are told to enter from behind the cells, and after the barges. It is a hard turn, and tight fit, but we get in the lock for lowering. We are on our way to Peoria. We are seeing more wildlife. Near Peru we have two separate sightings of Eagle pairs.

And we have seen more white pelicans, which we first encountered in Sturgeon Bay. And we continue to meet more tows. The river travel is more peaceful than being on a large lake. We make good time, and get to the Illinois Valley Yacht (IVY) Club a little after 5. We arrive about a half hour earlier than we had given the lockmaster, and catch them off guard. But they still do an excellent job of getting us tied to a dock and extending a warm welcome. We meet others for the Thursday Taco Specials going on at the bar.
       On Friday, I get up and go to work to complete the AIS transponder installation. I borrow a soldering iron from "Somewhere In Time" just before they depart. Barbara does laundry. I finish the AIS install about mid afternoon. When I power it on, the transponder picks up targets, and it inputs data to the VHF radio. An electric project that went right on the first attempt.
      This has been a good week. We have traveled every day we wanted to, and made good progress. And we have made a lot of interesting sightings.