Aug 082015

The fog rolled in and out and then in again while we were having breakfast. We have to wait for it to lift before heading south again. This river is non forgiving so anything but perfect weather and conditions is a must. The current, the barges, the underwater wingdams and weir dams that must be avoided. Too much to contemplate for taking chances. So we wait.

It doesn’t go to waste though. Scott lifts the hatch to look at the engines and drain the fuel filters. The generator is working up to par as well. We are ready to shove off and the fog has lifted. As we head south we see turbulence around the corners which are there due to wing dams and weir dams. Some are just below the surface while others are on the bottom. Our charts let us know which is which. It is so hot today. A whopping 93 degrees with 98 percent humidity and barely any breeze. A storm is brewing so everything is stable for now. We end up passing 4, yes 4 super huge barges with their tows set close together and pushing it. The turbulence and waves were so big that they crashed over the bow. We’ve been slimed! I really despise this river but at the same time it is magnificent. With it’s high sedementary rock cliffs, beautiful tree lined banks, (among the industry, that is) and blue skies.

We are setting our sights on the entrance to the Kaskaskia River entrance to stay at the lock there. The current is almost none and the waves will be minimal while at the lock.

Upon arriving we are set up on the wall of the outside of the lock. We can walk the boardwalk and use the dingy if we want. That’s it. It is still a government lock with regulations. Apparently there is water too but we haven’t found it yet. It is actually picturesque in it’s own way. But it is sooooo hot today. No air unless the gen goes on and we have to conserve our diesel for the next 250 miles with no stop.


 Posted by at 2:57 PM
Aug 072015

We leave the Illinois River at Mile 0 and join the Mississippi River at mile 218. There are two parts to the Mississippi River, the upper and lower.   In our journey we will traverse the upper Mississippi River to Mile 0. The Mississippi River does run faster than the Illinois River and at times is equal to our familiar Niagara River. She runs quick. Dirty, with lots of debris and quick.

The mighty Mississippi also brings us through the hub of the commercial barging area of St. Louis, MI. The barges, tows and commercialization is so abundant here that there is absolutely no stopping for recreational boaters. None….which seems strange being that it could be such a lovely stop. Commercialization won out long ago and it is apparent in every aspect of the journey through this city. To watch the city go by is almost impossible as you are constantly on the watch for debris, logs and just about anything. The Mississippi River is like chocolate milk with chocolate junks. It’s disgusting. I didn’t think water could get this colour.

As we travel done this well know river we are met with many barges but the channel widens a bit. The current is constant, swirls and eddys. We are glad we are in a more powerful boat with horsepower. I can’t imagine being in slower horsepower boat traveling at a 6 knot current and having to manoveur around these barges. It isn’t all pleasant on this journey. It is a challenge.

Holy crap Batman! We are now being met by large tows with at least 15 barges or more really booking it down the straight away. No locks and no interruptions and they go. It is a rocky road with turbulence and very large wakes. I took a video but I don’t think we’ll get it on the site without wifi. Bandwidth is at a premium along with diesel and water. We are making sure to keep it rationed until we get to Green Turtle Bay Marina.

The famous Hoppies. We made it. Hoppies, with Fern as the Guardian of the River, is amazing. She sat down with us after gasing up. We had to go slow traveling today. It was a mere top up for the next 250 or so miles without any fuel stops. Fern, went through all the possible stops. We will definitely hail her warnings and listen to her suggestions. We have a problem though. The forecast is for rain in two days. We can’t anchor out with any rain on the way. There are no anchorages that are available without a consequence in rain. We may have to make it to a lock and be stuck until the weather passes. We have no alternative. It really is the only option. We will check weather again in the morning.

On a side note, The Army Corp of Engineers has put in several weir dams that are just below the surface on turns which causes very narrow channels for recreational boaters anywhere near barges that need to turn. Fern recommends not

meeting a barge and announcing your arrival at a turn to be sure there are no barges and their tows.

We went into the Town of Kimmswick.  Crossing a bridge we see a couple fellas fishing with bows.  They catch mostly Asian carp to help with their infestation.  It is common to see people out with nets and or fishing rods just to catch those buggers.  The boys were showing us how it works.  Basically you use a special bow that has a fishing rod on it and pull back on the bow and reel in the catch.  If you spear the carp.

Places were closed but it was an adventure. I recommend making the journey to this amazing little gem. Scott and I were wondering when the wild west shoot out was going to happen. It is so quaint. After getting around this little town we found a cute little place that was open and it had a few local folks there. We met the mayor, the alderwomen and the treasurer. We chatted a bit and sat down for a bevy. The owner brought out ice cream for Aiden. They are wondering how this “Looper” thing works and what we need. They want to know how to accommodate us boaters and introduce their cute town to us as we pass through. Hopefully, anyone reading this that stops at Hoppies takes the little walk into town. It is worth it.

Now we sit in the evening waiting for the update on weather and contemplating the next portion of our journey.

 Posted by at 2:43 AM
Aug 062015

Up and out was no big deal. We lifted anchor and started our way south on the Illinois River once again. The flood levels were apparent with tell tale signs of massive flooding. You could see water lines on buildings, bridge abutments and trees that had been uprooted in strange places. It was obvious that the people here were questioning how high the water would go. Some have said they had never seen it this high. It floods here every year but not for 5 weeks with rain. The entire Illinois watershed drains into the Illinois River. Look at the pictures and look for those water lines. In fact we went under a bridge that was supposed 21 feet and we had 9 feet clearance. The lift bridge had to be raised. That is now. So imagine what it was a couple weeks ago when they closed this waterway to all commercial and recreational traffic. It is amazing. …….and the industry along with waterway is immense. There is so much industry. Most of this waterway is here only because of industry and commerce. The heart of the United States is alive with the shipping community.

Upon reaching Grafton we stopped at Grafton Harbor. We topped up with fuel and got a slip for the night. After hooking up power and water we walked around the facitliy. 180 sllips, a small marine store and a courtesy car. Now I’m happy to hear that we can take the courtesy car to Kempsville for groceries at Walmart.

We hopped into the 1980 shag van and headed off. Aiden insisted that we talk about the shag wagon. An old Dodge extended van that had seen better days. Hey, it got us to town and stocked up on our groceries for the push on. The next few days are desolate country. We have to be prepared. Getting back to the harbor with a “boat load” of groceries (no pun intended) we are ready for the next few days of no necessities.

Heading into Kempsville with the shag wagon we are passing several farms and their crops. The question of GMO vs. Organic comes up. For those of you that know us this can be a very indepth subject. Do the signs we see on the farms land indicate “working with science” means working with GMO. We think so but don’t really know. That being said it was nice to see so much farm land being used as farm land.

So with our boat load of food and 90 degree temps we find out that there is a pool here. Interesting to note is that it is a floating pool on the river. Everything floats here. The marine store, gas dock, slips, and the pool. We didn’t take the time to analyze the pool we just wanted in to cool off. Before dinner we took some time to indulge in the floating pool.

Tonight we analyze the rest of our journey. The next stop is Hoppies. Known as “the guardian of the river” as this is the last stop for several hundred miles to get fuel. Ten nothing. Literally not much facilities after that. We are prepared.


 Posted by at 2:41 AM
Aug 052015

We were up and out by 8:00 from IVY. Beardstown is one of the last remaining areas to finally come down from the red stage in the flood zone. We headed south once again passing more barges and their tows. I find it nerve racking when I see these huge tows carrying 12 plus barges. It’s like driving by for over a minute of 15 feet high metal walls. It’s freaky. I don’t think I will get used to it at all. We did see some interesting flood remnants with literally trees in strange areas. We were referring to the movie MUDD where the setting is on the Mississippi. If you’ve seen it remember the boat in the tree? Well, we get it now. The floods waters really do get that high. With a constant vigilance watching for logs and debris the day has been uneventful. Oh, I forgot about the heat. It’s getting really hot now. The sun feels like it burns when it touches your skin. You are always looking for shade or a long sleeve shirt. Sunscreen is a must first thing when you step outside in the morning. The reflection from the water is intense. The current isn’t even close to the Niagara River, as we know that area, but it is strong. It still stinks here because of the water. A constant fish stench. Sorry to the folks who may read this and are from here. We are a bunch of Citiots who have taken fresh water for granted being we live near the Great Lakes. I get why everyone is so protective of our fresh water. Never will I again take those 5 lakes for granted again. So we were going to stay at a possible stop near Beardstown where a tug company rents space for transients on one of its barges near town. “Jeff” from Logsdon stated that just a few days ago a working tug trying to make the corner hit in the very spot where they allow transients to tie for the night. It had never happened before but now he lets all his possible transients know. We decided to anchor down a bit further in Bass Bay. With the water heights so high it wouldn’t be a problem to find a good hold. So now we are here waiting for the forecasted 100 percent chance of rain. I think they may be wrong again because we have a bit of cloud and sun now. An hour ago it had an ambience of dark cloud cover and rain. Thunderstorms and 10 mm of rain are expected but I think we have dodged that one. I was hoping to be anchored before it started. Now we are kicking ourselves for not going the next 60 miles and 3 more hours to Grafton. I think it will be an early to bed and movie night.

 Posted by at 3:21 PM
Aug 042015

We started the day out a little later this morning. Up at 6:00 and out by 7:30 AM. Scott did some routine maintenance prior to us leaving. The boat is getting pretty dirty and it drives me crazy. No time to clean. Even though you sit and watch while you drive it is a constant watch for any debris so no clean up gets done. With our days of driving so long and then dinner and bed early there is no off time, so to speak.   We headed out with the next stop being Illinois Valley Yacht Marina for a last diesel fill up before heading through the flood areas. Some are still in the red zone but recreational boats are able to pass through. About 2 miles into our journey, going with the current, the starboard engine starts to heat up. Scott instantly knows what the problem is. Thank goodness he watches the gauges so often.   Scott had forgotten to open one of the stopcocks for the water to cool the starboard engine. He didn’t want all the crap water sitting in the bilge and so he closed all the stopcocks. Normally he uses the water to rinse but if you see and smell this water you would know why. We fried the impeller. So shutting off the starboard engine we head back to our overnight spot. The tough spot is that it is narrow being an old lock but the current here is pretty quick. Not sure the speed but its moving. On one engine he comes back to our wall. No problems but a lot of drama to get the 3 of us in position and ready to go. Scott has extra impellers so he worked on the engine for about an hour. I don’t know how people drive boats without knowing about them. There is always something. Then we were off again but with the time to drive back, change out the impeller and then get going again we lost about 2 ½ hours of driving time.

We start to head down the river to IVY with no more issues. We pass a lot of barges and their tows. It has become common place for us now to pass these monstrous walls of metal and power. We have seen several asian carp jumping behind the boat. One very large one jumped about the height of the dingy. It’s very amusing to watch but knowing what they are doing to the waters here it is also a sad reminder of how careless us humans have become. The folks here are constantly fishing them out, killing them and trying to help with their population numbers. I think it is a never ending battle that us humans will lose. Sitting in Henry we saw thousands of baby minnow ones jumping constantly in the shallow waters.

Getting to IVY to diesel up for the next trek, not needing much but it is security, we realize it has become mid afternoon. The decision to press on to do another 60 miles quickly passes. By the time we gas up and move on it would be too late in the day to find an anchor spot and rain is forecasted. We decide to make it a work day. Catch up on overdue laundry, grocery items, and fix our master head. I forgot to mention that the master head stopped working about a week ago so we used the other head.

IVY is a beautiful facility in the middle of nowhere. A reprieve for Loopers (people who decide to do this portion of our trip then continue to Florida, up the Atlantic Ocean coast to New York City, up the Hudson River, through the Erie Canal to Lake Erie and then around the Great Lakes). In fact, it is considered a Looper Refuge during the journey south. IVY has all the amenities like showers, laundry, gas and diesel, and a bonus of a swimming pool. It is very interesting to see how the folks along the Illinois River deal with continuous flooding. Their docks are attached to a barge with finger docks coming out and holding boats. The entire unit floats up and down as the water levels change. This last flood went up at least 14 feet and they didn’t loose a boat.

Just before dinner while the laundry was being done and the toilet fixed, we went for a swim. It felt so good after pressing on for so many days just to get to a spot and then prepare for the next part of the journey.

This will be our last stop on the way to St. Louis area as there are limited areas for boats of this size and depth. Tomorrow we anchor out but we aren’t sure where just yet. Our plan is to make it to Beardstown, IL where several choices await us.


 Posted by at 7:38 PM
Aug 032015

We met some loopers last night who had lots of information and ideas for our challenging journey. We stayed on the wall in Joleit, IL where we had power but no water. Right next to Harrah’s Casino & Hotel where we ran to pick up a few bottles of water for the drive tomorrow. We are running a bit low on groceries and bottled water. It was a nice stay but we did have the wake of several large barges and their tow over the course of night. It is a 24/7 job with the commercial traffic here. We were so tired from the 8 hour day in 90+ degrees hot sun that we barely noticed them. We did have a beautiful lightening storm as well with a reported tornado touching down in Chicago. No wonder those winds were so bad yesterday.

We were up at 5:00 and called the next lock to find out when we could lock through. Waiting for an hour or several hours for locking is very normal on this waterway. It’s all about the timing for when a recreational vessel can lock through. We were very happy to find out that we would fit in with our new friends in 15 minutes. So we packed up and headed to Brandon Lock. I was so happy to find out that the locks actually have bollards that go up and down with the water level. Why didn’t we have that yesterday in the wind? It would have made all the difference!

After that we headed down the Illinois River to the next lock where we waited for about an hour to be locked through. Our friends caught up to us so again we were able to lock through together. We were on the ropes again with no bollard to carry us down.   I wasn’t happy to see that again. As the doors were opening after a non eventful lock through, the tug and his 12 containers were stuck in the lock. He couldn’t give her because of the two of us were behind him. As I was on the bow holding the front line and Aiden on the back, my line snapped due to the turbulence in the water causing our bow to go up and down. I was at the end of my rope too. It freaked me out having the snap and and line fall beside me. The fellow who works there heard me yelling and threw me another line from the top. Since the lock was no longer draining we tied off mid line to a metal cleat inside the wall, added another line prepared for the push by the tug.  Then after about 20 minutes the tug gave the heave ho and out she went. Finally!

We locked through 3 locks today on our way. It was our plan to hopefully get the 3 done and stop at a Starved Rock Marina but when it was only 1:30. So we kept going into the start of the flood areas. You could see where the water line was and how devastating it must have been. The debris was everywhere so we had to slow it down with the 3 of us in constant watch for logs. We stopped at Henry’s Marina where we sit on the old canal lock wall. The spot is in a beautiful setting, under a tree helping shade us from the setting sun.  It does have 50 amp power but we had to secure the lines as they kept shorting due to the pull from prior boater’s lines.  The electrical box is over 6 feet high on a telephone pole so if you don’t wrap your line around the sign the entire weight of the line is on the adapter and box.  I guess some people don’t think of that and just let it hang.

Apparently the water is still at least 4 feet higher than normal. Henry’s does not have any gas or diesel anymore. Not sure if they will be rebuilding. If you are coming through call ahead and don’t rely on Skipper Bob. They are very out of date. Helpful as a guideline but it carries very old information.

 Posted by at 2:05 PM
Aug 022015

Today was a highlight of our journey. Taking the Illinois River through Chicago, around the massive buildings, planes, trains, automobiles and people. We went through around 9:00 am when the water taxis and tourist boats were not in full force. First we had to go through a lock. With westerly winds that were absolutely one of the worst winds we’ve seen yet, we headed out to the lock. Only about 600 feet off shore and Scott was using about 50% rudder to control against the wind. Conductance has never had to work so hard for so little. We had to wait for the lock to lock up 2 boats. It was a hard pull to keep her settled while waiting. Upon entering the lock the winds were still in full force and with rollers from the winds making it very difficult to get positioned. This first lock is only a lock through for a few feet down. It is mainly there to stop the Illinois River from free flowing into Lake Michigan with its pollutants.

After locking through we were met by the millennium fountain that sprays out into the river. We missed the spray but did see what looked similar to a firehose spraying out water. The traversing through the city took us past the Trump Tower, the Sears Building and many more that I have no idea what their significance is. The interesting fact is that we passed under approx 45 bridges in a 5 mile stretch. The river is very narrow where barges tie up, Shuttles of tourists are abundant and water taxis too. It is a very busy river. I’m glad it was a Sunday and at 9:00 AM. It must be insane traffic later.

After the beautiful sights of the skyline from the interior we headed up through the industrial area of the river. Barges everywhere, huge barges. Huge tugs and tows. Again we were thanking our lucky stars it was a Sunday but tomorrow will not be. Scott had to move around barges coming towards us with really not much squeeze room. The wind had not died down either. It was gusting at over 50 km/hr. There were whitecaps on the river. I was just about done by this point.

Next we had to putter a lot. There was tons of debris with the odd recreational boater too. No speed limit from what we could find so once we could we picked up the pace. After the excitement of the city this canal is even worse than the Erie Canal. It is narrow, with working huge barge traffic, recreational boaters and industry on every bank. We passed over the underwater electrical guard for invasive fish to stay out of the Great Lakes. The pipe going over the top of it is merely a high pressure pipe and has nothing to do with the electrical barrier.

Our next lock is the Lockport Lock. At 40 ft it is a challenging lock but we have done close to 200 locks by now so this didn’t seem a problem. Sure! I said to Scott that if this wind continues I am not doing any locks. I almost lost the boat in the lock due to the wind. I had it cleated but that didn’t stop it from being pushed. Scott said the Welland Canal locks were worse. I can’t imagine. Between the high winds, the shuttle and barge traffic, the lock, we are done for the day.

 Posted by at 2:00 PM
Aug 012015

Waking up to calm seas was a welcome sight.  No waves.  Just calm.  We packed up after a great night’s sleep with yesterday’s long hours of driving across Lake Michigan a very clear memory.  Passing by Milwaukee, America’s great beer capitol and home of Pabst Beer tycoon, the storm in the sky was evident.  Calm water changed quickly to rain and some westerly wind picking up.  We put the tarps up just in time for a quick soaking rain.  Then the sun came out and it was clear cruising once again.

We called ahead to be sure of a slip while in Chicago but the marina said they didn’t have a spot once we were in the harbour.  So we scrambled for a bit and found Burnham Harbour.  The city skyline of Chicago was impressive while we cruised by on our way to our home for the night.  So many boats both power and sail.  So much activity.  We haven’t seen this much boat traffic since our time in New York City.  Chicago is well named as the windy city as the wind never really stops.  The wake from all the traffic is far more extreme than the winds today.  It was complete rock for about the hour it took to drive the skyline at slower speeds.  Not only because of traffic but also so we wouldn’t miss the sights.

Burnham Harbor has diesel so the first stop was the top up of fuel and a pump out.  Our dock assignment was on the same dock.  Scott and I walked to the slip and thought it to be a bit narrow but the harbourmaster said it would hold us.  So Scott got behind the wheel and tried to squeeze us in.  There was no way.  It was 12 feet wide and we are 15 so it was quickly figured out but not until we were trying to get in.  With this westerly breeze it was not fun.  I was quite ticked off to say the least.  After calling them and waiting for a new slip assignment they put us on an end of a dock which was perfect.  We were able to watch the chaos in the harbour and boat watch.  Easy to get out of this spot as well.

We took a walk around the waterfront after dinner.  The planetarium, the NFL Bear’s Stadium, the Museum, and so many sights here in Burnham District.  Scott had to get a pic of the stadium just for our friend Curtis.  Check your text message.  As it turns out Lolapalooza is on this weekend.  The marina has been sold out for months.  It is a huge concert venue at Grant Park with 127 bands over the course of the weekend.  Apparently it make Chicago crazy busy with tens of thousands visiting.  Grant Park was closed completely without tickets but there is so much to see.  We have talked about coming back in the winter to spend the cold months indoors rather than visiting on such a glorious day.

Scott is out taking some night shots of the city and marina while Aiden and I catch up on the computer.  It is pitch of night here and it is only 9:00 pm.  We are already missing being in the other time zone.

Tomorrow we head down the Illinois River through Chicago.  You have all seen those movies or pictures with the tall buildings and the river that meanders through Chicago.  So looking forward to the beauty, engineering and controlled chaos that will happen.  The river through Chicago is all about the delivery of commercial goods so barges are everywhere.

FYI, the egg mystery has been solved.  The two eggs the boys found in Eagle Island Harbour were loon eggs.  For the full report please see Aiden on the mainland sometime in late August.  Date of the seminar to follow.

 Posted by at 1:31 AM
Jul 312015

Waking up at dawn has its advantages.  We did get to see a blue moon that will not be back for several years.  A second full moon in the month of July.

Scott and I decided that a dawn departure was in order to beat those pesky SSW and W winds.  At 5:00 am today we got up and were on our way, first south to get around the peninsula, and then west.  Our first encounter with Lake Michigan was brisk westerlies that met us as soon as we left the secure harbour of Round Lake in Charlevois.  We continued along a southwest path and past South Fox Island and North Manitou Island where 300 foot sand dunes were.  No way were we stopping with 8-10 ft waves.  Instead of driving at 28 mph we were down to 12 mph or lower.  The waves were doable but coming from the west and then SW and then NW created what I refer to as the soup bowl.  You know when you stir your soup one way and then the other and back again and then put in the cracker.  Well, the cracker was us.  Just trying to find our way to the other side.  The trip across would be a little over an hour in good weather.  It took us 6 hours.  6 hours of pounding in and around and then around again.  The weather stations, at least 3 we listened to, had different outcomes for the day.  If we put them all together they were still wrong.  They should have called us when they said they had 2 -4 foot waves at the buoy.  More like 8-10 ft waves.  Aiden slept through it all.

We listened to the weather the entire way over hoping that we would hear better news.  The weather was changing as much as we were rocking. By the time we were on the west side in Wisconsin there was a small craft warning.  We didn’t care cause the waves were nothing compared to what we just did for 6 hours.  We pushed Conductance up to 25 and headed south.  Our goal was Sturgeon Bay, WI , which didn’t sit comfortably with me being we lost both props in Sturgeon Cove north of Little Current Ontario.  Anyway, we got there on half a tank of gas so we continued at 25 mph to Manitowoc, WI where we got the diesel fill up.  We were thinking of staying but with Sheboygan, WI only an hour away and it was just after 3:00.

We hit a time zone bump in the middle of Lake Michigan and gained an hour because of it.  So we pushed on.  After getting in for the night in Sheboygan, WI with a 12 hour day under our belt we decided that dinner out was in order.  So we were off in Low Voltage to a “canal” off the harbour where the city has done a fantastic job of making the waterfront gorgeous.  Shopping, restaurants, anything you want is there.  We didn’t make it into the city but that is a short block away.  Scott and Aiden took a walk after dinner and I’m here too tired to care.  This marina offers everything, even a pool for those wishing to soak for awhile or spend a couple days here.  One of the nicest marinas we have seen on this trip.

It is our goal to make it just west of Chicago tomorrow so that we can spend a bit of Saturday there and part of Sunday cruising through the canals of Chicago on our first leg of the Illinois River heading south.


 Posted by at 2:28 AM
Jul 312015

The weatherman was not wrong.  Huge winds and a small craft advisory on the lake caused us to rethink going out on 7 foot wave heights.  We listened to the weather for several hours until we made the decision that another night here on the hook in Lake Charlevois was imminent.  Making the best of the waves we headed out to the beach were Scott and Aiden made their first ever swim in Lake Michigan.  It was so windy that we were being sandblasted on the beach.  It was a short visit.  Heading back to the shelter of the town we decided to pick up some grocery items and water.  Heading back to the boat snuggled into the corner of Lake Charlevois the winds were still howling.

I made some dinner but by the time I was done the winds calmed and Scott made use of the time listening to the weatherman.  7 knot winds currently out on Lake Michigan.  Looking at our watch it was far too late to make a dash to Leland, MI so now we wait until tomorrow to head out.  Our plan is to go south where the lake narrows then head west.  So a very early morning awaits us as we plan to get up at dawn to get prepared to cross Lake Michigan where the winds for the rest of the week are expected to be westerly.

 Posted by at 12:01 AM