Aug 132015
 

I ran into town with the courtesy van to get groceries. Scott got caught up on work related issues. Aiden slept. By the time I got back the last load of laundry was done and now we get ready to shove off to go anchor in a small bay.

Along the Cumberland River we see an old castle style building.  After reviewing its history it turns out to be a penitentiary.  It stands so statuesque on the hillside.  We see osprey nests, more blue herons and tons of remnants of what this river must have looked like prior to the flooding after the locks were made.  The bluffs and cliffs along this tiny old river must have been a sight.  Now most of them are underwater but still hold a view all to their own.

At mile 87.7 on the Cumberland there is a small charted “bay” to anchor in. We travel from mile 31 at Green Turtle to 87.7 on the river and realize all the structure under Barkclay Lake. Submerged bridges, roads, you name it. When they made the locks to control the Cumberland they just flooded the areas without much thought. The original Cumberland was a small riverbed and that is the channel that us boaters must follow even though “the lake” looks like you can cross it any which way. On the zigzaging journey you will see, just outside the channel, birds sitting on land just below the surface, trees growing on islands in the middle of nowhere. Then you have to pass a barge.

Arriving at our destination we are met with a small opening in the river to where the depth are supposed to be 7 feet at pool. We go in slowly. Following the channel in we are met with a beautiful “bay” and Fort Donalson. Fort Donelson was the stronghold of the Confederates during the civil war that the Union, under the direction of Ulysses Grant, took over and changed the war. It was this very spot that 13,000 Confederates gave up the fort to a 2 ships and a very large Union army coming in from land. It changed the civit war as the Cumberland River was the strenght of the south. Now in Union hands they were able to take Nashville and continue south until the war ended. History is everywhere in this little area.

The boys went on a hike to investigate the history while I slept off a headache.  After dropping in the dingy they went to the fort and walked the trail that many Union and Confederate troops did.  The history of the United States of America was made here.  As Canadians we don’t know much about the history but we do know of a civil war.  What a great experience for Aiden to live!

This bay did not disappoint for the evening as well.  Frogs and locust sounds, fish jumping and a gorgeous night sky with Nashville’s hue of lights in the distance.  Stunning and quiet.

 

 

 Posted by at 12:56 PM
Aug 122015
 

We got off early again today expecting a bit of delay at the 2 locks on the Ohio River plus the addition of the construction of a new lock that will replace the old 2 locks in 2020. We hear the wickets are down at both locks which if you recall is a lock where at the side of the lock there is a wall that lowers in high water to allow flow. We are currently in high water. Leaving Angelo’s Towhead where we were joined by two other boats, one going south and one north, we leave the other south bounder anchored and leave with the north bounder. The sun is barely up.

We are off the Mississippi River now. Turning into the Ohio River we are met with several tows and docked barges waiting. The river is now a dirty brown instead of the disgusting brown of the Mississippi. It changed colour instantly. For the next several miles we pass another hub of barge industry. Moving south to the new construction lock we are met with a construction accident that will close the river down for several hours. We are allowed to pass through as they set up. They have a procedure where one boat, or tow and barge can go through single file, in only one direction at a time, for about 3 miles with an assigned tow to escort you through. Only us and one other boat get through before it is shut down for 9-10 hours today to clean up the accident. We feel like we won the lottery.  In fact we hear on the radio the other south bound boat we were in Angelo’s with last night ask to pass. They were told to find a comfortable spot and it would be late afternoon before they could pass. Of course they wouldn’t be the priority when it was open.

At Lock #53 the barge is putting up the wickets. The lockmaster had to call the big guys to find out if we could pass. It was about a 10 minute wait. We were told that some wickets have been put up and some are only half up. We are instructed to talk with the working barge captain to find out where we can get through. A bit hair raising. Current, half up wickets and trusting the guys on the barge to know exactly where we are to pass through in a small opening at a no wake speed as well. We made it! That saved us several hours because it was probably that or have to wait until the procedure for opening the lock for the first time after several months of closure is done.

What’s that in the sky? Is it a bird? Is it a Plane? No, it’s Superman!!!! Everyone knows Superman was from Metropolis. We pass Metropolis with its casino boat and that would be the highlight in this little town. No big introduction to the “Big Guy in the sky”. Not even an acknowledgement about Superman.

The Ohio River is busy with tows and barges all the way. We make it to the entrance of the Cumberland River. The Ohio River weaves through and around to the entrance even though it looks like you can go straight across. Very shallow everywhere so must stay in this weaving pattern in the channel on the sailing line. It is about 10 feet deep in several spots on our depth gauge.

At the confluence of the Cumberland and Ohio the water changes colour again. There is a mix of a greenish hue and a light brown that weaves through promising us clearer waters on the Cumberland. The Cumberland is narrow from what we have been used to on this trip. It meanders around and seems to really go nowhere fast. It is starting to look beautiful again. The green trees, blue skies and greenish hue of the water is welcoming after so many days of the brown. There are rock formations, sand grooved by rushing flood waters and industry…..and more tows and barges. It’s a tight squeeze to pass these big guys carrying 10 barges or so in such restricted space. Scott does it like a pro, as always.

Moving through the Cumberland our next stop before civilization is a lock. Barkley Lock and Dam. 57 feet lift. She’s a big one. We tie off to a moving bollard that goes up with us that makes the big lift easy. It takes awhile. I’m on the bow in a lifejacket sweating in 90+ degrees in full sun. By the time we are done locking up my shirt is completely soaked. That shower is going to feel good tonight.

Green Turtle Marina Resort & Spa lives up to its name. Carrie and Melissa at the office are super friendly and help us with all our needs. There are 2 outdoor pools, 1 indoor, a spa, a fitness centre, our fuel, laundry, showers, even a courtesy car. It has condos to rent if you want off your boat and so much more. Turtles, turtles, everywhere turtles.  The turtles here will eat out of your hand.

After we gas up and needing only a half tank, we get our favourite number 5 slip. Always a coincidence. The number 5 follows Scott around all the time and this is just one more of those times. Of course the pool was a must, laundry and dinner. Aiden found 6 tree frogs on board over the last couple days. He can finally let them go on land. Of course before that happened he had to learn the “sound” of a green and grey tree frog. Understand their habitat and be sure they would have a good start in their new home of Kentucky. We checked….they have them here too.

Coming from Angelo’s to Green Turtle is a long 10 hour day even though if you choose you can get up on plane on the Cumberland and parts of the Ohio.   The Cumberland Towhead looks like a great anchorage but we really wanted to gain a day and pushed onto Green Turtle.

 

 Posted by at 1:05 PM
Aug 112015
 

We are up and out just as dawn rises. We are ready to travel the 100 miles to get to an anchor spot called Angelo’s Towhead. As we leave the confluence of the Kaskaskia River and the Mississippi River a couple huge asian carps jump. One made it into the boat. Scott was at the helm and I was on the bow getting prepared to leave. Aiden was sleeping and missed it all. This fish was flopping around the back of the boat but in the seat areas. Blood and fish goo everywhere. Scott pushed it out of the boat. I had to clean up but the boat will smell like fish until I can clean it properly. We are on water rations so cleaning it up must be quick and use limited water. It’s gross to say the least.

As we continue upstream we realize that since we have been on the lock wall the river has receded. I’d say a couple feet lower. We can at least see the tops of the wingdams now. We are down a mile per hour on our current push so that will not only add to gas consumption but also time. We have also found a couple stowaways too. Tree frogs! We have to get them off before we stop or they will simply climb back on. I have been using one of the zapper fly swatters to kill spiders. Works fantastic! Every boat should have one just for this purpose.

During the morning we see 3 deer crossing but they turned back being a bit freaked out by the boat. We tried to let them go in front but they turned back instead. So we watched them climb to the side they started on and move on.

Winds are calm and the sun is hot. It’s going to be tough to stay cool today. We made it to Angelo’s Towhead by 3:00. A good 9 ½ hour day behind us. The cove to anchor is quite deep at 40 feet. You have to head in to about 20 feet to drop the anchor. Not much wake protection but a bit less current here. Too strong to take Low Voltage down though. We decide our route for tomorrow, have dinner and teach Aiden poker. He catches on quickly and beats us several times. Bed early to start another 9 hour day.

 Posted by at 2:58 PM
Aug 102015
 

The rain started while we were watching the movie. A scamper to be sure everything is in order for the big storms starts. Tarps are on, windows and vents closed, and checking of the lines. We’re good.

After midnight the big storm comes to life. Everywhere around us is thunder, lightening and rain. No winds. Straight down rain. The lightening show never disappoints but the duration is a problem for those of us wanting to move on. The next stop is our only stop and it is in a diversion canal. The diversion canal directs all the water from storms into this canal from the city of Cape Girardeau, MI. A little rain isn’t a problem but a big storm will cause 8 mile an hour current, debris and literally a wall of water from the drainage. This storm has put a damper on our spirits. We head back to bed and will check weather in the morning.

After our storm passes the morning is damp but dry. Nothing like receiving a flood warning on your phone. Emergency procedures, etc. We’re good as we sit on a floating cement lock weir. Our hopes that Cape Girardeau got shielded by a southwest wind was quickly diminished when we look at the data. They received over an inch of rain. Not knowing how big or how much rain this canal can take before it gets bad makes us stay again. I wish we had the ability to know this info. I’m writing to Cape Girardeau after this trip. Even a town dock of sorts would be a nice opportunity to stop for travelling. The diversion canal is 70 miles away and the next anchorage is almost 90. There are a couple others but Scott doesn’t like the looks of them on the charts. Too much possible shoaling. At 10-12 miles an hour on the Mississippi going 70 miles will take several hours and adding to that cuts it close to nightfall. Going fast is out of the question due to needed diesel preservation and debris hitting potential. So we go back to bed as it is only 5 AM.

So I try to clean the boat. Aiden finishes up his DaVinci clock that he received from his birthday. He also repairs a cabin light in his room. Scott looks at stops on the Cumberland River. Our last river and the books we have don’t cover it. So he studies the charts for available stops. Lunch is approaching but the guys are too wrapped up in repairing a blown speaker on our TV that we use for movies. It happened last year so Scott bought the speakers to replace and has never found the time.

It’s a hot one too. Little sun through the clouds but this far south you never get a reprieve even during storms. It’s just a movie night but with the 15 amp service we are able to run one air conditioner to beat the heat at night. The voltage drops a bit so we use a fan to move the air around using our smaller air conditioner.

 Posted by at 2:58 PM
Aug 092015
 

Sitting here on the wall of the Jerry F. Costello (formerly Kaskaskia Lock) lock we decide that we have to stay another day. It sounds like it would be a day off but it really is disappointing to not move. We have to move to keep the pace needed and weather is one thing that can and will stop you in your tracks. We watch a thunderstorm and heavy clouds pass to the north but nothing here. Thunder showers expected tonight but we’ll have to see what happens.

At the lock we are pleased to find power. 15 amp power just outside our door. Why were we not told? So this little lock that people pass by to put in 100 miles in one day sits here with everything you need, except water at your doorstep. But there is water available. No need to run the gen now. There is enough to charge the batteries and then later run a bit of air to beat this 95 degree temperature.

We spend the day on land taking the dingy to shore. We walk the Confluence Trail to the mouth of where the Mississippi River and Kaskaskia River meet. An outdoor classroom is there. It was under the water with the past floods so the sand is mucky and the muck is muckier. We watch Aiden play in the debris. Perhaps I should say I watch Scott and Aiden play in the mud. Food for though….Mississippi mud pie ice cream really does look like Mississippi mud. It whips like cream and the little oreo cookies that is put in the ice cream is a look alike for the chunks. The entire area has been under water for over a month so much of the vegetation has died. The grass is trying to start up again and the workers are trying to get the mud off the paved paths. They will get it all done just in time for the next year’s flood by the looks of it. We grabbed our hose and nozzle and headed over to the well. The pump there has a connection for a hose so we not only get cooled off but take a shower in our bathing suits. We really must look like hillbillies standing there in our suits, taking a shower and rinsing with a hose and nozzle. It was kind of fun. I’m sure the folk here are wondering about us Canadians. Remember we are still in conservation mode with water and diesel on the boat so taking a shower on the boat is out of the question.

We head back to the boat for dinner and a movie hoping that the predicted thunderstorms pass by.

 Posted by at 2:57 PM
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