Oct 312021

Leaving early from Paducah we head the remainder of the 60 miles on the Ohio River. The current is running hard against us at an average of 3 knts. We pass a couple sailboats who are hugging the shoreline to keep out of the heavy current. They will catch up to us at our destination. The water seems to be a low level. We estimate at least 3-5 feet lower than normal. It is easy to see the shoreline water levels that seem normal but we are not sure what normal actually is. The Ohio River has some traffic but nothing compared to where we have left. Despite the arrival of railroads, improved highways, and air travel, the Ohio River continues to serve as a major artery for transporting bulk items such as coal and grain. The northern bank of the Ohio River also is the southern boundary of Ohio, separating the state from West Virginia and Kentucky. In total it runs 981 miles but we will only traverse the 60 miles to The Tennessee River.

A couple French Explorers are said to have been the first European to see the Ohio, in 1669, and he descended it until obstructed by a waterfall (presumably the Falls at Louisville). In the 1750s the river’s strategic importance (especially the fork at Pittsburgh) in the struggle between the French and the English for possession of the interior of the continent became fully recognized. By the treaty of 1763 ending the French and British war the English finally gained undisputed control of the territory along its banks. When (by an ordinance of 1787) the area was opened to settlement, most of the settlers entered the region down the headwaters of the Ohio.

The colours are changing again. That being said so are the temperatures. It’s a cool 60 during the day but the nights can run in single digits. Must keep moving south…… As we approach our lock on the Ohio River, one of the largest depths at 57 feet, the doors were open for us. We had left many boats in our wake as we traveled from Paducah. Not because we were cruising fast, more that they were traveling slow due to the strong current against them. We pull into the lock along with Dark Side and wait about 10 minutes. Scott got on the radio and said they were at mile such and such and that it would be a 2 hour wait for them. I think the lockmaster looked them up on the Nebo App and realized it wasn’t worth waiting. He locked us up but nowhere near the 57 feet. The water is just too low.

After coming out of the lock we are now in the Cumberland River. The Barkley Lock is the beginning of the Cumberland River where we then must pass through a canal to reach the Tennessee River. We stop at Green Turtle Marina in Grand River, KY, fuel up, pump out and find our slip.

We were met by “001” Canadian Permit boat “Oh Henry”. We have been chatting on social media since they received their #001. So now #002 and #001 chat about how they and us achieved the permits. We exchanged stories and found that we helped them and they helped us get across. Apparently the escalation to Washington on these permits was a conversation between several “Chiefs”. All we know is that someone in Washington “high up” allowed the permits. The rest is history.

We stay a couple nights. The town is no longer a dry county so we do not have to drive to the next county to get our sundowner supplies up. There is a courtesy car available for a couple hours if you wish to visit outside the area. If it is only for local fare a golf cart will pick you up and take you to the local Town of Grand Rivers. There you will find a couple liquor stores, grocery store, restaurants. It is a touristy town but will cater to you with their southern hospitality. This marina has a spa, if so inclined, indoor and outdoor pool, pickleball and tennis courts, cottage rental (if you just need to get off the boat) gas, diesel, pumpout, small ship store and a well stocked parts store over at the working marina portion. There is a large lift for repairs.

We walk into town along the unbeaten path. Climbing a couple small hills, going under a parked line of railway cars and find a park with a small lake. We had decided on a pizza for dinner but the only pizza place was not open. The grocery store has fresh made pizza with all included toppings. While we wait for the pizza Scott brings me across the street to look at the 20 or so feral cats lounging in the sun. They will not allow me to get close but there are a lot of young ones. Our guess is that they are drop offs to the park. This realty place must feed them so they come and visit.

After picking up the pizza we wander over to the park gazebo for a romantic pizza dinner for 2. As the acorns fall on the tin roof and the birds fly above we notice that this park is not used much. It may be off season as there is a lot of structure to be used. It looks like bands play here, kids playground is not well used though. A few cars drive through. Before it gets too dark we head back through the woods, over the hills and climb under the railroad cars again to the marina.

Now that we have met many loopers waiting for their day to continue we decide to head out in the morning. We did get in some pickleball drills too. We will say goodbye to our buddy boat, Dark Side, as they head toward Nashville, TN for a couple weeks. We also will be heading out in the direction of #001, Oh Henry, so we will meet up with them again. We will be on anchor for the next few days as we travel south on Kentucky Lake.

I almost forgot, Happy Halloweenie!

Oct 282021

Another early start to the day as we leave this anchorage and head to Paducah, KY. Only 1.5 miles on The Miss and we take a swift left turn onto the Ohio River. The Ohio River current runs against us as it feeds the Mississippi heading south. We only have 60 miles in total on the Ohio River. Today we will run about half to Paducah where the city has built a dock complete with diesel, gas, pump out, water, power. The city is available to explore.

First we must get through the Olmstead Lock and Dam. In 2015 when we were through these parts it was under construction. It will be interesting to see the finished project.

The project consisted of two 110’ X 1200’ locks adjacent to the Illinois bank, and a dam comprised of five Tainter gates, 1400’ of boat operated wickets and a fixed weir. The proposed replacement structure will eliminate Ohio River Locks & Dams 52 & 53. Locks & Dams 52 & 53 were completed in 1929 and the temporary 1,200′ long lock chambers were added in 1969 at Locks & Dam 52 and 1979 at Locks & Dam 53. The antiquated design and age of these structures make it impossible to meet current traffic demands without significant delays. The existing structures have deteriorated structurally and are overstressed during normal operating conditions. Existing wicket dam has missing sections and wickets that will not raise making it very difficult to maintain pool during low water. The temporary locks at Locks & Dam 52 & 53 have significantly passed their 15-year design life. This strategic reach of the Ohio River provides a connection between the Mississippi River, Tennessee River and Cumberland River. More tonnage passes this point than any other place in America’s inland navigation system. In 2011, 91 million tons (Locks & Dam 52), traversed this portion of the Ohio River. 25% of all coal shipped on the inland waterways transits Locks & Dam 52, destined for many of the 50 power plants located on the Ohio River System or the 17 power plants located in eight states on the Upper or Lower Mississippi River.

As we pass into Kentucky we do notice a lot of coal plants on the shorelines. Barges are now carrying open loads of coal which we had not seen until now. We pass more tows and massive 30 piece barges being pushed along the current. There are dredging projects happening. Massive dredging machines line the channel. The Ohio River is a wide channel which makes it easy to pass. If it weren’t for the activity on the water there would be only shoreline as this area is again very unpopulated.

Paducah, originally known as Pekin, was settled around 1815.  Settlers were attracted to the community due to its location at the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers.  The community was inhabited by a mix of Native Americans and Europeans who lived harmoniously, trading goods and services.

In 1827, William Clark, Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Mississippi-Missouri region,  arrived in Pekin with a title deed to the land he now owned, which was issued by the United States Supreme Court.  Clark most likely took stock of the settlers that had arrived at some point before himself, and offered the land for purchase, so they could occupy it with title in their name. If they did not choose to purchase the right to occupy the land, they most likely relocated to another area. The town was platted out and named in honor of the largest nation of Native Americans that ever roamed North America, the Padouca Indians. Lewis and Clark had made acquaintance with many of them while on their trek west.  A letter written by Clark to his son clearly states the reason for the naming of the town. (A facsimile of the letter and the original Paducah maps are on display at the Market House Museum in Paducah.) The community was incorporated in 1830.

Paducah thrived due to its port facilities along the waterways that were used by steamboats.  A factory that manufactured red bricks was established and a foundry for making rail and locomotive components was built, ultimately contributing to a river and rail industrial economy.

In 1856, Paducah was chartered as a city.  The community continued to capitalize on its geographic location by becoming the site of dry dock facilities for steamboats and towboats and, in turn, headquarters for various bargeline companies.  Paducah also became an important railway hub for the Illinois Central Railroad due to its proximity to the coal fields in Kentucky and Illinois.

In 1937, the Ohio River at Paducah rose over its 50-foot flood stage.  The flood was considered to be the worst natural disaster in Paducah’s history. As a result of the flood, the United States Army Corps of Engineers built a flood wall to replace the earthen levee that had once been in place which now has artists works painted on the walls for you to view.

Other significant events in the community’s history include the selection of Paducah in 1948 for the development of a new Uranium Enrichment Plant, and the development of the Museum of the American Quilter’s Society in Paducah in 1991, which draws quilters from around the world.

Paducah has several museums , such as the Paducah Railroad Museum, the River Discovery Museum, the Tilghman Civil War Museum, and the oldest, the William Clark Market House Museum, founded in 1968.  Several festivals such as the American Quilter’s Society Quilt Show and Contest in April (AQS QuiltWeekTM), the LowerTown Arts & Music Festival in May, and BBQ on the River in September attract large crowds.

In 2017, the City of Paducah opened its 340-foot transient boat dock adjacent to a newly constructed park area that extends into the Ohio River.  The park provides a harbour area for the transient dock and creates the potential for the development of a future marina.

The dock, located downstream from the heart of historic downtown Paducah, provides space for transient boaters to enjoy Paducah by spending a few hours or spending several nights.  Amenities include fuel (diesel and marine grade gasoline), water, power pedestals, and a sewer pumpout station . We spend the next couple nights here along with 9 other boats.

Oct 272021

Costello Lock (Kaskaskia), MO – Angelo’s Tow Anchorage Cairo, MO

That is The Mississippi River. You on your own with only tows and barges and your buddy boat, if you are lucky to have one. We are still running with Dark Side to the anchorage today. With a good night’s sleep at Costello Lock we are off and running at sun up. Heading south on The Miss past the odd town here and there and tows aplenty. There isn’t much out here. The current is running about 3 knts today which is a welcome pleasure on the diesel consumption. On this stretch we are running about 11 knts and pushing only 8 knts on the engines making this long 100 mile day go by much faster.

The trees are back to being green with very little colour change. As we head south the air is warming but still chilly. Today we do notice a change in not feeling the cold in the wind. The Miss is a long stretch for boaters. Not many anchorages as the tows and barges take up most of the space available. They run 24/7 so hanging out off channel is not a great idea. It is in your best interest to find a good space where those worker bees just can’t get to. That is the few little areas off the main Miss which are few and far between. There are 2 really well marked areas for anchorages. On is Boston Bar and the other is Angelo’s Toe. The Toe is at mile 1.5 on the Upper Mississippi making it a quick run to the left turn for the Ohio River.

Angelo’s Tow is the southern tip of Angelo’s Island where there is a small tributary. We like to anchor off the shoal of the toe to keep the current of The Miss at bay as much as possible. It is possible to anchor in the tributary in about 10 feet of water but do not go in far. It shallows quickly in low water. There is a shoal on the shoreline that comes out a far distance. Look at google maps so you know where it is. It really isn’t a problem however it is nice to know where it is before you start. It is a windy evening and night. I couldn’t sleep so I was up most of the night watching how we swing in this wind. The wind is overtaking the current so our boat will move 90 degrees at times. If there are no winds the current will keep you in the same position. The pic below shows the island. The Toe is the point that sticks out toward the Ohio River.

It’s a busy area. Tows are running around pushing there loads to prepare for the movement of goods. It is amazing how they work in this dark. No city lights and no moon to show where obstacles are. I watch about 10 tows leave the confluence of the Miss and the Ohio River. It is one of the most traveled areas in commerce on these waters. The Miss heads towards New Orleans,. The Ohio Heads toward the cities and towns to Mobile, AL and the Upper Mississippi heads toward the world we just left in Chicago and the Great Lakes. It is the hub for the logistics of commerce to come together all in these barges.

After the Ohio River, the Mississippi river is the most polluted river in the United States and is considered genuinely the most polluted river as it lacks the diluting action of the Ohio River and also due to the recent oil spillage which occurred in the Mississippi river back in 2014.

Confluence of Ohio and Mississippi Rivers at Cairo, IL

The little town of Cairo, where Angelo’s Island is located, became a prosperous port following the Civil War due to increased riverboat and railroad commerce. Barges are seen as the white rectangles shown on the Ohio river, which indicate the continued importance of Cairo as a transport hub. Flooding of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers presents a continual danger to the city; this danger is lessened by the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway that begins directly to the south of the river confluence. During major flood events, the floodway lessens flood stages upstream (such as at Cairo) and adjacent to the floodway. Part of the extensive levee system associated with flood control of the Mississippi River is visible in the image. Barlow Bottoms (image right), located in adjacent Kentucky, is a wetland bird-watching location that is replenished by periodic floods and releases of Ohio River water. There are no areas to explore any of these areas.

Oct 262021

Finally the wind Gods have determined we are in the good books as the winds turn quiet. Up at the crack of dawn we stumble through the cabin getting all ready to take on this next leg of our journey. Yesterday we filled with the tanks with water, prepared meals for lunch and generally go ready for the next 250 miles of solitude and gumption.

Our first lock at at Mel Price Lock was easy. We contacted the lockmaster from the marina, all 3 boats headed down and we were joined by 1 more. We all head into our places with ease. We have met the folks on The Dark Side. A cute 36 ft American Tug. All I can think about is how PattiJo and Doug would love this cute vessel. With the name Dark Side it is a shoe in. Give up sailing and come to The Dark Side. The other vessel is a 48 ft Power Cat going by the name of Highwinds whose couple is enjoying their time between working and cruising with Mom and Dad. The other boat is being piloted by a professinal Captain.

We have 2 locks today. The first being The Mel Price Lock is 27 feet but we only lock about 12 feet to meet up with the Mississippi. This portion of our journey south on The Mississippi River is one where it can challenge you. Long travel days, massive tows with their barges, lots of debris and a current at anywhere from 2 -3 knots. At times the Miss can be wide and others she narrows where you should check for tows and barges as you don’t want to meet up on the curve in the narrow area. It can feel desolute out here. Not much around. No birds, no wildlife, just you and your wits.

The Mississippi River is one of the world’s major river systems in size, habitat diversity and biological productivity. It is also one of the world’s most important commercial waterways and one of North America’s great migration routes for both birds and fishes.

Native Americans lived along its banks and used the river for sustenance and transportation. Early European explorers used the Mississippi to explore the interior and the northern reaches of what was to become the United States. Fur traders plied their trade on the river and soldiers of several nations garrisoned troops at strategic points, at various times, along the river when the area was still on the frontier.

White settlers from Europe and the United States (and often their slaves) arrived on steamboats dispossessing the Native Americans of their lands and converting the landscape into farms and cities.

Today, the Mississippi River powers a significant segment of the economy in the upper Midwest. Barges and their tows move approximately 175 million tons of freight each year on the upper Mississippi through a system of 29 locks and dams. It is also a major recreational resource for boaters, canoeists, hunters, anglers, and birdwatchers and offers many outdoor opportunities. For our purposes the Mississippi is stated as the Upper Mississippi where we travel and only 2 locks and the Lower Mississippi that is less friendly to the recreational boater and commerce reigns.

The second lock, The Chain of Rocks Lock, has become notorious as a 44 ft sailboat took the wrong turn and ended up on the actual Chain of Rocks in rapids and had to be rescued. They too are Loopers. The river steers to the left to a manmade dugout canal to avoid the rapids and the rocks that traverse on the main part of the river. Unfortunately they went right instead of left. During our stay in Alton and the winds we experienced, the sailboat let loose and sunk at the base of the rapids. Very sad time for us Loopers when we hear of such tragedies.

We arrive at with our caravan of boats has us pull up to the side of the cement wall on the opposite side of the lock. Now we know it will be a long wait. The wait was about 2.5 hours until 2 tugs and their barges moved through heading north. Now all 4 of us quickly get into a moving pattern to move into the lock and find our spot on the bollard. We have also aquired a sailboat running south, which makes us a caravan of 5. Another easy ride down, our last on The Mississippi River. Now the challenge begins as we leave the lock into the vastness of mid America.

The river is filled with debris. Logs, trees, you name it is is swirling in the current and eddies. The push from the current is a steady 2 knots today making our long day to anchorage a shorter run. Traveling south on the Miss the brown, silty water with its chocolate chunks of debris make for a very boring run. At about 11 knots we pass many tows and barges in tight and open spaces along this deceivingly wide river. She is shallow on both sides. The weir dams are apparent in this low water. Weir dams are piles of stone about 6 feet high and several hundred feet long placed in a straight line out into the river, from both shorelines. These weirs divert water to the middle for the significant traffic of barges that travel here all year long. Some of these weirs are in a semi circle, some have shoaled up down river from the original weir dam. This is our first time seeing what they look like as the water was at least 6-8 feet higher when we came through in 2015. The entire Miss looks very different than we remember.

We are heading to the James F. Costello Lock (Kaskaskia Lock) for a free dock. The lock allows folks the opportunity to stay on the outside of the lock walls in a secure area. The anchorages are few and far between so this is a welcome opportunity. The water can reach extreme levels when the waters run. The entire cement wall is a floating dock that runs along 3 cement pilings to allow the entire wall of approximately 200 feet to float making this a great respite. The lock is located off the main Miss on a tributary so the current is almost none existent. It is a great spot to duck in for weather, quick fixes or a good night’s sleep before moving along the more challenging portion of the Miss. We stay here with Dark Side and enjoy sundowners and appies before the sun does go down and the cold kicks in. Tomorrow is a long day as we run 120 miles to the confluence of The Mississippi and the Ohio River. It will be an anchorage for us as we wait out a storm with some winds gusting to 15 mph.

Oct 242021

Alton Marina, Alton, IL

We missed the 13 Looper boats by 1 day. They had been here for a week. With the great special of pay 3, get 3 folks tend to stay longer than 3 days. Alton Marina is also one of the last reliable places to refuel and get water. After this the Mississippi becomes the area where very few amentities are available. Stock up on groceries, change your engine oils or impellers here at the dock. The marina has an oil disposal area available for the waste to be disposed of properly. This entire marina is a floating marina, including office, restrooms, all docks even those with covered slips. The massive poles allow everything to slide up and down depending on water levels. They are probably about 25 feet tall.

It is our intention to stock up for the trip southbound. After yesterday of laundry, engine oil changes, and pickleball today is grocery day. There is a butcher, bakery and grocery within 1 mile of the marina. Scott plans our route through the little city so we can take in the sights as well. First stop is the butcher not far from the marina. With “Carrie” in tow we cross the berm levy wall that holds back the majority of overflow when The Miss gets high water. At the butcher a large selection of fresh cuts and frozen prepared meats are available. Next stop the renowned Duke’s Bakery. In these here parts the place to adjust your sweet tooth is at Duke’s. It is very popular among locals and tourists. Once inside the store, the smell of sweet hits you. We are here for the fresh breads but walk out with a couple fresh apple muffins.

The town is on hill after hill. You will get your workout in if you walk around away from the restaurants and bars close to the marina. Old style churches, city halls, post office and cobblestone roadways await you as you wander. There is so much history here that it would be nice to find a local and learn about this town. We did find Schewgel’s Grocery and it was closed. Hmmmm……. As we contemplate our next move to the other grocery store which is not within walking distance a truck pulls up. “You must be from the marina.” Before we could barely answer the truck door opens and he say’s you need to shop. I’ll open the door and be back in a half hour or so. Huh? Again the southern hospitality is at our doorstep. He says he lock the door behind us and introduces us to Sarah who is doing some cleaning in the back. Take as much time as you need and if you don’t see what you want, just ask. Sarah goes back to cleaning in the back and off the fellow runs. Scott and I just can’t believe anyone would trust us wayward travelers. We fill our basket with everything we will need leg of our journey. We felt like celebrities with absolutely no one in the store but us. Thank you Schwegel’s. With Carrie full to the brim with all our goods, including the wine and beer we head off back to the boat. Somehow we still managed to have to climb another hill to get down to the marina.

There are a couple other Looper boats here so we chat with them in the evening. We all agree that tomorrow is a bad day to head out to a narrow canal area and cross through one of the busiest locks on the rivers. With a tornado watch in effect, later upgraded to a warning, we all will travel in 2 days. As the winds pick up we head back the boat secure more lines and wait it out watching youtube.

This will be our first lock on The Mississippi. The lockmaster likes to coordinate the lock for those that are leaving so there are less single boats going through. Traveling with other boats will be a fun adventure down this section of The Loop.

Oct 222021

Willow Island Anchorage – Alton Marina, Alton, IL

This is the last day on the llinois River. We will connect with the Mississippi River at a small town called Grafton, IL where many Loopers stay. Ourselves, we will pass Grafton and head on over to Alton, IL. Hopefully meeting some other Loopers who have been there for awhile.

The Illinois River foliage is starting to change colours. We can see the beginnings of the yellows with a bit of reds along the hills. We have had some cooler nights where we needed the extra blankets and put the heat on in the mornings to warm up for breakfast. Those cooler nights have caused the leaves to change. Our day is scewed being on the different time zone as well. An hour behind everyone on Eastern Time we are on the edge of the Central Time making our days start earlier and nights coming an hour earlier. It is dark here by our time 6:30 and morning and sunrise is around 6:30 AM. So we start our days early and end our nights early. Being outside a lot of the time creates a good night’s sleep anyway so by the time it is 8:00 we are already thinking of sundowners and bedtime.

Approaching the Mississippi River the Illinois River widens. The Miss has a wide span but shallows on the edges of the channel quickly. Grafton is the entrance to the Mississippi heading southbound. The colourful town with its bright coloured buildings set on a hill is nothng short of spectacular. Set that with beautiful sedementary rock bluffs the Mississippi has carved out over the millions of years and the sights will astound. These bluffs go on for miles. The bridges that cross over the mighty river are expansive and an engineering feat on their own. We have tried to capture them in photos.

The most memorable portion of our trip from 2015 was the current. It was running after the floods. This time around the river is peaceful and inviting. It still runs around 1 knt or so. Barges have become much larger with their tows pushing more. They are small cities moving along the river. Tucked into Alton Marina we are slipped on the outside of the covered slips. With more slips than boats this marina has proven a great stop for Loopers and locals alike. The covered slips provide the comfort of shade along with the protection from rain. There is always a group party at one of the docks. This marina has both gas and diesel available. They offer 3 night discount for Loopers and 3 free nights after the 3 night discount. Laundry, groceries, any provision you need is available with a couple grocery stores picking you up from the marina to shop and a return trip.

We found pickleball. A group of folks have started to ask the town to expand the tennis courts and offer tournaments. There are 6 courts currently with 4 more on the agenda. The town has a observation area for judging or watching the games. They have also spoke with the adjacent towns and they are putting in several courts as well. This will be pickleball central in not time. Just an Uber ride away.

We will be staying here a couple nights because of the central location for supplies. Scott is changing the engines’ oils. I have more laundry than I care to and groceries are on the agenda. We will be traveling the next 250 miles with no amenities. No anything including fuel or water. The run down the Mississippi can be challenging with winds and/or currents. Finding a place to anchor, where only a few spots are available, so we are trying to stay away from groups until we get past the Mississippi. There are about 100 boats or more ahead of us on the rivers heading to Mobile, AL so spots to stay will be a tough go and we are larger than the majority of other vessels doing the loop.

Oct 212021

Beardstown, IL Logsdon Tow Service Barge – Mile 80, Willow Island Anchorage

Last lock on the Illinois River Day.  Pushing off from the barge we head on up to the La Grange Lock.  It is approximately an hour away from Beardstown, IL.  The lockmaster was just locking south a large group of barges.  We waited 15 minutes for the pit to fill and we again were able to float.  This Lock is again a leveler lock.  The last lock is also approximately 3 feet lower than its recorded depth of 8 feet.  So we lock through quickly at 5 feet and head towards our anchorage.

Just as sunrise occurs the Hunter Moon is still visible in the low sky.  The river’s edge is covered in dead trees brought down by the spring rains.  There are several trees that have only just fallen over and will be in next year’s spring runoff debris.  More bald eagles soaring and ravens have also started showing up.  They are one big bird.  We did see one final white pelican as most have moved on their winter migration path.  We feel lucky to have seen them. 

At Kemptsville, IL there is a car ferry that takes residents back and forth across the river.  It is interesting as it is an old barge with a tow on the side.  As it crosses the river with its load the tow tucks up to the crossing and allows cars on and off.  As the gates close with its load for the other side the tow pendulums around and faces the opposite direction so that the tow is always facing the direction it is going.  I couldn’t get a video fast enough. 

The stilt houses are everywhere now.  There are hills built up to keep the high waters out but the houses are still higher.  A lot of the “basements” are built under the house but on top of land then the house is on top of the basement.  Some have a “garage” built into these stone foundations.  There are usually little to no windows on the foundations.  In some of the pictures you can see the various water levels. 

Many more barges and tows today.  It is obvious we are getting into the central area where tows will be stacked with more than the standard 15 barges we are seeing til now.

We decided on the Anchorage at Mile 80 at Willow Island.  Behind the South and North side of the island is a large anchor area.  The river has a current that keeps your boat in place however if you wish you could put out a stern anchor.  We put on the anchor alarm.  It is a cool evening with a disturbed blue heron that lets us know she is not happy with us being here.  A random woodpecker is knocking himself silly and we are cooking up burgers on the grill.  Downloaded movie and sundowners for the night. 

Tomorrow we head to an area where many Loopers are staying.  We have heard that some are leaving.  I’m just happy to do laundry, wash the boat at least twice (yes, she is that dirty) and take a really long, hot shower. 

Oct 202021

Kuchie’s on the Water, free dock – Logsdon Tow Service Barge

At the Peoria Lock the lockmaster had it ready for us.  The lock is a leveler lock meaning it is quite shallow.  This one is 8 feet.  With the low water in the Illinois River now it was about 5 ft.  Scott was able to float in the middle so no tying was necessary.  Best for the crew but a lot more work for the Captain keeping the boat in the middle of the lock.  We were on our own so these short depth locks are a welcome.  We just locked through and a double was ready to enter.  Thanks for the timing Mr. Peoria Lockmaster.

I’m so excited.  We have found a working barge that will allow us to park on her for the night.  She is a working barge for the company Logsdown Tow Service located in Beardstown, IL.  Why am I so excited?  I have no idea but this sounds so cool to me.  So we head off from Kuchie’s on the Water toward Beardstown.

The trip isn’t exciting as we pass tow and barges along with way with not much in between.  It is a rather dismal portion of the river, although scenic with trees and the water it becomes monotonous as it all starts to look the same.  The river meanders and at times there are some stilt homes or the rare fisherman out for a catch.  There does seem to be an endless supply of bridges though.  As the river continues towns must have sprung up in the old days and now the bridges are the only way to keep the small towns together. 

As we approach Beardstown there are tows already positioned on the barge.  We find our spot and find that the barge is a construction barge.  There is literally stuff everywhere.  It is not for the clumsy.  The two tugs there are open so we do sneak peeks inside the engine room where the engines are being tuned up for the next shift.  Waiting for the next crew to come in and rev her up we have our cameras ready.  Finally off she goes. 

We walk around the quiet little town.  There is a huge levy wall that was installed back in the early 1900’s.  It is well maintained.  We ask about the levy and were told that there was a massive flood back in the day.  The small town made the choice to install this levy wall so that it never happened again.  The wall is about 25 feet tall made of poured cement. 

The town grain elevators are working with soy beans and corn.  They fill them from the trucks that come in, fill the silo, then there is a conveyor belt that runs to the waiting barge to be taken north or south to be sold off.  It is one of the largest businesses in this sleepy town.

Scott remembers being here in 2015 with Aiden.  He says he tied up to the steps, climbed over the guard rail because the water was so high and the two of them wandered the town.  He says that the two of them had visited most of the town as did we.  There is a nice lookout over the Illinois River.  Such a nice view.

Back at the boat we watch the tugs move around as dusk, and finally night occurs, and the lights of the tows move around like fireflies on the river.  Their massive spotlights light up the entire river but we still don’t know how they see everything without bumping the barges off of anything. 

Oct 192021

Henry, IL – Kuchie’s on the Water, free dock

The trip is getting close to the end of our stretch on the Illinois River.  With only 2 more locks left on this river we start to look at the next river, The Mississippi.  The stretch to Kuchie’s Restaurant is a sunny and no wind day.  That being said not a lot to see as you pass trees and bushes not past the summer green on the leaves.  We do see a foursome of deer along the water’s edge and see more eagles soaring above.  Lots of barge traffic as well.  We also are just beginning to see some stilt houses.  The rivers can get high here.  Watch the movie “Mud” and you’ll see how crazy high these rivers can run and the current runs along with the height.  The last time we were down these rivers in 2015 the record height was set for the Illinois River.  The rivers were shut down to recreational and commerce.  By August they were open again.  The rivers were so high and running so fast back then compared to now 2021 where waters are low by at least 3 feet and the Illinois River is only running a couple knots.  It’s okay as you go with the current most of the way to Mobile, AL.

Kuchie’s on the Water is closed.  It’s Tuesday.  It’s fine with us as we prepared for a dinner.  If you want a good dock with good depth pop on up to the Kuchie’s dock, wait for the lock while having lunch, or stay the night and enjoy watching the tows and barges from their balcony.

Oct 182021

Oct 15 – 19

Henry, IL – Henry Harbor Marina

To make a long story short we are here in Henry, IL because we are waiting on insurance.  Not enough experience, boat too big, want our first born.  You name it it was said by the insurance companies.  We must laugh as we both have at least 15,000 miles under our belts plus all the time spent on our smaller boats over the years.  Finally we contact some fellow Loopers we met in 2017 and chatted with them.  Found the broker and waited the weekend.   Then the documents came through, signed and sealed.  Finally we can move on. 

Yes it is our fault.  No, this is not normal for us to be so unprepared.  We were caught off guard with the permit.  No excuses, just the truth.  So we spent 4 days in Henry, IL.  We caught up on the blog.  We were able to chat with family because the wifi is so good.  The only problem was that we ran out of water.  What now…..so we had 4 x 1 gallon water bottles.  After 2 attempts at bringing out Carrie, our trusty grocery getter, filling at the marina and bringing the bottles back to the boat on the lock wall we decided to go buy water at the grocery store.  We filled up our water bottles in the boat and then dumped 10 gallons at a time into the tank.  It took us all afternoon but we have a full tank.  We were pretty proud of ourselves.

Last night we ended up with lock mates.  An older woody style trawler and a sailboat that came in for diesel.  After some chat they mentioned they needed water.  So the owners brought out hoses, connected the hose to one of the marina spouts, brought the hose across the marina, through the main boat channel, draped the hose across the gravel and filled the fella’s tank.  We decided that we would fill our other tank now.  We got our steps in today, but this is so much easier.  Now full of fuel and water we are ready for the pump out in the morning before we head out. 

Our neighbours were gone when we woke so we had some breakfast and brought the boat to the pump out/fuel dock.  Then we pushed off to continue south.  Coffee in hand, engines start, lines drawn and fenders up cruising to the lock. 

We found this dock alongside a restaurant where you buy dinner and stay the night.  So we decide that will be tomorrow’s destination.  It’s a great secret spot that not too many boaters know about.  So if you are stuck waiting for the Peoria Lock just tie up at Kuchie’s on the water, enjoy the meal and sleep the night away.  Afterall the lock is only 2 miles up so getting ready in the morning should be easy.

Oct 172021

Henry IL, what a great stop. The Marina has been bought by a local family after learning the marina would close. In April, 2021 the Passini family decided to buy out the former owner. They have dreams of making it bigger, better, stronger for Loopers. Although at first glance one might think that the situation isn’t the best. An old lock wall, a marina with about 5 feet of depth. However, overall this is river life. There is a free pump out at the dock on the river, fuel, both gas and diesel 30 amp power, but no water on the lock wall. The marina does have water. The luxury of having a safe place to hang out, enjoy the journey and meet really sweet hometown folk will not be in the cards as we travel south on these rivers. Henry’s marina is a comfortable place if you look beyond your city ideals. This is small town America. The Mayor stopped by and was thrilled to see the marina being used by Loopers. The owners are the kindest you will ever meet. These rivers will be a test for those with expections. These little reprieves will not be there for you as your journey on the Mississippi and beyond will challenge you.

We are in a holding pattern as we figure out the insurance issues we are having with traveling on a boat. Again we did not expect to have the ability to travel. Our focus was getting HP to Springbrook Marina. We still pinch ourselves and thank goodness we have the cruising permit.

On a walking trip into town where there is a grocery store, hardware store, Dairy Queen, a few restaurants we find a sleepy town where everyone who passes you waves. From their car or just passing by on the sidewalk a hello from the friendly locals is welcoming. We did stop in at Henry Foods with “Carrie” our grocery cart and picked up a few items. We are coming up to a stretch where groceries close to the marinas or anchorages will likey be a trek or not available.

There is a park in the centre of town “Central Park” as it is known, where a war memorial is set up for the local folks who gave their lives in the many wars of the 20th Century. A small tribute for all the Veterans is at a downtown corner made by the local town folk. Some buildings have stood the test of time and look to be from the 1800’s but it’s a guess as to how old they are. The old wooden handmade corbiels and cornices painted with layers and layers of paint over the years tell us a hidden tale.

Being here makes you appreciate what you have completed on your journey this far and look forward to what the next few hundred miles will bring. So treat the folks with kindness in your heart and may your journey down the rivers make you a stronger person.

Oct 152021

Starved Rock Marina – Henry, IL – Lock Wall Oct 15, 2021

We are up early and contact the lock.  We are hoping that getting going early will help with the locking.  Calling Starved Rock Lock before 7 AM the lockmaster tells us he currently has a double in the chamber.  That means that the tugs push barges into the locks without a tug, locks are filled or emptied depending on direction.  They then winch the barges through to stay on the long wall outside the lock and wait for the next batch of barges usually having a tug to push them all down river.  This process takes hours to complete.  The lockmaster says that if we are there in time he will put us into the chamber on the down, between the two batches.  We quickly get set and push off.

At Starved Lock we are asked to wait on the north side of the massive cement pilings so that the first batch of barges can be winched forward.  We only wait about 20 minutes and then again we end up going through a squeeze between the barge end and the lock wall.  Captain is used to this and does it with ease.  Again another morning with no wind. 

Cruising south on the Illinois River the trees are all still green.  Fall has not made an appearance yet except for the cool nights.  This section of the river is more wilderness than it is industrial.  There is so much bird life here.  Herons, Egrets, ducks that we have no idea which kind they are, just sitting enjoying the peace.  We spot some large white birds.  I mean very large.  We thought they were storks but they have short legs and duck feet.  We research them and come to find out that they are migrating white pelicans that are native to the Illinois River.  Who knew?  We have been told that there are lots of bald eagles around these parts but have not seen any.  We start to talk about them and without the words out of mouths there one is.  Standing so silently on a dead branch watching the waters for his next prey.  Statuesque and very large even on this barren branch. 

Continuing down the river there are pockets of industry and barges at the ready to be filled or emptied.  We have counted 15 barges on a tow as the largest one so far.  Since Chicago the tow have become larger so they can push more, hence the double locking we have encountered.  With the rains we have had there is a lot of debris that Scott dodges with ease.  We only travel at 8 knts or so which makes it very easy to spot.

Pulling into Henry, IL we find the old lock wall that we stayed on in 2015.  The water is about 6 feet less than then.  We could only see the trees popping out of the water on the one side of the old historic lock wall and now we have a full island.  Where we stayed in the past was at the high wall and we had to step down.  Very little wind and the sun has come out for a bit here and there.  The water is becoming the ick brown that I remember.  This fish are jumping again. 

Oct 142021

Seneca, IL Springbrook Marina – Starved Rock Marina – Oct 14

The lock is about an hour away so once up we prepare to leave, call the lock and start the engine.  The lockmaster says to get there quickly and he’ll run us down before the double tows coming up.  We’re gone before finishing breakfast. 

The ride down is a comfortable ride.  No wind today.  Just a calm and light rain starting, more of a drizzle.  As we approach the lock we are first to arrive and hail the lockmaster.  He says it will be a 2 hour wait.  As we wait 2 more recreational vessels show up.  We chat with each other about where we are all going and the wait time.  This is the Mersailles Lock with a larger pool to wait in.  Then another boat shows up.  Now the 4 of us wait…..almost 3 hours.  Not much we can do but wait.

When the lock doors open they are full of barges, no tow.  These barges are full of sand and weighted.  How do they get them out of there without a tow?  As we watch the fellas onshore work with some kind of winch, or something, the barges move so slowly out of the lock.  There is maybe 25 feet between the end of the barge and the lock wall.  We are hailed to go in through this space.  Us being 60 feet and watching 2 of our comrades coming in at 75 ft.  Great Captains for all.  We all finally cruise into the lock, tie up  on the bollards (so easy) and watch the slow lock lower.  This is the slowest one to date yet.  I think we were in that lock an hour ourselves while 2 tows wait below.   Again there is a small opening to pass through the tugs and barges and the lock wall.  So glad it is not at all windy. 

We get out of there and travel slowly as we watch 2 of our new lock buddies speed up.  The river is so calm and the sun starts to come out. 

Rounding the bend of the river near Starved Rock, IL we have a new buddy that started in on the journey.  However 3 of the boats have now stopped.  We see 1 anchored, 1 at the fuel dock of the marina of the same name and 1 moving around the next bend.  I call the lockmaster at this lock, Starved Rock Lock.  He tells me he has 2 full tugs that will take over 3 hours to move along.  So now we look at the clock and know it will be 4 hours til we get through.  It’s noon so that means 2 or so hours after we get through the lock before nightfall because we are on Central Time and the sun sets early and rises early.  We contact Starved Rock Marina and set up a slip for the night.  We will be on the fuel dock.  The current occupant has no intention of leaving before the lock is ready so we drop anchor.  It was almost 4 hours later that we got the call to head to the lock.  We watched every boat leave and head to the lock as we headed to the fuel dock.  It was almost 4:30 anyway. 

We kept a look out at the live maps and those boats didn’t get underway until after 5:30.  We are happy we are at the dock as we settle in and reference some logistics that we have to take care of.  We still have some things to take care of as we did not expect to actually have the ability to travel.

The Asian Carp have made their appearance as well.  Sitting chatting in the salon we hear a sound coming from outside the boat.  On the dock there is a 3 pound, or so, Asian Carp flopping around.  It was too dark to take a pic but certain there will be more opportunities to photograph these jumpers.

Oct 132021

Seneca, IL Springbrook Marina – Oct 13, 2021

Slept in, finally.  Not Scott though.  He was up early as usual.  He says there is rain coming in this afternoon so he wants to get started on the outside chores before the weather changes.  Coffee at the ready and off he goes……drilling holes in the boat!!!!!!

We have been missing our BBQ grill since we bought the boat.  We usually grill just about anything and everything.  There are no areas designated for a grill on this boat.  After coming up with some options, we decided on fishing pole holders that can support the grill on a specially designed BBQ grill holder.  Now is the time to see if it all comes together.

Hole saw in hand and off he goes.  A couple Killdeer birds don’t like us here.  Squawking for hours as Scott works on the back deck.  We don’t mind at all but think it is rather comical. Springbrook Marina is a working marina.  It has the ability to lift larger boats and has many options for breakdowns or maintenance.  The docks are about 40 ft or so with lots of options for smaller vessels with 30 and 50 amp power.  Their lift is a 50 ton lift.  Fuel, both diesel and gas are available on the Illinois River for ease of access.  There is a restaurant here with bar style fare.  A few lender cars are also at the ready for anyone needing to head into town to visit grocery, Walmart, Laundry, or whatever provisions you need.  Kind and friendly staff as well.  The entrance looks narrow but it is about 12 feet throughout the marina.  The slips are approx. 8 ft depth so backing in is a great option.  Scott ventured around the property and saw Kate, our broker extrordinaire, who found and sold us our dream. We had several brokers working with us but Kate continued to stay in touch when we were searching for a boat. She came upon our gem and contacted Scott immediately. The rest is history. We can’t thank Kate, Kyle, the Team at Springbrook Marina for making our dream possible.

Scott installs the fishing rod holders/BBQ grill holder in style and fashion finishing up around noon.  The winds have picked up as well.  Captain Karl shows up on a delivery so we will chat with him before the day turns nasty then it will be indoor chores.  The flies have also returned.  When we left home we were happy to say goodbye to them.  Now they are back since the temps are favourable.  Egrets and Swans are migrating too.  We see them in droves in the shallows of the Illinois River.  The pics do not do it justice.

Rain for short duration of time but it came down in buckets.  The wifi is great here so we updated our software, cleaned the boat, changed out the keyboard we ordered for the laptop and had delivered to Springbrook.  Scott was able to save the laptop by replacing the keyboard that must have been soaked.  Thank goodness we don’t have to buy a new laptop.  We will be having pickerel, or walleye, for dinner from the fish monger we bought from in Kauwanee, WI.  That Killdeer is still squawking too.  At this point it will be hoarse at some point, we hope. 

Oct 122021

Joliet, IL, city wall – Seneca, IL Springbrook Marina – Oct 12, 2021

With all the hype of issues staying on the Joliet wall we had none of it.  We had 30 amp power which is tucked into the green crisscross doors on the cement pillars.  No water available from what we did see.  The setting is very nice with tree lined park area.  There is a parking lot and what looks to be a city type building.  We had tornado warnings for a couple hours where the wind did pick up and a calling for 20 mm of rain in that 2 hour period.  However, none of that happened.  It just drizzled and rained on and off til around midnight. 

We called up the Brandan Lock Lockmaster and asked when he would like us to come through.  He said right away so we headed out around 8:00.  No waiting at this lock as it was ready for us.  Again this lock has a bollard that you loop your line around and it goes down with the water level.  Scott stays at the helm while I mid cleat our line and remain on watch.  Easiest way to do locks.  Thank you Army Corp of Engineers for making this passage so easy.

The Illinois River is a meandering river with a lot of history.  The river was important among Native Americans and early French traders as the principal water route connecting the Great Lakes with the Mississippi. The French colonial settlements along these rivers formed the heart of the area known as the Illinois Country in the 17th and 18th centuries. After the construction of the Illinois and Michigan Canal and theHennepin Canal in the 19th century, the role of the river as link between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi was extended into the era of modern industrial shipping. The Illinois now forms the basis for the Illinois Waterway (Wikipedia)

The Illinois River is a principal tributary of the Mississippi River and is approximately 273 miles (439 km) long. Located in the State of Illinois the river drains a large section of central Illinois, with a drainage basin of 28,756.6 square miles (74,479 km2).  The drainage basin extends into Wisconsin, Indiana and a very small area of southwestern Michigan.  (Wikipedia)

We notice that the colours of fall have not reached this area.  Trees are green with very little hint of the autumn blooms yet to come.  The winds are picking up as the day warms so the river has become choppy.  We have another lock to head through today before we call it an early day at Springbrook Marina in Seneca, IL.  The home of Heliopause on her delivery to the US from France. 

We did have to wait about 20 minutes for the lock to fill as it was in the empty stage. The lock at Dresden Lock is again a bollard.  Easy pass through on our last leg to Springbrook.  From here it is about an hour to our destination where we will stay a few days to get some work done that we have been putting off.  We know they will have parts if we need any as this is a Prestige Dealership.  As we pull in those pesky winds have picked up so Scott used his Captain skills and nestled her in with no issues.  It’s only 2:30. 

Scott starts on the set up for the work he wants to do.  I tidy up and catch up on the blog.  Homemade pizza for dinner is prepped.