We forgot something! We’re back on the rivers! So our 8am departure turned into a 9:30 departure because of fog. Then we had lots of no wakes, scads of barges, tons of Sunday pleasure cruisers on this beautiful day, and 3 locks to get to our destination, Ottawa! We arrived at 4:30pm instead of 1:30 but we did have a welcoming committee when we got here! Capt Mo (Dockmaster & AGLCA Harbor Host) and local boater Bill, were on the dock with Miller Lite in hand! As we pulled into the marina, we also got our 1st look at the Asian Carp. They are huge and jump high out of the water when they hear the engine noise! Looks like we could find some useful purpose for those bad boys! Too bad they don’t taste good with hush puppies & slaw! Been looking forward to this stop because it is homeport to Bob & Deb on “Headquarters”! They are in the Chesapeake still…..but they sent family over to visit! Deb’s sister Annie is a hoot (just like Deb) & Les, her sweet husband is great! They brought friends Donna & Darrell Thompson, also great fun. A good time was had by all. Thanks Deb & BK for making us feel like family here!
Heritage Harbor is more than a marina & AGLCA sponsor. They are a first class residential waterfront development with many amenities. They are bending over backwards making it a great stop for Loopers. They have multiple courtesy cars
& offered them freely for our use. We spent half the day seeing the Ottawa sights & doing our errands. Dinner tonight with the gang! Deb, you have an awesome family here in Ottawa & we enjoyed being with a lot of them tonight at Bianchi’s!
We leave Heritage Harbor just before 9 & see our 2 Canadian Looper sailboat friends leaving the town docks at Ottawa! The traffic on the river was much calmer than on Sunday when everyone was out enjoying a nice summer day (finally). It has actually been hotter the last week than it has been all summer. We did 35 miles & 1 lock today. I continue to hope for lockmasters & tow Captains who speak slowly and clearly. I think our chances are getting better as we move slowly south. We arrive at Henry Harbor around 2. We are tied to an old lock wall here but we do have power. The town of Henry covers about 2 square blocks & we enjoyed getting out & walking it. Cooking Blue Burgers (burgers with blue cheese in them) on the grill tonight. Potato salad & deviled eggs! YUM! IVY Club tomorrow!
There’s a chill back in the air & we had to sweep leaves off our deck this morning. Time to head further south. We only did 35 miles today & will take a day off tomorrow in prep for 2 hard 80+ mile days Fri & Sat. There are literally no marinas to stop at along this stretch of the Illinois River so we will stay in an anchorage on Fri night. Today, Peoria & the IVY Club (Illinois Valley Yacht Club). We mushed through some pretty skinny water coming in & are not looking forward to our exit, but it is a lovely place. Ever heard the old saying “Will it play in Peoria!”? Well they are known to be a tough audience but tomorrow, we plan to play in Peoria! Will report on how it goes. Tonight Terry & Jeanie (Deb’s sis & bro in law) are coming for cocktails & we are going out to dinner. Deb’s family has done a great job of entertaining us on this leg of the trip!Thanks guys! It’s been awesome! Yall come see us in Alabama now, ya hear?
Another gorgeous day to enjoy! We helped shove Loopers “Adagio” off the fuel docks this morning & watched as they navigated through the skinny channel. They seemed to make it without incident so we will leave as planned in the morning. The big barges passing all day push silt into the channels & the combination of that and no rain making the pool level low have presented problems for the bigger boats. Tim, who works here at the IVY, loaned us his car so we perused Peoria today as promised. We enjoyed riding around the oldest settlement in IL that was originally explored by Frenchmen Joliet & Marquette in 1673! Some of it’s famous sons are Dan Fogelburg, Curly Johnson (Globetrotter), & Richard Pryor.
From the start of the Illinois River, we have 500 miles of current flowing in our favor, going South! Currents are an average 1 knot in the Illinois & 4 knots in the Mississippi! We have traveled 5750 miles, cruising 721 hours and stopping in 135 different ports. We have done 95 locks & spent 8 nights at anchor. We did 80 miles & 1 lock today & there is not a marina anywhere to be found. The pool level is so low here that most anchorages showing 5-6 ft depths (at full pool) are not a good risk for our 4 ft draft. So here we are in Beardstown, IL tied up to work barges & glad to be here! No power, no water, no cable, no wifi, and no discount from the regular marina fees!! Like we said, we are still really glad to be here!
Up at 5:30 for another early start, but alas, fogged in. Eased out at 7 & locked through the 7th (& last) lock on the Illinois River. On the other side of the lock, fog again! Slowed us down a little but we completed the 85 mile last leg of the Illinois by 3pm when we pulled into Grafton. The scenery was prettier & we saw 2 bald eagles today. Less barge traffic but it was Sat so there were more fishing boats & pleasure craft to slow down for. Grafton has a nice waterfront street with lots of shops, restaurants & pubs. Tonight was their annual “Fall Pub Crawl” so there were many people out, some in costumes, live music everywhere & they used their school buses to give free rides from one end of town to the other. “Adagio” is here & we are discussing possibility of running the Mississippi River together. Tomorrow we are both taking the day off!
The rain started at 5am and it poured for 6 hours! Suited us just fine as we slept in, had a lazy morning and hoped pool levels were rising! When it stopped we walked up & down this little town. This is where the Illinois River joins the Mississippi River. In 1993 Grafton suffered a terrible flood & the population dropped by half to 649 residents. Stone quarries, fishing & boat building had been their biggest industries but now a water park, the marina & the riverfront street businesses contribute to tourism that sustains the current economy. Loopers “Higher Ground” & “Joanne Marie” have joined us here & most of us will probably move 20 miles down to Alton tomorrow. Easy day. New challenges. The Mississippi River is not always a gracious host for boaters. We will all work together to get through 250 miles without marinas, and listen closely to Fern from Hoppies (more about Fern later), to figure out the smartest plan for the next part of our trip. But for tonight, let’s just all get together for a drink at the “Rotten Apple”.
Easy run 16 miles down to Alton Marina. St Louis doesn’t have any marinas (river to narrow & swift there) so this is as close (20mi) as we can get for overnighting. We are still in IL but Missouri is just across the river. We have decided not to stay over & rent a car to get into St Louis because we spent 5 days there just a few years ago. We will pass by it tomorrow & take pictures of the arch as we pass (if weather permits, we have a storm front headed our way). Alton is a nice town but also a busy port. 30 percent of the world’s grain passes through this area. There is history here along the Mississippi! We walked several miles through the downtown & ended up at a place everyone said we should not miss, Fast Eddie’s! It is unique, but did remind us of an Alabama phenomenon, The Flora-Bama! “You don’t have to build it, they will still come!” Not trying to be all things to all people, somehow-IT IS!!!! Smart owners providing what the public wants & doing it well! We are enjoying this area!
We left Alton this morning around 8:30 with only 40 miles to go, but we did have 2 busy locks to get through. Five pleasure craft caravanned down the river, passing St Louis about halfway down. Another great Kodak moment getting shots of the Magnificent Arch as we pass. Several years ago we stayed in a hotel looking right through the Arch & watched a raging Mississippi roll by carrying trees, large appliances & small foreign cars. (I’m only kidding about the cars!) So we were delighted to see a much calmer river for our trip today, however we did see one refrigerator, we think it was a Kelvinator. Our destination was “Hoppies”, last Oasis before 270 miles of no services & few places to anchor, famous to boaters on the Mississippi! Fern (the “expert” on this river) had a Captain’s meeting at 4:30 and she had all the current data on the southern rivers including the hazards and closings due to the floods in the south. We have been scraping bottom up here in the north & suddenly we are pondering consequences of flooding in the south.
Life is full of little challenges. Loopers cocktail party on board Salvage Crew & then Fern loaned us her SUV to go in to town for a nice Italian Dinner with Terry & Sue (Final Decision). If we are sporadic in posting for the next 3 days, it is because we are anchored out, easing our way down to Green Turtle Marina. We expect to be there by Saturday.
No need for an early start today, we will only accomplish 42 miles of our 270 mile trek thru the wilds. Wanted to put more miles behind us, but our choices were 42 mi or 120 to the next possible “stayover” place. So we pull into the Kaskaskia River where the nice Lockmasters will let us tie up to the non-working side of their lock wall. We can walk along the wall, but we can’t leave the wall without climbing a 100 foot ladder & that is forbidden! So here we are for half a day, reading, cooking, napping, not our most exciting day, but good! Our buddy boats, Adagio (Dave&Pam) & R&J’s Get-A-Way (Rob & Judy)are here with us and we made ourselves at home. Moved a grill, table & chairs onto the lock wall, cranked up the Jazz music & had a lovely dinner. Boats passing thru the lock were quite amused. The closest town is Chester, IL (17 mi) & I really wish we could have caught a ride in. It’s the birthplace of Popeye the Sailor & there is a larger than life (6 ft-900lb) bronze statue in Elzie Segar Park (his creator). Now that would have been something to see!!!! 80+mi day tomorrow! Good Night!