Start: Joliet, IL FREE Wall
End: Anchorage vic mile 258.6, unnamed island.
Total Distance: 23.9
Time: 4:45, but doesn’t include 45 minutes of waiting for first lock
Average Speed: 5.0 kts
Number of locks: 2
The PLAN was to get up at 0530 and be heading down river by 0615. First lock at 0630 and a long (40 mile) day to Ottawa, IL. Reality was wakey wakey at 0530, dog walked, boat ready to go. A call to the lock provided the news that there was a double wide barge heading for the lock and it would be a couple of hours before we could lock through. Awesome. Seems that there is a huge barge coming up river and they will take awhile. But we are awake! So coffee. Breakfast. Walk around and talk to other loopers. Let Lucky off the boat to chase squirrels.
At 0845 boats started pushing off our free wall and heading the short mile down river to the lock. We were last and from our perspective it looked like a toddlers soccer game. The lock master told the first boat in line that she could sit safety to the right of the lock and soon eight boats were heading towards the lock like toddlers blobbing around the soccer ball. Except that one kid that is aimlessly walking around staring at butterflies. That was us. We were out slow, we dodged a bunch of barges and by the time we got to the lock we were cut off from the rest of the group. No issue–we just waited until the barges cleared out of the lock and swung wide and came in the lock at the end of the line. I have so much respect for the professionals that run the locks and the tug drivers. Not only do they have to manage huge, complex loads, but they have to deal with all the pleasure craft running around the river.
The lock had a hug tug on the port side and all the rest of us got to share the starboard half of the can. We were able to do this by rafting up. One boat was on the wall holding onto a floating bollard, and the rest of us would tie off to that boat. Three wide. And down we went. When we got to the bottom, the tug let us all out and we discovered the joy of the tug prop wash. The tug had prop was that was blowing directly into our path as we exited the lock and this was no joke. It blew us over towards the wall; we gunned the engines, turned the wheel and then had to stop from ramming the back end of the tug when we exited the wash. It was AWESOME!
Now it is 1100 and we expected to be out of the lock at 0700. So our planned day is now shot. While we putter to the next lock, Jan and AJ knock out school and I find an anchorage. Next lock goes smoothly–we arrive just as the fast boats are entering the lock and we go down quickly. Then two hours to our anchorage for the night.
Anchoring in a river that has huge barges running up and down 24/7 is interesting. We have a great guide (Skipper Bob’s) that showed a couple places tucked in behind small islands. Which we are at right now. We got in at 3:30, but it felt like a much longer day considering we got up at 5am. We had to figure out how to set a stern anchor, which prevents us from swinging out of our narrow anchorage into, say, a rocky island. Not much of a problem, but something new. Tonight, game night. Tomorrow? Sleep in and another short day with only one lock.
One note on the last two days. As mentioned, we were with more loopers than we have seen since we have started the trip. Last night we had docktails at 5pm and got to meet everyone from the boats. This morning we were all walking up and down the dock sharing information about the lock status and the weather. Then as we moved into the lock, talked through who was rafting with whom. And as we moved to the second lock, when our radio wouldn’t receive the call back from the lock, CWay relayed the information. And when we stopped for the night, we got a call from Edward who wanted us to know that we could make the third lock; they would wait. We didn’t take them up on the offer, but it was a really nice gesture. This trip continues to restore our faith in humanity…