Start: Unnamed Island, Mile 258.6. 1101
End: Heritage Harbor Marina, Ottawa, IL 1934
Total Distance: 14.7 nm
Average Speed: 4.3 kts1
Number of locks: 1. Very. Long. Lock.
Today was a short day. 13 miles, more or less, from our anchorage to the marina in which we are going to spend the evening. Three hours, max. Tops! This will be easy! We will be in Heritage Marina in Ottawa, IL by noon! Except there is a lock between the anchorage and the marina. The Marseilles lock. We should have known that there was going to be an issue: Marseilles is french for congestion 2.
We slept in this morning and enjoyed our first night at anchorage in a long time. It was quiet with the sounds of the crickets and frogs putting us to sleep and the sound of the birds waking us up. I called the lock at 8am and was told that they were super backed up; call back in two hours. What I SHOULD HAVE DONE was gone ahead and pulled up the anchor and started to make our way to the lock. What we did, was hang out for two hours and when I called him back at 10:30am (after two hours), he told me they were still jammed, but if I got there in an hour, he could squeeze us in. Otherwise it would be a couple more hours before he could get us in.
It is 10ish miles to the lock. We go 6 mph MAX. There was no way in hell, short of time travel, for us to get there in time. But we are nothing if not optimistic, so we executed a ‘fire drill’ of getting everything on the boat and out of our anchorage, took off for the lock and made it there 20 minutes after they had locked through the load of pleasure craft. So it is now 1pm. And we have a choice. Hang out and wait for couple of hours, or head back to our anchorage (couple hours) to try again in the morning.
We decide to hang. There is a area about one mile up from the lock that widens out that looks like a possible place to anchor and there is a powerboat already there. So we move up there, pull out of the channel and watch the depth gauge go from 9 feet to 3 feet to 1 foot in about one boat length. Rapid backing of the boat ensues and we move a bit farther up and try again. And repeat until we get anchored JUST outside the channel; water is shallow but good for our boat. And we wait. AJ and Jan do homework. Lucky and Sid sleep. I watch the chart plotter and see the tugs NOT moving. What we are waiting for is a load of 15 barges that needs to be taken apart, put into the lock, sent down in two (or more) loads, reassembled at the bottom and then sent on their way. Plus there are two more sets of barges waiting to go down. And two sets coming up. And we (pleasure craft) are last priority. While we wait, we are joined by three other looper boats who also need to lock through. Barges pass by (very closely). The day gets hotter. And we wait.
The couple of hours turns out to be five hours. And in the lock masters defense, he was working the entire time getting barge traffic through. At just after six pm, we got the call to get to the lock and they would send us down. Another fire drill of firing up engines, ripping up the anchor and heading to the lock. And at 6:30pm we begin our downward descent in the lock. The sunset is gorgeous from the top of the lock. But it is a problem because the sun is definitely setting and we have a 15-20 minute ride to the marina. And our boat, while equipped with navigation lights (red port/green starboard lights and stern light), it is NOT equipped with ‘head lights.’ Jan and AJ move to the front with their cell phones to shine light on the water.3
Lock opens into the dusk and the four boats head out in a stately procession. Immediately outside the lock is a tow on the port side, so we squeeze to the starboard side. So much so that I get on the wrong side of a channel marker which was extremely hard to see in the dimming light. I can safely report that the depth outside the channel drops quickly to three feet. We made the 15 minute ride to the marina with no major issues other than a mysterious THUMP when we turned into the marina. We were in plenty of depth, so either we struck a log, or a fish jumped into our boat. . Our home for the next couple of days is Heritage Harbor Marina. We talked to the dock master as we exited the lock and he provided our slip assignment which none of the three of us wrote down. And promptly forgot. But we knew we were on the A Dock. So we puttered over to the dock and there were eight dock hands waiting for the four boats coming in for the night–a good sign for a well run marina. We backed into our slip, got tied up and went immediately to the restaurant on site to get some dinner. No shower. But we were tired, worn out and hungry so dinner then to bed.
Our original plan was to stay only one night, but because we got in late and because we were tired, we decided to stay two nights. And perhaps three.
Saturday morning we (Lucky and me) awoke and went for a run on a local trail. We got back and laid out the plans for the day.
1. Find a vet for Sid the wonder cat and then a car to get us to the vet. Over the past week Sid has been pulling the hair out of his left side and it looks like Freddy Krueger got a hold of him. Ugly. We found a vet and I took him in while Jan and AJ did laundry. The vet was excellent and checked out sid, but couldn’t find anything wrong. Which is good. Except Sid had to spend hours in his cage while we finished our errands. He was #nothappy.
3. Provision food for next couple of days. Which AJ and I knocked out while Jan baby sat laundry. And we scored some DQ.
4. 1600 brief with the harbor master about the trip from Ottawa, IL (Our current location) to St. Louis. It was excellent and provided a great overview of the river, depth, anchorages and marinas on the trip.
5. Dinner with the loopers. Two long tables filled with a ton of people doing this loop thing. Pretty amazing.
And our plan to leave on Sunday was thrown out late Saturday night. We needed another day to recover. So we spent the day cleaning the boat, biking to get other critical provisions that we forgot (i.e. wine), AJ did homework and watching crappy Bears football on the TV. Looks like tomorrow (Monday) is our day to head out.
1 Astute readers will note that distance divided by time does note equal 4+ kts. I just counted moving time because we were at anchor and the motors were off. Sue me.
2 It isn’t. It is a port city in Southern France. And the name of a really slow lock in the United States.
3 They didn’t. ‘Cause that would be fruitless and crazy.