Start: Heritage Harbor Marina, Ottawa, IL , 0653
End: Anchorage vic. South Henry Island, mm 193, 14:49
Total Distance: 43.4 nm
Average Speed: 5.5 kts
Number of locks: 1
On Sunday morning, we decided to stay one more day (until Tuesday) because there were thunderstorms forecasted on Monday morning. But by Sunday night, the forecast had changed and so early Monday morning, we pushed off and headed downriver from Heritage Harbor. It was a great stay, but time to move along. We did a quick look at the lock queue website and our next lock was empty! So perfect time to leave! And we weren’t the only ones with the idea; 20 minutes after we left, we saw five other looper boats on our tail and within an hour, they had passed us by. But not for long. We had our one lock for the day in front of us, and we met up with them at 0820 at the lock. Our experience of a five plus hour wait was a thing of a past–we puttered right into the lock, the door closed and down we went.
Out the lock and the five fast movers were gone. We were making very good time for our boat. The water is wicked low right now, but there is still a .5(ish) knot current pushing us down river, which translates to a 6 knot(ish) moving speed for us. Heady stuff! But those big boats were going much faster and soon we had the water to our selves. And it was a gorgeous day. A little wind, lots of sun and very little traffic. Our Automatic Identification System (AIS) was showing us that there was very little moving barge traffic. 1
The only thing that was on the water was a tow with 7 barges ahead of us a couple of miles. And in a couple of hours, we caught her. The barges were heading into an S curve, so we tucked in behind the big movers and bobbed in their wake until we hit a loooooong straightaway. Then we called the captain, got permission to pass on the “one…follow the black markers” and we gunned our engines. And sloooowwwlllly passseeedddd the barges. We made it, but we had to throw AJ and Lucky off the back of the boat to kick their legs to get us to go faster.
A couple of days ago, as we were getting close to Joliet, someone (whose name shall remain anonymous) commented “No wonder everyone from Illinois goes to Wisconsin for vacation.” Referring to the quality of nature and water we could see from our little patch of freedom on the boat. Which was not, in a word, great. While we still have lots of barges parked on the side of the river, industrial plants and grain elevators that feed said barges, the river is more nature that it is industry. And it is gorgeous. And we are taking back our words. We passed by some great bluffs vicinity of Starved Rock Park; the hills/bluffs are covered with trees, some of which are starting to get color; and the water no longer has the sheen of petroleum products–we can swim again!
Our final destination was an anchorage behind South Henry Island. We got a text from another boat who tried to anchor here last night (Sunday) but got stuck in four feet of water. We figured we draw three; we will give it a go!!! So we pulled up Active Captain, looked at the way to get into the anchorage, and followed the directions. We saw 5 feet of water when I cut the corner at the island too closely, but it dropped to 15 feet which we followed behind the island. We dropped the hook in 8 feet of water and are set in our little hideaway. On our way in, we were greeted by the suicidal Asian Carp. They must have been excited by our engines–they were jumping as we came into the anchorage. There was a huge group throwing themselves out of the water when we came in the mouth and we had a couple throw themselves into the side of our boat. It sounds like someone is hitting our boat with a baseball bat.
AJ, Lucky and I deployed the blow up raft and tried (unsuccessfully) to find a couple feet of shoreline that didn’t have two feet of mud. We explored the island, tried to dig up some worms for fishing and then headed back to the boat. Where Jan met us and made us clean up before we got back on the boat because we all were filthy. Good news about anchorage in the river is you are off channel and it is peaceful. Bad news? Everything, and I mean everything is muddy. Which causes a severe allergic reaction in Jan. AJ and I decided to clean off by swimming, so threw ourselves into the river.2
Once out, we relaxed and got a text from AGLCA. It looks like the Illinois river is closed between mm 77 and 78 due to shallow water; boats are getting stuck! So we have to adjust our plan and see if we can find a marina to sit for a day. Or two. Or three. With no significan amount of rain in the weather forecast, will be interesting to see what the Army Corps of Engineers will do to fix the problem. In the meantime, barges are lined up in the queue to get past the lock immediately up river from that spot to pass on down to St. Louis. Oh yeah–and a bunch of looper boats as well!
1 It is my uneducated option that AIS is worth the money to get installed before you head on down the river. We have had three occasions in five days when tugs call us (because they can see us) to tell us where they want to go to get around them. And when we head down the river and see tugs and barges on the side, we can see if they are moving towards us. It is a huge stress reducer. Plus it is like a video game, and who doesn’t like video games!!
2The Illinois river is definitely a river. It has water, it flows into another river. Up by Chicago, it has water (of course), but also other things that come from the big city. None of which are nice. But where we are, according to the locals, the water is clean. Not clear, mind you, but clean. Because there is a ton of silt in this water. Soil. Loam. Whatever. Still feels good on a hot day, but a heck of a lot different than the Georgian Bay.