9/23/17

One river done. 327.4 miles in 11 days. Average of just about 30 miles/day. Anchored out or sat at a wall for 6 of 10 nights. And were out of internet coverage for two days AND WHY IS THERE SOMEPLACE IN AMERICA THAT DOESN’T YET HAVE CELLULAR DATA COVERAGE?!?!? Seven Locks. One thousand flying carp. Average temp for first 5 days was 75 degrees and for last 5 days was 95 degrees. We did over 250 miles without refueling (and had 15 gallons left over). And we end up in Grafton, IL. Oh good Lord. Grafton.

Let us start with Grafton. Where we arrived at just before noon. What day was it? We had no idea, but we realized very quickly that it was a weekend day. Saturday to be precise. And it was a 90 degree Saturday on a weekend with the weather in the 90s in September in the midwest. All the ingredients for a ton of people to be on the water and in their boats. Add a car show in downtown Grafton, about 50 bachelor and bacherloette parties and about 462 pontoon boats and you have the making for a crap catastrophe. At which we had a front row seat.

Perhaps this was so jarring for us because we have for the past ten days been basically with each other and maybe 5 other boats. At anchorages or small quiet towns. So when we finished off the Illinois river and got to the start of the Mississippi and made our left turn into the marina, we saw there were a ton of boats already in the marina and a ton waiting to get in. One presumes to make use of the bar.

We waited for an opening and made our run to the fuel dock where we filled up (35 gallons for 250 miles–we now know we can make it down the rivers where there is the long distance between fuel stops), pumped out and puttered over to our T head on the B dock. Our home for one night. Our back end looked out at the entrance to the marina. And oh lord it was fantastic. Water craft mixed with heat and alcohol made for an interesting afternoon. We had a pontoon pull in behind us, bottles all over the deck. Crew departs, return an hour later, get back aboard, each has a shot and they are back out on the water! OPA! Two boaters almost come to blows at the fuel dock when one cut the other off. A small trawler almost runs his front end into our dinghy when the crew fails to deploy lines to secure said boat to dock. Jan ran out and got them stopped and heard the captain say “WOOOO!  Not sure how we even made it here!”

We walked to the downtown area and it was bar after bar overlooking the water, each with a band cranking out oldies rock our country music, and packed to the gills with people. It was crowded. Loud. And while it looks like everyone is having fun, we are glad we are here for only a night.

To the pool to relax, we shower and head out for pizza at an overcrowded restaurant. Then a night of sleep for the 12 mile run down to Alton, IL where we will sit for six days.

We slalom through the Army Corps of Engineers and we go stir crazy (9/22/17)

There is a study that shows that crime spikes during a heat wave 1. People go crazy with the heat and lost their mind. We have a good idea why that is so.

Start: Tied to a barge at Logsdon Tug Service, Beardstown, IL, 0615
End: Anchorage behind Hurricane Island, Dark Chute, mm 25. 1609
Total Distance: 55.6 hot, humid, windy, hard nms
Time: 9:45
Average Speed: 5.7 kts
Number of locks: 1
Number of dredging operations: 1. Puttered right through it!

Our big question of the day was would we get through the section of the river that was closed. When last we looked, the plan from the Army Corps of Engineers was to get a dredge on site by Saturday, but they were running early and had adjusted the schedule to have the dredge on site by today. Friday. The day we wanted to get through. Last night I called the LaGrange lock master, the lock being four miles upriver of the closed section, and asked the best time to lock through. Anytime was his reply. They aren’t busy. BUT, he told me, the dredge was already on site and he didn’t know if we could make it past their operations. GOOD ENOUGH FOR US!

So 0500 revile went off and we were up. Of course, it was dark as snot, but dammit, we were ready to move by 0545. There were five other boats at Logdon’s Tug Palace by the end of the night last night and ALL of us were up. We waiting until we got enough light to see our hands in front of our face and then four of us left at 0615 (and the other two took off soon after) and by 0745 we were all at the lock. Nine whole feet down, the door open and we are off. Two miles later we are confronted by the dredge, two other tows with barges along with three boats installing markers for channels. Then another two tows, one with a barge of pipes and one with barges to catch the mud (one assumes). It was a slalom course. Dredge to starboard, other two to port, then back to starboard for remaining two tows. I’m sure that six PCs roaming through a work zone was NOT was the Army Corps of Engineers was looking for on their first morning of work, but we all made it through.

So by 0830 our stress was done. Our plot for the day had reached its climax and there was nowhere to go but down. We had 88 miles from Beardstown to get to Grafton, the intersection of the Illinois River Big Muddy and the Mississippi River. We decided to knock out almost 60 miles today, leaving only 20ish miles to a marina and its associated goodies (i.e. shower, laundry, internet, etc.). Bottom line was we had another 7+ hours of motoring to do. Six of those hours were in flat, flat, flat Central Illinois. And it was hot. And we had a 15 mph headwind, which was a double whammy–it slowed forward progress and blew hot humid air into our face. And we were out of internet coverage. Pretty sure if you look in the book of Revelations, this is a description of Hell2 So we slogged on. AJ did his school work. Jan and I traded off moving the boat. We flopped around. Tried to stay cool. And went slowly, but surely, mad.

Fast forward through a bunch of trees and bridges and we reach our anchorage. It is behind Hurricane Island (apt name this year) in the Dark Chute. A Chute is a canal off the main river and it had lots of depth. We saw two boats, one fishing boat and one pontoon. The pontoon dudes pulled up and talked for awhile proving you can meet people even when sitting out at anchorage.

Rest of the night was normal. Lucky to shore for doggie doody. Swimming for AJ and I with encouragement from Lucky (by barking, natch). Generator. AC. Stress done.

# Hanging out with the barges: Beardstown IL (9/21/17)

Start: Anchorage south of Quiver Island, Havana, IL, 0645
End: Tied to a barge at Logsdon Tug Service, Beardstown, IL, 1149
Total Distance: 30.1 nm
Time: 5:04
Average Speed: 5.9 kts
Number of locks: 0

The day was all about where we stayed. Our journey from Quiver Island to Beardstown was not exciting. Up early. Dodge Ellis Island who moved later (but would pass us, naturally). Drive down the river. Our planned stop was in Beardstown, IL at a barge on the side of the river at Logsdon Tug Service. We had seen pictures, but didn’t know what to expect. At 0800 I called Logsdon and asked where they are located. “Between the two bridges. Where should we tie up? “At the barge” was the answer. Okee Dokee.

We arrived just after 1130. There were indeed two bridges and between the two bridges were indeed three barges tied to the shore. I called Logsdon again and asked where specifically we should tie off and got an answer I could understand (now that I was looking at the barges). There was a grain barge in the middle and the nice lady said at the grain barge or else at either one. There was a tow coming up river and we decided to go down behind her and come back up. And good thing we did. She docked at Logsdon Tug service where we were planning on docking. And would have crushed us. We ended up on the back barge with a great view of the grain barge. And we had to figure out had to get off the barges to land. AJ made a good movie to show how we got back down.

Beardstown was good. President Lincoln was a lawyer here back in the (really old) day and they had a great little museum with information from that time. We hit the grocery store, got some mexican food and then went back to the boat to fire up the generator, turn on the A/C and escape the heat. When we arrived, we were the only boat, but by 8pm there were six total boats tied to the barges. This has been quite the experience…

1Or there isn’t. I felt like there was one when I typed this.

2My relationship with the Bible is tenuous, at best. But it FELT Hellish today.