Day 147 ... Thurs, Sept 14, 2017 ... 34.5 miles, 6 hours with 1.5 hour wait at Starved Rock Lock
Heritage Harbor, Ottawa, Il to Hennepin, Il.
Time Out and Lab Partners headed out together. We caught up to Bob on Dreamboat Annie at Starved Rock lock. We rafted to him and Time Out rafted to us to wait our turn to lock down. Gettin’ Looped caught up to us and tied to the other side of the big concrete bollard. After the Sam Fleming tug/tow finished locking then reconnecting all his barges ... the lock filled back up. Now our turn. HQ, a 81' motor yacht, went in first, then the four smaller "PC's" (Pleasure Crafts) went in the lock. Lines were handed down to us, 2 per boat. 18' lower we all exited and headed south.
While tied to Bob, I noticed our state of charge was low on our batteries when it should have been near 100%. Rip quickly turned on the generator and turned on a battery charger to start charging back up, then quick trouble shooting in the hot engine room. Appears the alternator cable(s) were a touch loose so the engine wasn't charging the batteries. The use of the bow thruster to pull along side and tie up to wait at the lock pulled the battery power down. Back under way and the engine is charging the batteries again, like normal. We will keep an eye on it, but believe all is well.
We were the first to stop, after 27 miles, at Hennepin. We tied up to the town free wall, which is actually an old barge now built into the side of land as a wall. It was filled with dirt and now has grass on top. There is a restaurant at the top of the hill, plus other amenities like a grocery store. We don't need anything, so we didn't venture out.
There is a dock for several small boats. Not big enough or sturdy enough for us. It appears the cleats in the small boat dock are lag bolted and not thru bolted.
All in all should be good ... except ... there is a guard rail and Cally doesn't fit over or under it. We tired and actually got her thru but she wasn't happy. So, onto plan B. We put the dinghy in the water and just push it over to the small boat dock. Cally jumps onto the dock and we walk up the ramp to the top where there is grass for her. Don't even have to start the engine! Ha.
No one else is here … guess I know why. Not much here BUT, it is free.
Further down the way tomorrow to Peoria, Il.
Day 148 ... Fri, Sept 15, 2017 ... 43.7 miles, 5 hours
Hennepin Town Barge Wall, Hennepin, IL to Peoria Boat Club, Peoria, IL
We woke up with lower water than when we went to sleep. As it turns out, we were now in only 4' of water and we need 4'. I heard a few pebbles as we pulled out. Not a problem, luckily the water didn't go any lower.
Very little traffic. We only passed one tow and saw one other ahead of us. We caught up to Bob on Dreamboat Annie. He was aground in his overnight anchorage with the lower water this morning. He had to clean out his strainers before getting under way. We followed Bob all the way to our next stop, Peoria Boat Club in Peoria, IL. Bob kept moving south. Time Out hailed us as we passed where they stopped for the day at IVY, the Illinois Valley Yacht Club. We might catch up with them tomorrow or later down the way.
Today was the first sighting of flying Asian Carp. Saw several jumping out of the water behind Bob's boat and behind ours. Seems the engine noise or vibration excites them to jump wildly into the air, often times landing in boats, hitting people, etc. None were crazy today ... well, until we pulled into the slip. They jumped up on the boat. The dock hands, club members, knocked them back into the water. No time for video when you are docking, so you will have to wait for the flying carp video until further down stream where they are more prolific.
Lots of communication with Firestorm, looks like we will be buddy boating again once we all get to Grafton, around the 20th, this coming Wednesday.
Day 149 ... Sat, Sept 16, 2017 ... 44.2 miles, 6 hours
Peoria Boat Club, Peoria, IL to Havana, IL anchorage
Surprisingly, the fish didn't jump when we left the dock this am. Yay! Only one lock today. We arrive as a tour boat and several other Loopers had just finished locking down. We wait about a half hour or more for our turn. We were the only boat in the lock with a nominal drop of only 9-11'. The lock master told us to just float in the middle. We didn't have to tie up the the dirty lock wall. Another yay!
The rest of the run today was quiet with little traffic north or south bound. It did get hot today. 91 degrees hot.
Things went haywire once we tried to stop for the day. Our first choice was Tall Timbers Marina. With the low water, near record low we are told, the marina said there was a silt hump to cross that was only 3.5'. We need 4'. However, plenty of water when you get past this one hump. Marina guy assured us folks her past it. So, Rip tried to idle us across hoping the silt would move. Nope. The hump stopped us. Rip reversed and maneuvered us off. Choice number two was the free dock at the town of Havana, right beside the entrance to Tall Timbers. Nope. The dock is sitting on mud ... not floating. Choice number three is an anchorage on the other side of the marina behind an island. There are three of us here tonight by the coal dock. Coal dock is operational, but not working tonight. We hear boats are a mess if they anchor here when coal is being loaded. It is a quiet spot and the tows will be on the other side of the island, so we shouldn't have much wake action tonight.
Shore dooty for Cally was an adventure. We tried to find her a stable, firm shoreline to do her business. With the low water, comes shoreline that is usually under water and soft. Rip stepped off the dinghy to pull it onto shore and sunk to his knees. Not good for Miss Cally and her ankle issues. Sinking in mud and trying to lift her feet out will really cause her a lot of discomfort. Plan B, the nice marina we couldn't get into ... surely they will let us take Cally ashore there.
They probably would have, but were closed and there is a gate at the top of a steep ramp to get to land. An Asian Carp jumps up and flys into the dinghy. Gross. Rip picks it up and tosses it back over board before Cally gets too interested in it. No camera on board, sorry. Plan C, the town dock ... the first one, the one sitting on mud, is too tall to get Cally onto from the dinghy. Plan D, we head to the town boat ramp!! Rip holds the dinghy to the side ramp dock which is low enough for Cally to get onto. Cally and I walk around a parking lot and decent grassy area. There is a park, but some sort of group is there. Too much going on and I don't want to disturb them. Tomorrow morning we will walk the park area.
Day 150 … Sun, Sept 17, 2017 … 32.8 miles; 4.5 hours
Havana, Il (Quiver Island) to Logsdon Barge, Beardstown, Il
We were a bit concerned … could Cally do the stairs?? Time Out was at the barge the night before and did recon for us by sending pics. We thought Cally could do it. We hoped she could do it. Ladders she can’t do. But, this is an open grate tread with no risers where you can see down to the water below. SHE DID IT!!!! She wasn’t fast as the grate isn’t easy on her paws, but she did it!!!
Day 151 … Mon, Sept 18, 2017 … 8.7 miles; 1:30 hours
Logsdon Barge to LaGrange Lock & Damn Pool Anchorage
We wake to the news the river is still closed. Coast Guard is sending a boat to survey the channel where 4 tows have grounded in the past couple days between mile 77 & 78. NO Passage thru that area until they find a deeper channel or dredge. Tows are stopped, Pleasure Craft are stopped. The tows line up along the river stopped. We are at the barge, we have power and water available to us and a town with stuff, if we need it. we check in with CG a couple times and check with the tug captains and office here to find out what they know. Logsdon’s is a Tug Service, after all. No one knows anything.
At 12:30, Rip makes the decision to get thru the next Lock (LaGrange; notoriously slow lock where bottle necks of traffic occur on a good day) and anchor at the pool below the lock until the river is opened up. Tows get preference when locking and once the river opens, they will affectively keep us out of the lock for, potentially, days. I call the lockmaster for permission to anchor in the pool below the dam AND ask if the boat ramp is there so we can take the dog to shore. He says boat ramp has not been there in years, but the beach on the Left Descending Bank will do. Worried it will be muddy deep mess like at Havana, I inquire further. I am assured fishermen walk on it all the time and must be hard. Since we have food, water, etc. and now a beach to take Cally … we decide to go. It is only a 8+ mile run, but could save us DAYS of waiting later.
After pulling off the barge, I’m told to let the dinghy out on the tow line. She was tied up by the side of the boat opposite the barge last night. We will tow her to our next stop. I let the tow line off the cleat, but she isn’t paying out right. The stern is staying by the boat the the bow is turning out. With the big boat moving and the dinghy not releasing … i am trying to keep the dinghy and motor from hitting the boat or getting caught under the swim platform. Long story short … i had not notice the stern was cleated as well as the bow. I only let out the bow (tow) line so the stern was staying put. Rip has to come down from the flybridge to release the stern line and then all is right with the world … for now. Gees, big mistake. Stress no one needs.
The lock is ready for us, another boat is ahead of us. But once we are given lines from the lock guy (and clearly not Randy) we think we are settled in and ready. the lock guy wanders off. the water level goes down 10-12” … but the rear doors are not closed??? all of a sudden water starts rushing past the boat; the boat moves off the wall and Rip has a hard time keeping the stern to the wall. while he is struggling and correcting … the bow starts pushing off the wall. I’m not as strong as Rip (duh) … it takes me until the last 12”’s of the line to get the boat secured to a cleat. We were only holding the lines, proper lock procedure when locking down. Rip, has the stern back to the wall and cleated … now has to come over and pull the bow into the wall for me. Too much water is rushing by for me to pull her in; plus I am exhausted from trying to hold the boat and tie to the cleat.
Finally the water slacks, the doors close and we descend as we should. Out, around the end of the lock and into the anchorage. Rip takes the dinghy to scout out the possible landing sites and YAY … the beach is as hard a beach as we could hope for!!
All in all a very stressful 8 miles … but, at least Cally can get to shore easily and we are ahead of the lock and all the backed up tows. when the river opens we can get going!!
Day 152 … Tues, Sept 19, 2017 … 79.3 miles; 8:40 hours
LaGrange Lock Pool to Grafton Harbor
Firestorm messages us they are heading our way and going to run the closure area and play dumb if anyone stops them. We jump into gear to get Cally to shore and ready for departure. We’ll follow Firestorm and if anyone asks, say we saw a boat going thru so we followed and plead ignorance, too. Just as we start gearing up … Coast Guard says they are allowing Pleasure Crafts that draw 3.5’ to pass the closure area at mile 77. We draw 4’, but still go and will tell anyone who asks we draw 3.5’. NO ONE was monitoring the closure site and we never saw less than 10’. Great for us, but not great for all the tows that draft 9’ and are extremely wide.
Plan A was to stop at a restaurant that has a dock at mile 20, but the dock didn’t look secure and the wakes were bouncing it … so the decision was made to press on to Grafton. A long phone call later both Firestorm and us have slips for tonight (we had reservations for tomorrow night already).
This is the longest day we have traveled with Cally … over 8.5 hours. She did great and was on shore for dooty shortly after getting the boat tied up. Lots of snuggle time too. We are all exhausted, but glad to be in a marina and really happy to go out to dinner!!!
Time to relax & catch up on chores. Popular, nice marina to unwind after lots of days traveling and to gear up for the next long stretch of travel.
Day 153-157 … Wed-Sun; Sept 20-24, 2017
Grafton Harbor Marina, Grafton, Il
Dinner out with Firestorm; Taco Tuesday!!
Before Rip could do the engine oil change, there was the little matter of a leaking AC condensate pan to repair. Rip assessed the situation, decided on a temp patch and went to work. He has successfully stopped the leak, for now. this will allow him time to make real repairs when it is cooler and we don’t need AC. Did I mention it was HOT here. Gees, we go from the cold, rainy, high waters of Canada to the hot, dry, low waters of Illinois River. One extreme to another.
Chores like grocery shopping, laundry, defrost refrigerator (who on land remembers doing that?? or how to do that??), oil change, boat wash, etc. are done. Oh, and the laser printer we ordered so Rip can do taxes was shipped here. Didn’t work when we tested it. Rip had to fix it.
We did squeeze in 2 times at the pool and hot tub!!!!!!!!!!!!! Wine slushies, too!!
Next up?? The Might Mississippi River!