September 8- IVY Club, Peoria, IL to Grafton Harbor, Grafton, IL
The sky was cloudy to the north, but the sun peeked through for a pretty sunrise.
The temp was 67 degrees. The weary travelers woke at 6:30, had breakfast and left at 7:30 when we found out the lock was vacant after calling ahead. We pulled lines and pulled out. Seagulls followed the boat because we were kicking up the bottom and little fish were jumping out of the water.
We took a fast run to Peoria Lock and Dam, past the city of Peoria. We passed the downtown area and saw a paddlewheel riverboat parked along the shore.
As we approached the lock we saw many tugs and barges along the shore. This is called the Fleet Area. They store barges full and empty until they are ready to unload them or prepare to move them.
We were locked in with four other boats-one being the boat from the other day, the Miss Darling. It had only an 8′ drop. The skies continued to be cloudy and there is a 70% chance of thunderstorms.
We pulled out of the lock and were hoping to be able to make good time today on the river without many delays. It started to rain slightly as we hit our cruising speed of 24K (28 mph). I tried to work on the blog a little inside the boat, but kept losing my signal. I went up to the bridge and Bob said a duck hunter sitting in his blind fired at us because we might have waked him. We didn’t see him there and it was an accident. Oops! This part of the river was much cleaner along the shoreline with no dead trees or sandy edges. It was less used and had a grassy shoreline. There was a levee district system that followed the river. The land became flatter with agricultural fields beyond the banks. The levees reminded Randy of the ones along the Sacramento River where he lives.
It began to rain harder and lightning bolts flashed in the sky. The temp dropped a little and visibility became difficult with the raindrops on the bridge windows.
The rain let up a little as we passed a barge, but then the rain came on in full force with more lightning and thunder. As my dad would say, “Isn’t this exciting?” We passed the town of Havana and turned on the radar which showed the bands of rain around us. It looked like we would be driving out of it in 4 or 5 miles. We passed a tug pushing barges that we passed yesterday. He didn’t get far. Further down the river we encountered torrential rain, poor visibility, and lightning. We slowed down to improve visibility. The sky started to lighten up a little as we finally passed our first “looper”.
The rain stopped as we approached Beardstown RR Bridge. We called to ask for an opening. We were told we had to wait for a train to cross before the bridge tender would open it for us and a tug on the other side.
After passing under it, we moved toward our last lock, the 8th one on the Illinois River. Again we had to kill some time (1 hr.) to wait for a tug to pass through. The LaGrange Lock and Dam had a 10′ drop and again we were in the lock with the Miss Darling.
While in the lock with them, they told us they were driving along the river and heard a thumping noise on the side of their boat and went to look. They found an Asian carp had jumped into the cockpit of their boat and that fish were jumping all around them. We had watching for them but had to see any. We were out of the lock at 1:25. The skies were gray and the temps were cool, but the river was like glass.
The sun finally came out and we started to shed our fleece jackets and long pants. This part of the river looks like the Wisconsin River with the forested hills and limestone bluffs along the river. We didn’t run across too many working barges today compared to yesterday. We did pass an old riverboat that someone converted into living quarters.
We waited for a car ferry to cross taking vehicles across the river to an island.
There were many herons and egrets standing on the shoreline. They would take flight when the boat wake hit the shore. This section of river today is an area where birds congregate for their migratory flight. We had to wait about 5 minutes for a tow to come through a bridge before we could pass through near the town of Hardin, IL.
As we neared the town of Grafton at the end of the Illinois River, we saw more and more small houses and cottages on stilts along the shoreline.
We passed another car ferry 3 miles north of the intersection of the Illinois and the Mississippi River. We spent the night at Grafton Harbor Marina with a view of the Mississippi River bluffs from the boat.
The temp was 80 degrees and humid when we docked at 5:00 and the river was flat calm. (Our goal has been to be in a slip and hooked up by 5:00 every night.) It was going to be a muggy night until we heard thunder and a rain shower moved in. Before that, Randy and Bob hopped in the dinghy and went to go catch themselves one of the infamous flying Asian carp. We have heard firsthand stories about these fish that jump out of the water and into people’s boats. Bob and Randy were unsuccessful and returned a little wet. A couple from the area stopped by to talk and when it began to rain we all moved under the covered slip area at someone’s outside bar.
They had a lot of local knowledge to share. It got a little cooler and after awhile we went to clean up and have dinner.
We finished watching the movie from yesterday and went to bed. We had made our goal and traveled a total of 141 miles today.
September 9-Grafton Harbor, Grafton, IL to Kaskaskia Lock, Kaskaskia, MO
We woke up by 6:30 to a cool 57 degrees. The skies were cloudy to the south, but the sun came out and the clouds disappeared. Randy took a run and I took a walk with Murphy up the steep hill to the Aerial Winery.
The view from the top was awesome. You could see where both rivers come together.
We got back to the boat, ate breakfast, and got ready to go. We pulled lines at 7:45 and were away from the dock, only to get hung up in the mud in the next basin as we tried to turn around. We slowly got free and were on the move by 8:00. We were now on the Mississippi River. The bluffs along the river were beautifully sculpted over the years to form pillars of white rock.
It reminded me of the River Road up at LaCrosse, WI for those of you familiar with that area. We passed Our Lady of the Rivers Shrine. This 50′ shrine was built after the disastrous flood of 1951 as gratitude for the waters stopping just short of flooding the village of Portage des Sioux. There is a blessing of the fleet at the shrine each year.
The locals showed us a picture of the flooding that occurred in July of ’08 that covered most of the marina at Grafton. It was quite amazing! As we neared Alton, we saw the New Highway Fixed Bridge- a mini version of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in FL.
Next was the Alton Belle Casino boat brightly painted a rainbow of colors with a very unique walkway bridge to the land.
We called ahead to the Mel Price Lock and Dam. They would wait for us. We entered and saw 4 pleasure boats and one working boat inside.
We used our “happy hooker” and secured ourselves to the wall. We dropped 23′ and were out in 15 minutes. This lock has 2 chambers – one for pleasure craft and one for tugs and barges.
We passed another riverboat in need of repairs.
It looked like something had rammed into it from behind. The stern was all bashed in.
We came upon the junction of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.
Navigating on the Mississippi River was a nightmare with wing dams, rapids, debris, and figuring out which branch of the river to take.
Our second and last lock on the Mississippi was also a 2 chamber lock. A tug was in the Illinois chamber and we would enter into the Missouri chamber.
This was a different kind of lock because there were no doors to close. A wall rose out of the water after we entered to close it off.
It was like a wind tunnel inside the chamber, but it was only a 12′ drop, so we were out quickly. We were the only ones in it.
One of the coolest parts of the trip today was just around the corner-the St. Louis Arch. We have been up in the arch and underneath in the museum and it is a worthwhile experience, but seeing it from the water in my own boat was something I’ll never forget.
There were a couple of riverboats parked alongside the shore, one of which was the River Queen
and another was the casino boat called the President.
We motored slowly down the river past a lot of barges anchored in the river and all kinds of industry along the shoreline. Here you can see why they call it a “working river”. I’ve never seen so many barges and tugs in one place. As we went farther south, the industry disappeared and huge mansions appeared on the hills above the river. We passed “one looper” before we got to Hoppie’s Marina for gas.
Hoppies is the last place to get supplies before the Cumberland River in Kentucky. It is also the last place to buy fuel for 106 miles. It is near the town of Kimmswick, MO and is owned by Fern Hopkins who is expert knowledge on the river.
Anything you want to know, you can ask her. She has a marina set up there and a cute little spot to sit and chat. She and her husband are very friendly. helpful people and her spot is well known by all the “loopers”. We picked up fuel there and were done in less than 1/2 an hour with their high speed pumps.
We even got a free calendar with our purchase 🙂 The day warmed up nicely to 70 degrees and the sun shone brightly. The shoreline changed to wooded hills and sandy banks as we continued south.
We passed the Little Rock Car Ferry right before we reached our evening destination at Kaskaskia Lock. We asked, and got permission, from the lockmaster to tie up at the lock wall at Kaskaskia Lock wall for the night. It is free. We were the first and only ones there at 3:00.
We had traveled 98 miles today. We watched tows pushing barges past the opening to the Kaskaskia River Lock, but it was quiet and peaceful there.
We relaxed after tying up and just enjoyed the afternoon sunshine and breezes.
Randy and Bob changed one of the fuel filters on the engine and then Randy and I took Murphy to shore at the boat launch. There was a campground on the premises near the lock and Murphy and I walked around and got some exercise. Randy, Murphy, and I took a little dinghy ride out to the opening of the river to see what was coming by. There were tows passing on down the river. We tooled around for awhile and came back to the boat only to find a tug and barges coming out of the lock. Once we got back to the boat, Bob had some bad news for us. The generator wasn’t working. (Glitch #7) Luckily, we found an outlet and were able to plug in our shore cord and have electricity. We enjoyed the rest of the daylight and watched the jumping carp in the river. We showered on the boat and Bob grilled dinner. I was able to blow dry my hair using one of the same outlets outside.
I’m sure it was an unusual sight to see someone, standing there, blow drying their hair using an outlet on the lock wall. The sun set and we watched a DVD before going to bed. We would have to get up early to make it to Green Turtle Bay Marina in KY tomorrow. It would be a long run down the Mississippi, up the Ohio, and down the Tennessee into Kentucky Lake. That will be the end of the first leg of this trip.
September 10-Kaskaskia, IL to Green Turtle Bay, Paducah, KY
We slept soundly and woke at 5:30 to leave at the crack of dawn. Bob and I took Murphy to shore as the sun was just coming up.
We pulled lines and were away from the wall at 6:30. As Randy was securing everything in the cockpit, one of those flying carp flew into the back of the dinghy. We finally caught one!
After taking pictures of our lovely visitor, Randy threw him back into the water. What an exciting start to the day! An announcement came over the radio by the U.S. Coast Guard that a tow ran aground and broke loose some barges in a narrow spot on the river ahead. We’ll have to keep an eye out for it. We passed the town of Chester where Popeye was born.
We slowed down for a tug at a narrow spot, where we saw 2 coyotes walking on the shore. It is difficult to drive into the sun in the morning and still be able to see things floating in the water.
It was a cool morning until the sun warmed everything up. The sky was blue and cloudless. The shoreline was pretty desolate, except for a campground or building here and there.
We haven’t seen the 4 loopers that locked through the locks with us yesterday. The bluffs are made of golden sandstone interspersed with limestone and wooded areas.
The river was kind of quiet this morning, save for a few tugs. We came to Cape Girardeau, home of Rush Limbaugh, and the Cape Girardeau bridge.
The shoreline became more rolling countryside with farms. We passed the tug, Twyla Luhr, carrying a heavy load of rock and gravel.
There were lots of submerged wind dams to watch out for. They are rock piles that divert water from the shore back to the center of the river, often causing strong turbulence. Many are found at some of the narrowest parts of the river. We finally encountered the coal barges that had broken loose. The tugs were working to hook them back together. One was partially sunken.
The Coast Guard came to help with the situation.
We came to the junction of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers where the brown water of the Mississippi mixes with the blue water of the Ohio, in the city of Cairo, IL.
The Ohio River had no current which is very unusual compared to the 3-6 knots we had going with us in the Mississippi River. We will only travel to Ohio for 60 miles until we reach the Cumberland River and Green Turtle Bay. On the Mississippi the largest tow we saw was a 6×5 (30 barges). On the Ohio, they can be a large as 6×6 (36 barges). A new lock is being built, Olmsted Lock, to replace two locks #52 and #53 on the Ohio. It should be completed in 2011.
We did not have to lock through Lock 52 because the river was high, so we got to pass over the dam.
The Ohio River is much wider and there was less barge traffic. We passed a “looper” from Frankfort, MI, Domestic Squall, who chatted with us on the radio for awhile.
Next we came to Metropolis, home of Superman, and Harrah’s Casino Riverboat.
A little farther down the river is Ft. Massac State Park.
At Lock 53 we were lifted 10′ so we had to hand the lockmaster a line tied to our boat and she would loop it around a post and hand the end back to us. This is the first lock that we had to go up instead of down. Then as we were being raised, we would pull in more and more line as we got to the top of the wall. We were in the chamber behind a small tug. When he pulled out, he tried very hard not to create any turbulence for us as he left.
We got to Paducah, KY around 3:00 and called ahead to the Barkley Lock on the Cumberland River. There would be a 4 hour wait because the more heavily used Kentucky Lock was broken and all the barge traffic was using the Cumberland Lock. There were 2 double barges locking through and it would take that long. Since we had some time to kill, we decided to launch the dinghy and take Murphy to shore.
Randy and I dinghied over to the huge city launch ramp and took Murphy ashore while Bob waited with the big boat offshore.
We were back in 15-20 minutes and were on our way, passing the entrance to the Tennessee River and the Kentucky Lock and Dam. The Cumberland River is a narrow, clean river with forested banks on either side. Amazingly, this river had no current either.
We saw a couple of large mining operations along the way, but there were no boats moving on the river. The lockmaster called to say we could come ahead and he would try to fit us into the lock when he could. We hurried down the river to the lock and passed another tug with barges ahead of us. At the lock and dam there was another boat waiting to lock through. We hung out, but didn’t turn off the engines for fear that we couldn’t get it started again. After awhile we went up to the other boat and they let us tie a rope from their stern to our bow. Tied up, we chatted with them for awhile. It was very warm in the sun and there was no shade to be found. We were all getting tired of waiting.
The sun was setting and we were worried that the lockmaster would let the other tug lock through before us. Then it would be dark before we would get through. After 2 hours, finally the lock whistle blew, signalling that the lock was opening and out pulled a tug and barges. They slowly moved out and the lockmaster called us and said we could come through. Thank God! We got the fenders and hooker ready and entered the lock.
This would be the largest movement in a lock – 57′ and we would be going up! This was the fastest lock we had been through and in no time we were out at 7:15.
The other boat was also going to Green Turtle Bay and had been there before, so we were able to follow them. It was getting dark and we were all getting nervous about finding the slip in the dark. When we got into the marina, Randy took the dinghy ahead and found our slip for us. We had to back the boat into the slip to be able to fit, which even made it more difficult. Bob drove it in without a problem and soon we were tied up. The guys finished tying up and putting out the fenders while I made us a quick dinner. We were all very tired, hot, and hungry. It was 8:00 before we sat down to dinner. We showered and went to bed. Everyone was beat. We had driven 203 miles in 13 hours with 4 hours of wasted time at the lock. We were all glad to be in Green Turtle Bay.
September 11-Green Turtle Bay, Grand Rivers, KY
We all slept a little longer due to the hard day of travel we had yesterday. We had breakfast and just got our bearings. This is the entrance we came in yesterday-a little nerve-wracking in the dark.
We have a great slip right near all the facilities and the action.
There are many travelers in the marina that will move on south or use this marina as their home for the winter months. It is another beautiful morning-clear, 75 degrees at 7:30 with absolutely no breeze at all. The humidity is very high. Bob and Randy worked on replacing the raw water impeller on the generator.
The impeller disintegrated sending parts into the heat exchanger, so they had to disassemble the heat exchanger to get the parts out. It was a project Bob had never done before. What should have taken 1 hour, took 4 (Murphy’s Law #5).
After finishing the job, the 3 of us took a dinghy ride around the marina looking at boats.
This marina houses some huge houseboats-one as long as 100′ or more with every thing on it you could imagine including a basketball hoop.
We saw some cute boat names #30, 31, 32, 33 in the marina as we went looking for slip #55 on Dock 5.
The man there had loaned Bob his car jack to use in lifting the generator to get at the impeller he had to replace so we needed to return it. After our ride we tried to stay cool. You could get drenched in sweat just sitting still. We took Murphy for a walk and went over to the shady spot where they feed the turtles that Turtle Bay is named for. Their little heads were poking out of the water as we approached. I threw some bread into the water and they all came closer–at least 50 of them.
There were turtles of all sizes. I’ve never seen so many turtles together in one place. We had made plans to go to dinner with Bill and Mary Ann at a restaurant in the next county called The Oasis where they serve alcohol. (These are our new friends that we met in St. Joseph’s marina when we were there. We knew they would be in Green Turtle when we got here.) The county that we are in is “dry” and they don’t serve alcohol. Mary Ann and Bill have a car at their disposal so we went in that. We had a nice dinner and came back to the marina stuffed.
Randy and I walked off some of our meal just exploring the grounds and discovered a great beach on the property. We’ll check it out tomorrow. It was a gorgeous night and the moon had a rainbow ring around it. We got back and watched a TV show about 9/11 and then went to bed. (The marina had a little memorial 9/11 service earlier in the day.) It was a great first day in KY.
September 12-Green Turtle Bay, Grand Rivers, KY
We got up around 6:30 and it was already 75 degrees with 83% humidity. We saw a beautiful sunrise.
The sky was blue and there was a slight breeze. The high today should be 90. We will have to check out the annual boat show that’s going on in the marina today and maybe use a courtesy car or golf cart to check out the town. We sat in the shade of the cockpit and enjoyed the coolness of the morning, having coffee and breakfast. Not too many people were stirring yet. It was quiet and peaceful-my favorite time of day. Randy decided to go work out at the health center and Murphy and I took a walk. When we all got back, we took a swim in the pool.
We had some lunch and checked out the boat show. They had about 30 used boats on display so we toured a few houseboats. Randy and Bob were tempted to buy one that was a real steal at the price, but I brought them to their senses. I did a little shopping at the Chandlery. They had an end-of-the-season sale and I found something for Bob and I. It continued to be steamy all day, so later in the afternoon we all took a dinghy ride out into Lake Barkley. We just turned off the motor and floated wherever the cool breeze blew us. There was more boat traffic today at the marina. Five “loopers” came in that we had seen in the locks and a few boats came and went in the marina. We continued to see diesel prices fall slowly all week, but with Hurricane Ike coming they are bound to go up again. On Friday before the storm made landfall, some people had gone into Paducah and said that semis were lined up at the truck stop for fuel and people were also in a frenzy at the pumps, filling their tanks and gas cans. How crazy! When we got back from our ride, we showered and took the courtesy van into Grand Rivers to Patti’s 1880’s Settlement Restaurant.
According to everyone it was a “must do” to have their 2″ pork chops. Well….no one had the chops, but we all had a delicious dinner (without drinks), just the same.
Since we had the courtesy van , we took a tour around town, a very small town, and got back in time to have cherry pie ala mode at Mary Ann and Bill’s boat. We sat for about an hour talking and went back to our boat to check on Ike. We were all beat, so we went to bed shortly after the news. (Those margaritas in the afternoon really did us in.)
September 13-Green Turtle Bay, Grand Rivers, KY
We woke up at 7:00 to have breakfast and get ready for the rental car company(Enterprise) to drop off a car at 8:30. We would have to drop off the driver in Paducah before going to Nashville for the day. Randy’s flight left Nashville at 4:18 this afternoon so we drove the 2 1/2 hours from Paducah to Nashville at 9:00. We stopped in Paducah at the liquor store to stock up again and then proceeded to downtown Nashville. We ended up near the riverfront on Broadway-the “real” Nashville with all the honky tonks.
We started and ended our trip at the Cadillac Ranch-a really unique multi-level bar.
We also made stops at BB King’s Blues Bar
and the Hard Rock Cafe of Nashville.
We walked up and down Broadway and picked out a bar and grill for lunch.
We also walked along the river where they were having a music festival, but it wasn’t opening until 1:00.
Nashville has some very interesting buildings like the AT & T building
and the Ryman Theater.
We saw the Tennessee Titan Stadium from across the river.
We dropped Randy off at the airport at 3:00 and I said a tearful goodbye. It was great to spend a week together and share a fun adventure. He was a lot of help to us on our first leg of this trip and lots of fun to have around!
Bob and I drove the 2 hour trip back to the marina feeling kind of weird to be “just the 2 of us” again. We stopped at Kentucky Lake Marina on our way back to check out whether or not we could get a slip there next week. We are now beginning to feel the effects of Hurricane Ike in Kentucky. We could see there were 3′ waves on Kentucky Lake as we passed over the dam.
We don’t expect to get much rain, but the wind should be pretty strong tomorrow. Our friends, Mary Ann and Bill, were nice enough to let Murphy out while we were gone for the day. Murphy was glad to see us! This had been the first time we had driven a car in a month and a half and it was easy to forget we were living on a boat as we toured around Nashville today. We had driven through Nashville many times on our way to Florida, but it was fun to see the “real” Nashville.
We relaxed, decompressed from the day, and just watched some TV. There was a full moon tonight and it would be a warm, muggy evening.
September 14-Green Turtle Bay, Grand Rivers, KY
Ike had arrived. We were awakened by howling winds and the jerking motion of the boat. It rained lightly at first, but more is expected. We got up to check lines and retie the dinghy. The heavy rain is moving up the Mississippi River through Chicago and St. Louis. Good thing we aren’t coming down the river now. From what we’ve heard from other “loopers”, the week before we went down the river was terrible. There was lots of flooding, lots of debris in the river-huge trees, washing machines, tires, etc. and marina closures. We hit it just right, I think. We did see all that debris on the banks as we traveled along, but being on the river after today with more flooding north of here would be just as bad. Today we had to return the rental car. We would drive to Paducah and someone would drive us back. The winds continued to blow a strong 30-40 mph with gusts up to 60 and 70 mph. The wind was so strong that it blew the waves flat and took the water into the air. It appeared as if there was a blizzard on the lake.
We scrambled to get more lines and fenders tied on. I would have to drive to Paducah myself so Bob could stay back and watch the boat. I left at 8:30 and drove the 30 miles in strong winds, downed trees, branches and leaves in the road, but no rain. I passed a quarry where there was a huge pile of coal. The wind was blowing coal dust across the road making the sky dark as night. The waves on Kentucky Lake were 3′ high from what I could see at Lighthouse Bay Marina. I took my exit to Paducah and saw 3 white flashes on the side of the road. A transformer blew out and took the street lights with it. I stopped at Kroger grocery store and did some speed shopping while the lights flashed on and off in the store. (I’m getting good at this.) Suddenly the lights went completely out for about 3 or 4 minutes. We stood there until the emergency generator came on. I drove from there to Enterprise Rental Cars where I met my driver, Mac, who would take me back to Green Turtle Bay Marina. By this time, more trees were down and traffic lights were out. Police were directing traffic and working on the downed power lines. Just as we got on the Interstate, we saw an overturned semi truck on the side of the road. The wind still blew us all over the road on the way back. When I got back to Green Turtle, the power was out and Bob said a 100′ houseboat broke free from the dock and got pushed around in the marina. Someone’s dinghy, hanging from the back of their boat, went airborne and many boats had their canvases ripped up.
One boat had a window blown out. Bob said it was pretty scary especially when the marina people came to chain down the docks so they wouldn’t tear free. He said just after I left, he measured a gust of wind at 60 mph on his anemometer. The wind started to subside in early afternoon, but dark clouds continued to blow over, even though we had no rain. One boat, we heard on the marine radio, got stuck in the lock for 4 hours. They wouldn’t let him out because the winds were too dangerous. It was blowing 40 mph in the lock and it took them 40 minutes to try and tie up to a bollard in the lock. They ended up next to us in a slip and were very harried by the time they arrived at the marina. At 4:00, the power was still out at the marina, so we had to run the generator to have any electricity. Good thing Bob got it fixed! It is tradition to kiss the green turtle for good luck. We had luck with us today.
We visited with Mary Ann and Bill for awhile before doing some wash and having dinner. Then we watched a DVD before going to bed. It was a very exciting day!