“Five Feet High and Rising,” Johnny Cash

Its bad when United States Coast Guard sector Mississippi issues a strong warning for pleasure boaters to stay off the river.  This is a little different from the small craft advisories we see on The Great Lakes. The current outside the marina is running over 6 knots.  On top of the water speed there is floating debris the size of tree trunks. Dorothy and I thought it best to stay awhile in this little town of 650 people. We are docked at Grafton Marina which has floating docks on 30′ pilings. So we will rise with the flood waters. Once the parking lot is underwater and we want to get off the boat the Marina will pick us up by water taxi to take us to higher ground. Our friends Glyn and Laura Livermore on SV Peregrine left just in time last week and they had a harrowing trip.

The Mississippi River is on the rise. Flood stage is 18′ and we are at 24′ currently. By Monday night we will be at 25+ feet. Then we will need to wait until at least Saturday before we can move down river.

Mississippi River at Grafton

Some flood photos so far;

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In 1993 the town of Grafton, IL was completely wiped out by flood waters. They have been rebuilding ever since. Thank Goodness we are not going to get anywhere near 38 feet this week.

Where is this marker?

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Loopers will know the marker at Mile 61.0 on the Illinois River as the western most point on the great loop route. Every boat on the loop will travel past this mark in their journey.

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Caption this photo. I wonder what this Squadron of Pelicans (Googled it) are thinking as we pass by.

Also we passed over our first Wicket Dam today. Wicket dams are movable dams which can be lowered when water levels (also called pool levels) around a lock are equal.

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Sounds in the Night

If you like owls hooting, coyotes howling, splashing noises on the riverbank, and the low sound of a tow barge going by in the night then anchoring just off the Illinois River is for you. Stars in the night sky really do not make any sound, but they were screaming at us with brightness. The tows sound like a railroad locomotive engines without horns, squeaky wheels, and clickty clacks of the wheels.

We did our first anchoring behind Quiver Island at mile 121. Dorothy and I had not really practiced anchoring before, so there was a short learning curve in communications. We use wireless headsets when docking and anchoring so we can talk calmly without yelling.  However we did raise our voices a couple of times which is hilarious because the sound is amplified in our ears.

The first of many peaceful nights on the hook.

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The IVY Club Peoria, IL

This has been a great marina stop for a few days. The members and staff are welcoming and very helpful. After all you have to like a place where they will engrave a beer mug just for you.

A few more projects completed and a provisioning run to the grocery store. We will be anchoring out now for the next couple of days as we work our way to Grafton. I am looking forward to the challenge of living unplugged on the boat.

Sunday we found a Packer bar in Peoria called Olivers and met fans from Door County, WI. I wish the Pack would have played a little better. It can be tough enough to wear a Packer jersey in Bear country.

1870 Henry, IL Lock

We are finally leaning in to this Looper lifestyle. After a couple of down days, meaning we stayed in a harbor and did not travel, Dorothy and I feel re-energized.  We spent the first Day at Heritage Harbor Marina not doing much of anything. We borrowed a courtesy car from the marina and did laundry and lunch in town ( not at the same place). Then we just relaxed and talked with other boaters. Day 2 was project catch-up day. We wrapped up a bunch of loose ends from our departure in Milwaukee.

“Timing is everything”. One of the busiest locks on the Illinois River is Starved Rock Lock. This is the first lock we would encounter on our leg south today. I called the lock master at 7am in the morning and he told me they were backed up with large tow barges. He advised a call back in a couple of hours. At 9am, I called back and the lock master told us if we would get there in an hour and a half he would put us through, otherwise it would be a six hour wait. I contacted SOUTHERN STYLE, another boat in the Marina who was heading south also and we scrambled to get underway to get to the lock.  The trip would take us an hour and 15 minutes at our top speed of 10 knots. We made it with about 20 minutes to spare and as soon as the tow left the lock, we entered the lock with 3 other pleasure craft.  After we locked through there were 7 tows waiting to go through the locks. Great Timing!

We had a very nice sunny and warm travel day down the Illinois River. A “convocation”  of 6 Bald Eagles were souring overhead. (Yup, I had to Google that one) Also our first Asian Carp sighting jumping out of the water behind us.

We are spending the night tied to the remnants of The 1870 Henry lock with two other boats. It was the first lock built on the Illinois River and was abandoned in 1930. “https://www.cityofhenryil.org/history-of-locks-dam-and-henry-bridge ”  On the inner lock wall there are eyes to tie our lines to and electricity for the boats. Its kind of nostalgic to think of all the old river traffic that passed through this lock like Steam paddle-wheelers, grain and livestock barges. 20181004_174558[1]20181004_174523[1]20181004_175127[1]

Smooth travel day

Day 3 of our Great Loop Trip involved more locks and tows. We are becoming seasoned at handling all the activity. (Did you catch the play on our boat name?) The highlight of the day was locking through with one of the big tow barges. The Captain was very nice to allow us in the lock with him. We made it the Illinois river and scenery and water has change quite a bit. Open spaces, farmland, and wildlife abound on a much wider twisting turning route. Our stop for the night is Heritage Harbor Marina in Ottawa, IL. We are going to stay her for a day or two to do some projects and relax a little.

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Locks, low bridges, and Barges

Dorothy and I did not sleep well as SEASONS was rocked and bumped all night at the Columbia Yacht Club dock. At daylight we lowered our mast and radio antennas in anticipation of the low bridges we would encounter on the Cal-Sag water way.  After a short run on Lake Michigan to the south side of Chicago we entered the canal. This is a very industrial area not seen by most land based folks. Coal, grain, sand and gravel, power plants, and many abandoned factories was the scenery for this early section.

We were a little nervous and stressed with anticipation of this stretch of the canal. Would we clear bridges or ask for an opening? We were not 100% sure of our “air draft” (height of the boat above the water). The first few bridges we requested an opening and then mo rest were good. In doing our homework we found there is one bridge on the Loop that fixed at a height of 19′ but Lake Michigan water levels are up. Would we make it? No problem we had about a foot of clearance to spare. We also encountered our first lock. Dorothy had never locked through before while I have completed 40 or so. The process was smooth. The other factor we encountered was the tow barge traffic. They have right of way and its best to always talk to them when passing.

We ended our day in Joliet, IL at the public wall with Trains and Tows running all night long. We have completed 2 days of the trip and are starting to relax a little. We even had a great pizza delivered right to the boat. 20180930_100255[1]