Sunday: After spending a full week at home and taking three days to drive back to St Charles, Mo., we’re back on Kailani and almost ready to cruise the Mississippi. During the drive back here, we made contact with my first Senior Patrol Leader from my Scoutmaster days and his family. Erik, Barbara and their newborn son Dominick hosted me for dinner while we were in Indianapolis and we had a great time visiting.
But today, Sunday is our first full day back aboard and it’s time for some cleanup chores, unpacking, and getting Kailani ready to cruise once again. We’ve completed 26 weeks of cruising, so with an original plan to spend one full year cruising America’s Great Loop, we are now half way thru based on time. It’s been six months since we left Savannah, Georgia and our mileage is nearly halfway also, so officially, we are now starting our second half of the journey. Yaaaaaaayyyyyy for us! -tc
We can’t leave just yet because the river is still quite high, in fact, a portion of the marina here is still flooded, but not the area where we’re docked, so it’s all good. There’s an old friend of Tracy’s from high school in Niagara Falls, NY that lives here in St Louis and he is able to come over and spend Sunday afternoon visiting with us. He and Tracy spend all Sunday afternoon fishing and reminiscing and we all have a nice time on a sunny fall day. Tom gives us some tips on what to explore and where to eat, etc and we make plans for some touristy stuff tomorrow while we still have the rental car.
Monday: The St Louis Zoo is one of the best in the country for exhibits, natural environments and varieties of species, so we plan for a full day there.
We visit the bears, penguins, apes, gorillas, giraffes, gazelles, lions, tigers, zebras, and pumas to name a few. They also have the original aviary structure from the 1904 World’s Fair and in it they keep eagles, cardinals, turtles, etc. and we walk thru there. Soon it’s 4:00 pm and the zoo is closing and we have plans to eat at Charlie Gitto’s On The Hill. The Hill is St Louis’ version of Little Italy.
We walk into Charlie Gitto’s On The Hill around 5:20pm and are seated at a nice booth, there are already a few customers seated at this early hour, but the place really fills up over the next 40 minutes. Tom had recommended that we try the Toasted Ravioli appetizer, so we share that, then Tracy orders the Seafood Risotto and I order the Veal Saltimbocca. Both meals come out cooked to perfection and served nice and hot. Homemade bread accompanies the entrees and we leave room for desserts and coffee. Overall we are both extremely impressed with this facility and offer up some very complimentary feedback to the Maitre’D as we are leaving. We’ve been eating out at all types of restaurants since we’ve been traveling aboard Kailani and this meal ranks in the top 1 or 2 best to date.
Paul Hopkins is complete with the scheduled repairs as of now, but we had added a leaky shower faucet to the list and he ordered a new one and it will be in tomorrow, so after tomorrow, we can start planning to cruise.
Tuesday: Since we can now look at some cruising strategies, we start the morning making reservations at some marinas going down the Mississippi. The smallest one is Hoppie’s in Kimmswick, Mo so we figure to get a confirmed reservation there, then move back up-river with the stop in Alton before Hoppies. We get our reservation for Hoppies for Friday night, so then we make arrangements to go to Alton Marina and stay there two nights before cruising thru downtown St Louis on Friday to Hoppie’s.
Of note here, we are currently staying at Port Charles Harbor owned by Paul Hopkins and we will be going to Hoppie’s Marina owned by his Aunt and Uncle, so, keeping it in the family.
Paul has received the shower head and he and his son are installing it while we go off to visit the place called ‘Jewel Box’ in St. Louis followed by returning the rental to Enterprise.
But first a little description of the Jewel Box. This is a public facility constructed for housing trees and plants. Over the years, it has been used for many weddings as the flora and fauna create a beautiful backdrop for wedding photography. Tracy is looking forward to this visit and she is pleasantly surprised at its beauty and settings, all within Forest Park in downtown St Louis.
We had also thought about visiting the world famous Gateway Arch, but we’ve run out of time and we both agree that we’ll get a riverside view of the Arch as we cruise through downtown St Louis in a few days, so we turn the Nissan Altima towards Enterprise Rentals and get there by 1:40 pm and they had requested we get there by 2:00 pm if we wanted a ride back to the marina, so they were very grateful we were there in time. As you follow our blog, you’ll notice that we’ve used Enterprise four times already and they’ve been spectacular to us each time.
Christine drives us back to Kailani and tonight is our last night in St Charles as we will be leaving tomorrow for Alton. The trip is less than twenty miles tomorrow, so we set a departure target of 10:00 am and enjoy a nice relaxing evening aboard Kailani.
Wednesday: As we described yesterday, our target departure time today is 10:00 am so I walk Frankie so his business is out of the way. I take a final walk up to the marina office to thank Paul and his staff for all their work and friendliness during our two week stay here, then I fill up the fresh water tank and Tracy re-works the lines. By 9:40 am we’re pulling away from the docks headed for the mighty Mississippi and Alton Marina.
The river has receded quite a bit since the high water mark, but the current is still running strong, so as we leave the marina, we head slightly upriver to the passage between Enterprise Island and Island 521. Once we’re in this short passage, the currents are so strong that there are eddy’s in the canal. Soon we’re thru the canal between the islands and making for the center of the Mississippi River channel heading downriver.
We only need to turn 800 rpm’s and a boat speed of 7 knots for our overall speed over ground to be 10.5 knots, so there’s a strong 3 plus knot current pushing us downriver. In spite of the low rpm’s the port engine is suddenly running very hot. Usually the port engine runs at 180 degrees and the starboard engine runs slightly higher at about 185 degrees, but this morning, the port engine is climbing up to nearly 240 degrees. So Tracy takes the helm and I go down to the engine room to see if anything is amiss. I look for the raw water intake valve and it’s in the proper position for water to come in and circulate thru the heat exchanger to cool the engine coolant, so no issues there, but while I’m in the engine room the port engine shuts down. I make my way back to the helm and Tracy says that she shut it down. That’s the best news I’ve heard today. So glad it didn’t shut itself down as that might have signaled other issues. So we’re running on starboard engine only and making 10.5 knots, so rather than turn around and head back upriver on one engine, we decide to continue the journey downriver, then call the mechanics at Port Charles Harbor to come over to Alton Marina and look at diagnosing the issue.
As we’re cruising down river on this slow river day (we only pass two upriver tows), we think about letting the port engine cool down, then fire it back up once we’re at Alton Marina for maneuverability, but since we don’t know why it was running so hot, we decide that firing it back up could cause further damage, so we scratch that idea. So our plan now is that once we have cell service, we’ll call Alton Marina and request a tee dock slip and we’ll try to maneuver into the ‘tee’ on only one engine.
By 11:30 am we’re calling the Alton Marina and Dockmaster Greg Brown is making the accommodation for us to switch to a ‘tee’ dock and he is sending Alex out to help us with lines as we approach. By 11:50 am exactly two hours after departure, we’re safely tied up at Alton Marina and I’m calling Port Charles Marina to see about getting a mechanic down here to diagnose the overheating issue. In the meanwhile, we go up to the marina office to register and while there, we stay for some lunch at the deli.
We walk back to the boat and a short ten minutes later, Taylor is coming down the dock with his tools from Port Charles Harbor.
I describe to him the known symptoms and he does a bit of diagnosing/checking in the engine room. We definitely have good flow of raw water so he doesn’t suspect an impeller issue. Then he checks the coolant and potentially, there was an air bubble in the coolant from the changing of the fluid, so he tightens the cap and we fire up the engine. After about thirty minutes of running with increased rpm’s and Taylor continuously monitoring the conditions in the engine room, the engine never goes above 187 degrees, so potentially, he’s found the root cause, but we won’t know for sure until we put her under running conditions, so as he’s packing up his tools, we agree that Tracy and I will take Kailani for a ride upriver tomorrow and see if she overheats again, or runs normal. We definitely want to know this info tomorrow prior to cruising further downriver and farther away from the Port Charles Harbor mechanics. So tomorrow, we’ll take her out for a ride and let them know how she does.
Tracy makes barbecued ribs in the pressure cooker and we have a nice dinner at home. Tonight is a quiet night with some computing, some reading and mostly relaxing after our first day tackling the Mississippi River.
Thursday: Time for a test ride up the Mississippi. We pull out of Alton Marina and head upriver towards Grafton. In less than 2 miles upriver, our port engine temperature is showing over 200 degrees on the gauge, so we turn around and return to our slip on the tee end of ‘F’ Dock. I put a call into Captain Tom at TowBoatUS and he makes preparations for towing us back to Port Charles Harbor where Paul and his staff can take a more complete look at the issue. After calling Captain Tom, I stop up at the Alton Marina office and explain the situation to Harbormaster, Greg Brown. I let him know that we had paid for two nights stay to include tonight, but we will be getting towed back to Port Charles Harbor today. So he immediately offers that once we are repaired and heading back downriver, we’re welcome to stop here again and re-coup the night’s stay that we’ve already paid for. So I say thank you and goodbye to Greg.
Captain Tom keeps his fleet of tow vessels at Port Charles Harbor, so today, he will be cruising down from there to pick us up at Alton Marina, then turning around with Kailani in tow and returning to Port Charles Harbor. Captain Tom shows up at 2:15 pm and by 2:30 pm we are all hooked up and headed back upriver behind the TowBoatUS vessel. It all starts out very slowly as we turn out of Alton Marina and work our way upriver.
Soon Captain Tom is on the radio asking if I would fire up our starboard engine and assist with the tow. Our starboard engine is running at normal temperature, so I fire her up and soon we have increased our speed from 4.4 knots to 6.2 knots and Captain Tom says that now we have a chance to get back before dark. I later find out that he also went from burning 20 gallons per hour down to 6 gallons per hour with the assist!
Exactly 3 hours after leaving Alton Marina Captain Tom has us in front of Port Charles Harbor and he radios that he will be backing down, loosening the tow lines and I will drive Kailani into the marina under her own power. So well before 6:00 pm, we’re all tied up at the same slip we had left from a few days ago and Paul will have a mechanic on board tomorrow for diagnosing and necessary repairs. We spend a quiet evening aboard Kailani and await tomorrow’s findings.
Friday: After the morning walk of Frankie, Paul Hopkins says he’ll have Taylor down around 9:00 am to check out the issue. I get the engine room ready for his arrival by opening up two floor hatches to give him as much access as possible to the port engine. Taylor starts with checking the radiator cap for its ability to hold pressure and it’s a 7 psi rated cap and he verifies that it won’t hold 7 psi so he installs the new cap that Dustin had ordered yesterday after my phone call to them about the temperature issue. Then he moves over to the limited access side of the engine to check the raw water impeller. After removing the cover he determines that the impeller is working fine and has no broken blades or deterioration. So he cleans up the cover plate, replaces the gasket and re-installs the cover plate. We all agree that the cap may have been the entire problem so we set up for Taylor and Paul to take Kailani out onto the river and sea trial the repairs. With Paul at the helm and Taylor in the engine room with an infra-red sensor, we take her out and what we find is that the temperature gauge is reading at approximately 210 degrees while the actual engine temperature is running at 175 degrees. So for the most part, all along these last few days, we’ve been dealing with a faulty reading on the gauge rather than an actual issue with high running temperatures. Oh well, better to know that’s the case and now we can at least monitor the gauge for changes based on the new normal. We return back to the slip and make arrangements for heading back out tomorrow towards Alton Marina again.
Aboard Kailani tonight, Tracy finds old episodes of the show, Soap and we spend the evening watching the early episodes.
Saturday: While waiting for the repair invoice to be completed, we meet another looper boat that came in from upriver last evening. They have an issue with their windlass and have stopped here for repairs prior to heading out for Alton Marina also. They are in love with our Tollycraft and admit that it was their first choice, but couldn’t find one available during their buying search, so they bought a Carver. They have to borrow the marina courtesy car and go to the local West Marina for a special 25 amp fuse for their windlass and we make our preparations for departure hoping that we’ll run into them again down the river.
The downriver trip has now become very familiar to us as we’ve made it twice already, once going downriver and once coming back upriver under tow. So we pull out of the slip at 10:20 am and with Kailani running at 800 rpms and the downriver current, we’re making 10.5 to 11 knots all the way and by noontime, we’re pulling up to the Alton Marina fuel dock for 200 gallons of diesel and a pumpout. After Alex helps us on the fuel dock, we move over to our old slip at the tee end of ‘F’ dock and secure Kailani for our overnight stay.
As we check out weather forecasts and travel plans for continuing on, we make a decision to hold off from traveling tomorrow due to high wind forecasts (20-25 mph winds). Also, we have a discussion about where to target leaving Kailani for the Christmas break and after looking a possibly using Nashville, we decide to get further south instead and select the Pickwick Lake area at the southern border of Tennessee and Mississippi for a chance at warmer weather over the break. That means we have approximately 400 nautical miles to go by mid December, so we calculate approximately 12 cruising days over the next five weeks and we’ll be looking at holding up at the same marina that Sea Cottage will be leaving their vessel for the break. So potentially, after we both return to our respective homes for Christmas, we have a chance to be cruising again after returning from the break, so that’s another good reason for this strategy. Therefore, from now until we reach Pickwick Lake, there’s no rush for moving on questionable days, so we make an executive decision to stay right here for a few more days and wait for better weather to head out to Hoppie’s Marina in Kimmswick, MO. We make plans to explore this town tomorrow with a visit to a supermarket and hit some of the local restaurants.
Meanwhile, tonight, we decide to treat ourselves with St Louis style thin crust pizza delivery to the boat and Imo’s Pizzeria delivers a large pie to us while we watch a few more episodes of Soap. Tomorrow, I’ll call Fern at Hoppie’s and reconfirm our change of plans for staying there.