My apologies! I should have posted these next few blogs at least as soon as we got home. Instead, I am doing it after we have been back at the boat for almost a week. Sorry! -tc
Sunday: Today is Tracy’s birthday. Her birthday present was the ticket(s) to see Hamilton in Chicago, but it’s still a special day nevertheless. We know we’ll be staying here at Green Turtle Bay for about a week, so there really isn’t any work that has to get done today on Kailani. So it becomes a day of rest. Duette arrives later in the day and we make plans to have dinner again at the Commonwealth Yacht Club for Tracy’s birthday.
At 6:15 pm we meet at the restaurant and Bill, Paul, Diane, Tracy and I have a nice dinner with Mark waiting on us again. At the end of the meal, Mark brings over a piece of cake for Tracy with a few candles on it and its a nice cap to the meal for her. We return to our boats and Bill says that he’ll be shoving off tomorrow as he really needs to get as far ahead of the cold weather as possible.
After dinner, Paul and Diane come over and we finish watching My Cousin Vinny. We all have a great laugh and turn in for the evening.
Monday: Today is the observed day for Veteran’s Day and Sea Wolf’s refrigerator dies. So Paul looks around for a replacement and decides to stay here for the rest of the week based on the repairs and the weather. The forecasters are actually saying that there might be snow when we wake up Tuesday morning. I hope that isn’t the case because Tracy and I have to get back to Paducah early Tuesday morning for an appointment at the Orthopaedic Institute. We will be taking the courtesy car from Green Turtle Bay and I will pick up the keys before they close for the day today.
We walk over to the Ship’s Store and check out the sale going on in the store. Tracy buys some cleaning supplies and some line for chasing water when it rains. And it’s a good thing that she buys it because as ewe are walking out of the store, the rains start. It’s not cold enough to be snow, so that’s a good thing, plus the rain is not freezing on the docks. But the rains make the rest of the day dreary no less.
At 4:35 pm I walk over to the store to get the keys and all the lights are off in the marina office. The sign on the door confirms that the store closes at 4:30 pm everyday, not 5:30 pm so now I’m in a jam. I need to get Tracy to the clinic first thing in the morning and we don’t have the keys for the courtesy car. Tracy tries to get her appointment changed to later in the day while I try to get in touch with the owner of the marina to see if he can come down and open the office so I can get the keys. Tracy finds out the appointment must stay or it won’t be until the end of November to get another one and I don’t get a response from Green Turtle Bay. So as a last resort, I call up our new Gold Looper friend Byron and he comes over to the marina with his personal car and tells me to take it tomorrow and use it for whatever we need to do and just re-fill the gas tank at the end. He refuses any other offer I make and he just wants to make sure we get our responsibilities accomplished. This is another example of the friendliness and helpfulness found on the loop. He even shows me a way to get around the commuter traffic in the morning to insure that we’re not late for our early morning appointment.
Tuesday: My alarm is set for 5:00 am today so we can be ready to leave by 6:30 am. I get up a bit before the alarm goes off and as soon as the coffee is brewed, I get out of bed, take care of my morning business and walk Frankie. There’s snow falling but the dock isn’t that bad for slippery. I was worried about that for Tracy’s sake with her leg ailing as it is, but I’m comfortable that she’ll be safe getting off the boat and into the car. By 6:35 am we’re driving out of Green Turtle Bay headed back to Paducah and the Orthopaedic Institute. We take it slow on the highway and by 7:20 am we’re sitting in the waiting room for our 7:50 am appointment. Even though we are there early, it doesn’t work out on the other end as it isn’t until 8:40 am that they’re calling Tracy’s name. She’s been real concerned about this appointment because if the MRI doesn’t confirm some sort of trauma, the long term diagnosis could be bad, but when the PA comes in he confirms that Tracy has a herniated disc and a loud sigh of relief fills the exam room. The herniated disc coupled with the lack of agonizing pain gives the PA and Tracy an encouraging level of comfort as to treatments and procedures going forward, so all in all, today’s news is rather great and at least for now, we can get on with our cruising as long as Tracy is comfortable. There is no need for surgeries, long term physical therapy regimens, etc.
So while we have the car, we scoot over to WalMart in Paducah and fill the rear of the borrowed Tahoe to return to Kailani. Once the groceries are loaded aboard Kailani, the afternoon is for staying warm and chatting with other loopers still here freezing. We make arrangements to borrow the courtesy car again after dark to go into town to see the town all lit up for the holidays. We talk with Paul and Diane and agree to go out for dinner to Cracker Barrel, then stop to view the lights. Paul has never been to a Cracker Barrel while Diane remembers them from the days when her family used to go to Florida. So we drive out to Cracker Barrel for their home cooked meals and shopping at the country store. Tracy gets some Christmas shopping done and then we drive thru Grand Rivers to view the lights. The town does a nice job decorating the downtown area complete with carols playing and we take some pictures, then return to the marina for a few episodes of Game of Thrones aboard Sea Wolf. There is a winter storm advisory for tomorrow afternoon into Thursday, so we mentally prepare for a couple inches of snow. I guess we’re getting used to it as this will be the third snow storm we’ve lived thru since moving aboard Kailani.
Wednesday: The morning is a bit cold, but snow isn’t expected until later this afternoon into Thursday, so Frankie gets his walk and we check in with Paul aboard Sea Wolf and he’s still waiting to hear if his propane lines will arrive at the RV store in Paducah today. Tracy goes down into the Galley bilge for a quick inspection of the raw water intake strainer for the air conditioner pump and after a bit of checking and verifying, we turn the Salon AC on, set it to heat and it works! And yes, I really did work on the heater from down there. -tc
Soon the Salon area of Kailani is a toasty 70 degrees and jackets can come off in comfort. With the Salon heated by the on board systems, the little space heaters can now be strategically located in other areas of the vessel for heat and again, Kailani does her work for our comfort and convenience.
By 1:30 pm Paul is getting confirmation that his parts are in and we can take a vehicle to Paducah to pick them up. We get one of the marina courtesy cars and head out in a mild snow. Traffic is rather heavy on the highway due to the wet surfaces, but as we approach Paducah, the highway turns dry and traffic moves slightly better. Soon we are pulling into Youngblood RV and Paul is getting his parts. The guy at the counter has been working so close with Paul, that when he rings up the 5 parts, he also provides a hand-drawn sketch of the installation procedure and gives Paul a 10% discount for his patience and business. We get back in the van and drive back to Grand Rivers. As we’re approaching the business area of town, Paul remembers that he was supposed to pick up pizza for dinner, so we pull into the Village Market because they make pizza at the deli counter. When we walk in around 4:40 pm they let us know that they’ll be closing at 5:30 pm for the weather. I decide to get pizza for Tracy and me and by 5:15 pm we’re walking out of there with our pizzas.
The pizzas are ‘Hunt Brothers Pizza’ and it’s the first time for both of us and the pizzas are quite tasty, warm and hit the spot. Tracy and I download a movie, ‘Django Unchained’ and dig into our pizza. After the movie is over, Tracy has an urge to clean and carpet shampoos half the Salon. I imagine that once that half dries tomorrow, she’ll do the other half of the carpet. We turn in to a toasty Stateroom with electric blanket heating up the bedsheets.
Thursday: There really doesn’t seem to be too much snow this morning, but the sky is gray so there could be more snow before the day is over.
We’re getting close to departing Green Turtle Bay as our plan is for a Saturday departure and a week of cruising to get to Aqua Yacht Harbor in Pickwick Lake for next weekend. It’s certainly doable mileage wise and the extended forecast looks like it will not be a hindrance either. So if we can get to Aqua Yacht Harbor by next weekend, its a possibility that we’ll be able to hook up with the crew of Journey again as they are returning from their home next weekend and the repairs to Journey will be complete. So within a week, we may be cruising again with our great friends, Dale and Merna. They’ll enjoy Paul and Diane too. It’s also entirely possible that we’ll meet up with Bill aboard Duette again between here and there since he travels at a much slower pace and he left here four days ago and has only cruised for two of those days for the weather.
Friday: Today the weather breaks, the sun shines and it’s again pleasant to be in Kentucky! Want to know how warm it is? Bill Gary, the marina owner tells his staff to turn the dockside water back on today! A few loopers take advantage of the weather and shove off heading south on the Tennessee River while Sea Wolf and Kailani remain in port one more day to get some responsibilities completed. Paul is still working with his refrigerator replacement project and he needs one more part from the RV store in Paducah while Tracy has her appointment today with the zero gravity therapy pool at the Revive Clinic in Paducah. So the four of us pile into the courtesy car at noontime and head for Paducah. We drop Tracy off at Revive then Paul, Diane and I go to the RV store then get lunch at Red Lobster. After picking up Tracy we all head to WalMart one more time for last minute purchases before heading back to Green Turtle Bay.
The evening is spent relaxing aboard Kailani, then one more meal at the onsite Commonwealth Yacht Club where we get a chance to be waited on by Mark one more time and we say our goodbye’s to him. He’s been great serving us since last Saturday night. Tomorrow morning, we’ll refill our fresh water holding tank, get a pumpout, and head south on the Tennessee River. We have reservations at Paris Landing Marina in Buchanan, TN for tomorrow evening and it’ll be good to get more miles under our keel.
Saturday: This is it, after a week here in Grand Rivers, Kentucky we are moving south and what a day it is. When I walk Frankie at 7:30 it’s already 55 degrees and sunny. So Sea Wolf is at the gas dock getting fuel and a pump out at 8:00 am and we’re right behind him. After getting Kailani pumped out, Robin and Sandy throw us our lines from the dock and we’re headed for Kentucky Lake. Our destination today is Paris Landing State Park in Buchanan, Tennessee and it’s a cruise of 38 nautical miles south on beautiful Kentucky Lake. Kentucky Lake was formed by the Tennessee Valley Authority with the opening of Kentucky Lake Lock and Dam and it basically took nearly 100 miles of the Tennessee River and flooded it into beautiful Kentucky Lake. As we leave our marina, we turn into Barkley Canal and 1,000 yards later we are turning south into Kentucky Lake with the sun beating down thru the now opened helm windows.
Even though Kentucky Lake is a large expanse of water, navigation thru it with a vessel of our size requires us to stay in the marked channel which is basically, the original river bed of the Tennessee River. It’s so tempting to take short cuts thru straight line navigation, but it would just end up grounding the vessel in shallow water. Also, the whole area is clearly a recreational boaters paradise, but quickly you realize that this recreational area must be shared with large commercial tugs that we’ve been cruising with ever since we left Chicago 650 miles ago! We still have another 650 miles to share also as today is the halfway point in our cruise from Chicago, Illinois to Mobile, Alabama.
We pass Sea Wolf after about an hour into today’s cruise and then we really only see bass boats (gettin in some last licks for Catfish) and two barge/tows today. At 1:15 pm we’re pulling into Paris Landing State Park where we’ll get fueled up at a great price. We pull up to the fuel dock and take on 150 gallons of fuel, then move over onto our slip for the evening. We’ve gone 325 nautical miles using 150 gallons of diesel, so we’re still being very economical with our fuel consumption.
This marina is a beautiful facility with a restaurant on site and also has campground facilities, hiking trails, a golf course, a lodge and the harbor is also home to a Coast Guard Station. Presently there are two work vessels docked there with their decks loaded with nun and can buoys. I suspect that once the strong currents subside, they’ll be out on the river replacing and resetting buoys that have been moved by mother nature from high waters and currents. They’ll have a big job ahead of them this year as we’ve spotted many off-station and missing buoys.
Tracy and I go into the floating dock restaurant and have some fresh cooked burgers and tacos to satisfy our Saturday afternoon meal, then return to Kailani for some r and r until Sea Wolf arrives.
During our lunch we found out that 23 miles away in the town of Paris, Tennessee, there is a 1/16 scale replica of the Eiffel Tower, but alas, there is no taxi service, nor Uber or Lyft. We almost got one of the marina employees to take us there after work, but he said he had a family party to get to after he got off work. Oh well, we’ll just have to see it from Google Pics!
Sea Wolfe arrives and we help them dock right in front of us on the transient pier. Then we all enjoy the rest of the pleasant sunlight and agree to turn in for an early start tomorrow.
Sunday: The clocks fall back, we gain another hour overnight, but the daylight will end earlier in the day as we go forward. So we are greeted with daylight, but not sunlight as today is the start of a day and a half of real nasty forecasted weather. National Weather Service is issuing severe weather alerts for the entire lower Mississippi River Valley and the Ohio River Valley. Basically we’re right in the middle of those two areas. They are predicting severe thunderstorms with damaging winds and flash flooding throughout the region, but are saying that it will be more severe south of us. So for once it might be a good thing that we’re so far behind all other loopers, although I must admit that we’re getting kinda tired of being live-live-aboard in 40 degree weather. When we originally looked at looping, many of the writings said that for the most part, you’re in shorts and tee shirts the whole way! We enjoyed a spectacular summer in Canada and a nice early fall on Lake Michigan, but lately, the fall weather has been worse rather than better as we’ve moved south. So we will stay tied up to the Kaskaskia clock wall for another two days as the forecasters say that there will be a string of nice but cool days right after the storm passes meaning Tuesday should be a good day to depart here and move on towards Paducah, Kentucky.
We’re thinking of making a boat run thru the lock and into Evansville, Il, the first town up the Kaskaskia River. They have a Dollar General, so we can re-stock the three boats for the next week as we wait out the storms. Instead of a run to Evansville today, we spend the afternoon in the salon of Kailani with the crews of Duette and Sea Wolf. Diane aboard Sea Wolf had already prepared some pasta with sauce, so Tracy added some more quantity so all six of us would have enough and we had a nice dinner aboard Kailani and spent some nice time sharing stories, etc. We tried to play our DVD of My Cousin Vinny but it wouldn’t keep playing. Occasionally it would freeze, so we decided to stop the movie and just enjoy the company until we were all tired.
Monday: This morning is a delightful change to the weather we’ve been experiencing lately and it’s a beautiful sunrise to start the day. Frankie gets to walk outside to do his morning business and afterward, I unleash him and let him run free on the lock wall. Over the last few days, he’s become real friendly with the crews of Duette and Sea Wolf, so he goes to both boats during his play run and says hello to everyone.
After everyone has breakfast and we confirm the this mornings sunshine will be short-lived today and we should definitely stat tied up, we all agree to get ready to cruise up the Kaskaskia River to Evansville aboard Sea Wolf and provision ourselves after so many days out. We’re all running out of essentials like water, milk and breads.
So at 10:00 am we’re leaving the wall aboard Sea Wolf headed upriver to the town of Evansville. It should be about an hour cruise and right about 11:15 and we’re in sight of the town and the docks at Waterside Restaurant. The restaurant is closed today, but we pull up and tie off anyway as it’s the only place in town with docks. There’s only five of us on this trip because Bill of Duette toyed back for the vessels as there is a rule that you’re supposed to remain with your vessel when tied to the lock wall. So here we are, five strangers in a town of 702 people walking down the main street looking for a restaurant and a grocery store. As soon as we got onto land, there were two electric utility trucks stopped and enjoying their lunch break. They gave us a few tips on where to go in town for food and groceries and we left and started walking up to main street to the bar that they said had the best pizza in the area. Well since it’;s Monday, the bar doesn’t open until 3:00 pm so we’re out of luck on that score, but we see lights on at another restaurant two blocks up the street, so we walk up to there only to find out that they’re closed also! I guess nobody eats out on a Monday in this town! So the five of us start walking back towards the grocery store and before we get there we are approached by an older gentleman in a Dodge Caravan and he slows down, and starts talking to us. He lets us know that he’s the Mayor of Evansville and welcomes us to his town. He lets us know that five strangers walking in downtown merit a stop by him to see what’s up. He turns out to be a real friendly guy and offers any help he can to make our stay as comfortable as possible. He also tells us that Ronny Schenk of Schenk’s Grocery Store will make us any sandwich we want at the deli counter and Bridgette t the check out counter will take care of the rest of our needs. So we walk the last block to Schenk’s Grocery Store and walk in. We say hello to Bridgette and Ronny and soon they are walking the isles with us helping us find everything we’re looking for and then Ronny offers to bring his truck around to the front of the store, load up our groceries and drive our supplies down to the boat so we don’t have to carry them! Now that’s down home service with a smile!
Jim for Duette was looking for an extension cord and Schenk’s didn’t have one, so they called the local Dollar General to see if they had one there. Once Ronny heard that, he said that he’d drive Jim over to the Dollar General since it was about a mile away, then meet us back at the boat. As we walked back, we noticed the Mayor was down at the Waterside Restaurant taking pictures of Paul’s boat. Then he left and soon Ron was returning with Jim, the extension cord and the rest of the groceries. As we were loading them, the Mayor returned a third time and walked to the stern of the boat and said that he needed pics from the back of the boat and he hadn’t taken any yet. Soon Ronny Schenk was returning to his grocery store, the mayor was driving off to work on a project with a tractor and ladder, and we were all packed into Sea Wolf and ready for the return trip to the lock. Just as we were leaving the dock the rains started and that’s the end of the nice weather for today. It rained all the way back including thru the lock and onto the wall and while we were distributing the groceries to the respective boats. The rains kept up, sometimes very heavy, until almost 6:00 pm and since we’re now back in standard time zone, it’s dark by about 5:15 pm so basically it rained for the rest of the day. The good news is that we’re pretty sure that tomorrow will be a spectacular day for cruising with sun all day and a high in the sixties, so we are looking forward to moving more south on the Mississippi and anchoring in Little Diversion Channel tomorrow night and that, if all goes well, will be our last night on the Mississippi as we should be able to get up the Ohio River on Wednesday and into Paducah, Kentucky. The only wild card will be how strong the downriver current will be on the Ohio and we will be going upriver into that current. So tomorrow is a planned sixty nautical mile cruise downriver to Little Diversion Channel. If we can maintain 12 knots boat speed it should only take five hours to get there. But the following day is the long haul as we will have to cruise 42 nautical miles down the Mississippi, then 36 nautical miles up the Ohio all in one shot to reach Paducah. If we can’t make Paducah before dark, we’ll have to stay at anchor by the Olmsted Lock and Dam, then finish the last 14 nautical miles on the following day into Paducah. Either way, it will be very nice to be tied at a marina with shore power again where we’ll be able to use our on board heat as much as we want. And we may want to use it a lot because the forecast is for some cold nights later in the week.
Tuesday: Its finally moving day and its a beauty! The sun is warming up the air and Frankie gets his morning exercise in relative comfort.
Everyone is preparing for an early morning departure. Duette will want to leave earliest because they cruise the slowest and by 7:00 am Duette is pulling out into the Kaskaskia River towards the Mississippi. Sea Wolf is next around 7:30 am then Kailani leaves at 8:00 am to complete the trifecta. This segment of the Mississippi this morning is relatively low for tow traffic, but as the day continues and as we get closer to Cape Girardeau the tow traffic in both directions increases. Kailani eventually is in the lead based on our boat speed and when we are about 10 miles from Cape Girardeau, we see a tow ahead of us moving downriver. She’s a pretty large size at 4 wide by 6 long, so she’s 140 feet wide by 1,200 feet long, plus the tow! And she’s traveling at nearly 11 knots with the current, so Guess what I do? I back off a half a knot and follow her all the way to our anchorage! I figure she’s 140 feet wide and we’re 15 feet wide, so anywhere she goes, we’ll fit! We just sit right behind her and when she passes an upbound tow on the ‘one’, we pass on the ‘one’. We even pass an unbound tow like we’ve never seen before. Its 4 wide by 5 long and there’s a tow pushing the load with a smaller tow strapped to her starboard side getting pulled along for the ride!
As the large tow in front of me approaches the port city of Cape Girardeau, we see lots more tow traffic and she slows a bit to negotiate the traffic and the overpass. So we’re forced to take Kailani out of gear or run right up her stern. Even with no gear driving the vessel, we’re making 8 knots thru the water. So once we’re thru the overpass and the tow starts to push her load up to speed again, the tow calls me and says we can pass her on the ‘two’. I let him know over the radio that we just have 3 more miles to go, so we’ll just stay behind her and remain out of her way and soon enough, she’s farther down river, its 1:00 pm and we’re turning Kailani into Little Diversion Channel for our overnight anchorage.
The description of this anchorage says to continue in right up to the old unused railroad bridge, drop anchor and let the current push you back away from the bridge to set the anchor. So that’s exactly what we do and Tracy sets the anchor perfectly.
Soon, Sea Wolf is entering the channel and we radio him and decide to have him raft up to our starboard side, then he can set his stern anchor to keep us from potentially swinging. We don’t think this will be an issue, but it’s better to be prepared regardless. And an hour later Duette is pulling in and rafting up to our port side.
Once we’re all tied up we’re able to enjoy an hour or so of nice fall sunshine before the sun sets and early evening takes over. Bill and Jim come over to Kailani for dinner and before turning in for the night, Paul comes over from Sea Wolf and he starts complaining of sinus drip, so Tracy immediately puts him in the recliner chair, takes off his socks and inflicts reflexology pain on him in an effort to stop the sinus drip. Eventually, (and rather early), we all agree to get started at sunup tomorrow so it’s looper midnight and we turn in for the night. Tomorrow, Sea Wolf and Kailani will shoot for Paducah while Duette makes it to Boston Bar at the intersection with the Ohio River and he will wait for our feedback on the current so he can plan how many days it’ll take him to get to Paducah.
Wednesday: Today’s entry starts at 12:02 am, just after midnight. Tracy is getting up and putting on an overcoat to go outside to talk with one of our looper neighbors, I don’t know yet which one. The activity eventually wakes me up which is unusual because I usually sleep like a log! Anyway, I’m lying in bed deciding whether or not to get up and I’m figuring that someone has a medical issue and that’s why Tracy is out there helping. But it goes on for quite some time, so I eventually go out there to see Paul and Tracy on our bow trying to divert an extremely large log that got caught in our anchor chain and is catching all kinds of other debris which is putting a large strain on Kailani’s ground tackle. She’s already holding three boats in place! Eventually Paul and Tracy (who is out in her nightgown and a windbreaker) gets the log unjammed and then we separate the boats so there’s room for the debris to flow by for the rest of the night. Once everyone’s satisfied that the bows are clear and there is room for future debris to flow thru without getting hung up, we all turn in, however, Tracy decides to sleep on the salon couch in case the situation presents itself again later in the night. Which it did, although not as severely -tc We all know that we’re getting up at 5:00 am anyway, but we try to get some decent sleep.
So I wake up at 5:00 am, turn on the generator and make fresh coffee for the morning. By 6:00 am everyone is up and getting boats ready to depart by 6:30. Our Ultra anchor did a great job holding all three boats against the 1 knot current and the additional debris picked up over the night. We’re real proud of it’s performance. Bill and Jim are the first to untie from Kailani’s port side and soon they are chugging out of Little Diversion Channel towards the Mississippi. Next is Sea Wolf as I hand Paul his lines that were cleated to us. His plan is to gradually pull himself back towards his stern anchor then when he’s right over it, he can pull it straight up and stow it. As soon as he’s cleared the starboard side of Kailani, Tracy starts retrieving our anchor with me at the helm. Soon she’s got our anchor locked into its cradle and we’re ready to turn Kailani around and depart the anchorage. Sea Wolf is motoring out of the channel ahead of us and the cruise day has started. As soon as we’re out of the channel, we pass Sea Wolf and know that we’ll meet them later in the day at Paducah, and after about two miles we’re tasing Duette knowing that they will be anxiously waiting for our feedback on the Ohio River conditions so they can plan their cruise strategy.
The day starts out somewhat cold and we aren’t able to enjoy the greenhouse effect until almost 10:00 am because the morning is cloudy. But once the sun comes out the helm gets very comfortable. Traffic is relatively light this morning on the last 48 miles of the Mississippi that we need to travel to reach the Ohio River. We do not have to overtake any down river tows and there are only about 8 up river tows that we must call and verify the whistle pass. However, all 8 up river tows are very large as is to be expected in this segment of the river. In all, the smallest tow was 3 wide by 5 long or 15 total barges.
At 10:40 am we were saying goodbye to the Mississippi and hello to the Ohio. We have had our fill of the Mississippi and enjoy finally saying goodbye. The only part we’ll miss is the push we were getting as today Kailani was doing 13 knots with a 9 knot boat speed at 1,000 rpm’s. That contrasts to the Ohio where we had to push the Caterpillars up to 1,200 rpm’s to get the engines running at 10 knots which produced a boat speed of 7 knots over ground due to the current in our face. So at 10:40 am we still needed to go 36 nautical miles at 7 knots, so even though we had already cruised for three and a half hours, we still had five more hours to go. But we knew going in that today would be an extremely long day. We really didn’t care about the duration as long as we made it to Paducah before dark, and at this pace we’d be good.
The confluence city is Cairo, Il (pronounced Kay-row) and the port here is just a parking lot of barges on both sides of the river and in the river. If I was counting jelly beans in the jar here I’d say there were at least 1,500 barges in this three mile stretch of water! The good news is that there was not a single tow moving any of them in the channel. So we had to be diligent, careful and aware, but we didn’t have any meetings with a working tow until we got the new Olmsted Lock and Dam. Since it opened, the dam has been down due to the high water conditions and today was no exception. We didn’t get to see the whole new lock because most of it is underwater. As we went over the dam the lock master told us that there was a down river tow coming our way. So after passing over the dam and before reaching the demolition construction for the old Lock 53, the Harley Hancock called us and asked if we’d pass on the two whistle, but also if we could please hold up until he got thru the construction. So we complied and floated on the tows starboard side while he passed thru. As we were waiting, another looper vessel, the Calypso came up behind us and waited also. While waiting for the Harley Hancock to pass, the Calypso asked us of he could pass us once the coast was clear since they were a 22 knot vessel. We said absolutely and once the tow was past, the Calypso took off trying to make Green Turtle Bay before the end of daylight (they must have made it because they were not at Paducah when we got there).
Once we were underway again, I got a text from Paul aboard Sea Wolf and he said his transmission was overheating and he was pulling over to let it cool down before checking on some symptoms. That immediately meant that they would probably miss the opportunity to get to Paducah today, but that’s boating. Soon as they were anchored off channel, a fishing boat was pulling up to them to assist and the guy took Paul to a store where he was able to get some automatic transmission fluid and get it into the transmission. It seemed to be the problem so with not enough daylight and sort of being right in the middle of us and Duette (they were actually 17 miles past Boston Bar and 17 miles short of Paducah), they decided to take the fisherman’s advise and anchored where he showed them and they will make the run to Paducah tomorrow. Duette was nicely anchored in Boston Bar by mid afternoon and as I said earlier, by 4:20 pm we were docked at Paducah getting help with the pump out by Jon on the dock. After the pump out, we moved Kailani over to a slip for the next few days and it sure was nice to hook her up to shore power and get fresh water into the holding tank. So with empty black water tanks, full freshwater holding tanks and full AC power, we’re looking forward to some R and R here in Paducah. But first, as our new tradition, we have to call for a pizza delivery to the boat for dinner. Tracy picks a great location close to us and the meat lovers pizza is a delicious dinner. Tomorrow, we’ll start to explore the town, we hear there’s a Quilting Museum here that shouldn’t be missed. I’m not sure what it means meteorologically, but the water temperature has risen from 51.2 degrees at Little River Diversion Channel all the way up to 57.4 degrees here in Paducah. However all is not peachy keen as the forecast here for Friday is a high of 41 degrees and a low of 25 degrees compared to back home in CT, the forecast for Friday is a high of 54 degrees and a low of 44 degrees. Huh!!
Thursday: Tracy fell about a month ago and has been dealing with left leg sciatica and numbness. Today she noticed her left foot was “slapping ” on the ground as she walked and diagnosed herself with “drop” foot which she assures me is NOT a good thing neurologically. Therefore, we spend the day finding a way of getting her seen on very short notice (including x-rays). Eventually, she is able to find a walk-in orthopaedic clinic and with the help of Lyft we’re getting her checked out by an orthopaedic PA shortly after 1:00 pm. The x-rays do not show any breaks or fractures, so we get a prescription for some steroids, an appointment for an MRI and follow up appointment after the MRI is read. On the way back to the marina, we have the Lyft driver drop us off at the Holiday Inn right next to the marina and we walk in for an early dinner at the Burger Theory inside the Holiday Inn.
We’re there shortly before 4:00 pm and they don’t open for dinner until 5:00 pm so we wait around in the lobby for a while and soon we’re getting some great burgers and fries that taste delicious even though they’d probably taste delicious because of how hungry we were. Afterwards, it’s a cold dark walk back to Kailani for the evening and heat on the boat. Bill from Duette has confirmed that he’s sure he’ll be able to make the marina tomorrow, so we turn in for the evening knowing that our present boat buddies should show up tomorrow. We should be around and ready to catch their lines if the timing is right. We still may get an MRI appointment for tomorrow if the orthopaedic clinic can push up the availability. Tracy is trying to get this done ASAP partly because we want to know what’s going on, and partly because if we’re able to continue, we don’t want to be delayed here waiting for the appointment. So hopefully tomorrow will produce the arrival of our friends, Sea Wolf and Duette, and the call for Tracy to get an MRI moved up.
Friday: Cold weather is starting to drop in and although we’re certainly used to it back home and aboard Kailani (after last fall’s trip down the Atlantic ICW), it’s still cold and uncomfortable here in Paducah. The marina dock is spectacular and only 1 year old, but there are no other facilities here. At least with other marina’s when it was cold, we could still go up to the store, or the marina office, etc. but here you can’t go anywhere else because there isn’t anywhere else. When I give Frankie his morning walk, I’m hoping that he doesn’t want to lolly around, just do his business then get back aboard Kailani.
When I’m getting back aboard Kailani, Tracy is getting a call from the orthopaedic clinic that they can do her MRI at 3:00 pm this afternoon, so that’s good news. Also, we get confirmation that both Sea Wolf and Duette are cruising today and both expect to make Paducah before the day is done. So we spent the rest of the morning doing inside stuff aboard Kailani and in the mid-afternoon a trawler is visible in the distance coming up from Cairo. I let the dock hands know that I think it’s Sea Wolf and they say that, no, it’s a different vessel. We guide it in and I help with the lines and sure enough, it’s not Sea Wolf, it’s Forever Young. They are soon tied up and Tracy is coming out of Kailani ready to catch her Lyft ride for the clinic. She says to me that it’s not necessary that I go, so I can stay on the dock and wait for Sea Wolf and Duette to arrive. Off she goes as I wish her luck and shortly after that, Sea Wolf arrives and I help John tie her up. Then Paul, Diane & I wait for Bill and Jim to arrive aboard Duette.
Soon Bill and Jim are arriving well before dark and Bill is glad to be docked and Jim is glad that he can go get a hotel room and fly home tomorrow. He’s so elated that he tells all of us that he’s taking us all out to dinner tonight to thank us for helping them along the journey. Tracy soon is returning and I tell her that Jim is taking us all out to dinner and after Jim and Bill have gone to Jim’s hotel and showered, they return with a taxi, Paul, Diane, Tracy & I pile in and we go downtown for a nice meal at Max’s Brick Oven Cafe. We all enjoy a spectacular meal served with real hospitality from our waitress and Jim gets the taxi to return and take us back to the docks. We say our goodbyes to Jim and promise to stop and see him when we get to St Petersburg, FL. Everyone turns in to get out of the cold while Sea Wolf and Kailani agree to cruise to Grand Rivers tomorrow and Duette decides to stay for a day as he’s had some grueling cruises lately and he rally needs a day to re-compress.
Saturday: As I’m walking Frankie this morning around 7:30 am I notice that Sea Wolf is already gone from the dock and headed to Green Turtle Bay Resort. So after Frankie and I return to Kailani and I let Tracy now that they’ve already gone, we re-confirm that we will stick to our original plan and plan for a 9:00 am departure and catch up to them along the way.
The first thing I want to do is fire up the engines and give them some time to warm up while we tend to the shore power cords and dock lines. Bill says that he’ll give us a hand with the lines and at 8:45 am we’re pulling away from the docks and headed up the Ohio River towards the Cumberland River. The Ohio is relatively busy for a Saturday and we have to call several down bound tows to confirm whistle passes. But the Ohio is somewhat calmer today and we’re making fairly good time with only a 2 knot current. In 90 minutes, we’re looking at the confluence of the Ohio and Cumberland Rivers.
Once the Cumberland is in sight, the current from both rivers is combined in our face at 3 knots, but as soon as we are exclusively on the Cumberland River there is only a 1 knot current in our face and we start to open up to 8 knots and before 11:00 am we are meeting and passing Sea Wolf.
Our only potential snag today is the Barkley Lock and Dam which is 30 miles down the Cumberland River. Our total distance today is a planned 38 nautical miles and the Barkley Lock is 2 miles from the finish line, so we get to enjoy a beautiful fall ride down the Cumberland with absolutely no commercial or recreational traffic save for 2 guys in a bass boat sitting close to the river bank. I slow Kailani down for them so our wake doesn’t bother their concentration and shortly thereafter we’re rounding a bend to see the nose of our first, and only tow vessel on the Cumberland. I call him and he says to keep right on coming on the one whistle and in no time he’s in our rear view mirror. This meeting was only 4 miles from the lock, so I know we won’t see another tow because they couldn’t get out of the lock quick enough for a passing. One thing I didn’t figure was that there could be an up bound vessel in front of us who could also be waiting for an up bound lockage and as we pass under the bridge 2 miles from the lock, that’s exactly what we are told when I call the lock. The Lock Master lets us know that the tow is just entering the lock and he will be a double, so he should be about an hour to complete. I tell Chris, the Lock Master, that that should work out fine because Sea Wolf is 6 miles behind us and while we wait out the hour, he should be able to catch up to us and we’ll make it a double lockage.
One hour later, Paul and Diane are pulling up alongside us and cleating off to Kailani since she’s already anchored for the wait. And the 1 hour wait turns out to be twice that and its 4:00 pm before we have a green light to enter the lock. While we’ve been anchored and waiting, we’ve been in touch with Green Turtle Bay and gotten our slip assignments because they are only open until 4:30 pm during the fall and they won’t be on the docks to help us after 4:30 pm. So we both know where we will need to go for our slip assignments and that we won’t get there before 4:30 pm. However, I get a call from Bill Gary and he says that he’s the Green Turtle Bay Harbor Master and he’ll wait for us to get in and help with our lines. That certainly helps us a great deal because the sun is gone when the lock gates open and we make the last mile under dusk conditions that get darker as we go along. It’s very hard to see Bill waiting on the docks, but we eventually split him and he guides us into our slips. Kailani eases into T6 and Sea Wolf pulls in right next to us in T5. We thank Bill Gary for waiting and off he goes while Paul and I get our respective boats hoked up to shore power.
As soon as we’re all hooked up, Paul and Diane both say that before they do anything else, they need to get into the showers and freshen up. They haven’t showered since Alton Marina ten days ago! After they are all cleaned up and feel human again, we decide to have the on-site commodore club feed us tonight and off we go to the Commonwealth Yacht Club, a mere one hundred steps from our slips. Dinner here is delicious and there’s a saxophone musician playing tunes during dinner. He’s a very personable guy and during his break he comes over to our table to chat and we have a nice night in the heated restaurant. Soon we’re walking the hundred steps back to our slips and hoping the our cabins are sufficiently heated for our comfort during this projected cold evening. It’s very nice to be here knowing that we’ll be here at least until Wednesday as on Tuesday, we’ll have to borrow one of the courtesy cars and drive the 23 miles back to Paducah for Tracy’s appointment with the Doc who will read and interpret her MRI with her and discuss treatment strategies. Yeahhhh, gimpy me! -tc
We feel very pleased to have completed the last two legs of this incredible journey. Since returning from our little trip to Connecticut, we have successfully completed the Mississippi River and the Ohio River. These two segments, in our opinion(s), are the most grueling segments of the trip and we’ve completed successfully completed them with teamwork, tenacity and hard work from us and Kailani. She’s served us very well over this stretch and we have everything to be proud of for this accomplishment. The legs were long, the weather has changed to nasty, the anchorages were a struggle, but after picking up the two buddy boats of Sea Wolf and Duette, we’ve all helped each other make it thru safely and successfully. Now as we cruise south on the Tennessee River and the Tenn-Tom Waterway, we can expect some fantastic scenery and friendlier waters along with many welcoming marinas to utilize during cold nights and picturesque anchorages for more pleasant temperature nights.
Sunday: Alton Marina is closing some of their seasonal services after today, so we go up to the deli for a hot cooked breakfast and Beth gives us a pleasant surprise. Since today is the last day of the season for the deli, all meals are on the house! So we have a nice breakfast of eggs, bacon and toast with two cups of their complimentary coffee. Nice deal. After breakfast, I go over to see Jeff and Lucy on Encantada. We met them yesterday in Port Charles Harbor just before we left there. They had some friends aboard who were from the area and had left their vehicle down at Hoppie’s and were planning on cruising together down to Hoppies today, but the winds are very strong, so they will stay in port until Monday.
Sunday afternoon is very nice at Alton Marina and we make arrangements to eat dinner at the Argosy Riverboat Casino tonight. They have a shuttle that will pick us up at the marina and bring us back so transportation is a non-issue. Also, for the month of October, the casino buffet is only $7.77 per person on Sundays. So again, we simply can’t go wrong there. At 5:30 pm we call the shuttle and five minutes later we’re getting picked up and driven over to the casino. The buffet is not as spectacular as some other casino buffets we’ve enjoyed, but hey, you can’t beat the price!
After filling our stomachs, Tracy has to try her luck on the slot machines. We agree that she’ll just take a twenty and when it’s gone, she’s done. So we are entertained at the slot machines by Tracy’s twenty dollar bill for the next 15 minutes or so and soon we’re walking out after having spent more money gambling than eating.
Monday: Today is our last full day here in Alton as tomorrow, we’ll continue down the Mississippi to Hoppie’s Marina in Kimmswick, Mo. So I get out my bicycle and take a ride to Bluff City Outdoors, a short but semi hilly 2.5 mile ride. There I buy some new fresh worms for Tracy and on the way back, I stop at the local Dollar General and get milk and bread to keep us going for the next week.
Later in the day, Tracy was thinking about going back to the casino for the buffet again, but for some reason, she found that the buffet was closed on Mondays, so she made a nice big salad for each of us and it was delicious. After dinner, I did some chores that needed attention before we spend the next week mostly at anchor. Together, we refilled the fresh water holding tank, than I used the marina’s city water supply to refill our two drinking water tanks with 4.5 gallons of Brita-purified water. Now, we’re all set for a few days of anchoring out. Tomorrow, we’ll cruise to Hoppie’s Marina, but they will be the last marina for 200 miles.
Tuesday: We are sitting just 2 miles upriver from the Mel Price Lock and Dam, so after walking Frankie and getting the boat ready for departure, I called the lock at 9:00am and he said that he would get the auxiliary (smaller) lock ready for pleasure craft for a 10:00 am lockage and hopefully more boats would show up because yesterday, he got a bunch of ones and twos all day for lockage and is really set them back on the commercial lockages.
After hanging up with Jason, the Lock Master, I checked Vessel Finder and NEBO to see of there were any other pleasure craft(s) coming downriver from either Grafton or Port Charles this morning. Sure enough, two pleasure craft showed up on NEBO and I contacted them to see what their game plan was for the day. They said they were two of four vessels traveling together today and they would definitely want to get into the 10:00 am lockage and they could be at the lock by then, so Tracy and I got Kailani ready for departure and pulled out of the Alton Marina at 9:50 am heading for the Mel Price Lock.
I called Jason back and he said the lock was ready for us and we could drive right in, so Kailani and four other looper vessels entered the lock and prepared for the 23’ drop. Once the water started going down, we noticed that the lock only dropped us about 2-3 feet, not 23 feet! Oh well, it’s always good to get thru a lock without much delay. We noticed AGLCA burgees on all four boats, so we were in good company and actually the lead vessel, Still Waters II had a gold burgee, so they have already completed one loop. Seeing that, I radioed Dave on Still Waters II and told him that since he had already passed these waters once before, he should lead the way and as the lock gates opened and the horn blasted, I let him go out first. Still Waters II lead for the entire day and it was all good because today we are passing through the busiest port on the entire loop. St Louis is supposedly the busiest port city on the Mississippi.
Shortly after Mel Price Lock, there’s an entrance on the left descending bank to Chain of Rocks Canal. This is a man-made 12 mile long canal which bypasses the only portion of the Mississippi that has rapids, so it’s important to not make a wrong turn here. There is virtually no traffic on the canal, but there is a long line of tugs lined up at the lock, but the lock master was very nice and she was just completing a single barge lift and getting ready to open the gates when we showed up so she let us enter right after the single upriver lift and ride down as she returned the water to the down river side for the next up river lift. As it turned out, there was also an empty tow vessel that needed to lock down and she let him in with us since she was locking us though the main chamber and not the auxiliary chamber. This chamber is 1100 feet long by 110 feet wide, so the five of us were virtually lost in this chamber. It’s certainly the largest chamber we’ve been in with Kailani.
After the lock opens up we are back on the Mississippi River with the St Louis skyline ahead of us and the impending port traffic coming up. Still Waters II does an excellent job of getting us thru the traffic and shortly afterwards, we’re rocking and rolling down the Mississippi towards or stop for the night. The Mississippi is often described as “mighty”, but today it was “might and choppy!” We had a strong 5 knot current carrying us southbound with a 10-15 mph wind in our face coming out of the south. So whenever the current and the winds are in exactly opposite directions, the water gets choppy and that’s exactly what we had today. If you recall, about 4 weeks ago on our last legs of the Illinois River, we had pretty much the same water conditions, but this is a bigger body of water, so therefore bigger chop!
Soon we’re approaching Hoppie’s Marina on the right descending bank and one at a time, we are called in by the dock master and there are two dock hands to grab lines in this strong current. They really know their business and after 5 hours on the water and 2 locks, we’re finally south of St Louis and ready to tackle what some refer to as the most difficult stretch of water for loopers. This next stretch gets its reputation from the fact that there are no marinas for 200 miles and based on weather conditions, the available anchorages are sometimes unusable. The owner here, Fern Hopkins conducts river briefings every day at 5:30 pm to go over these scenarios, so we’re all looking forward to that later on today.
There’s also a really neat restaurant here in town called the Blue Owl Restaurant with a great reputation for entrees and their ‘Levee high apple pie’, but we’ve arrived here at 3:00 pm and the restaurant closes everyday at 3:00 pm, so we’ll have to wait until tomorrow for taste bud stimulation.
Hoppie’s is literally barges anchored to the shore with power and cleats, so after all 5 looper vessels are tied up, we mingle about the dock/barge getting acquainted.
While sitting on the barge/dock passing out boat cards, someone jumps up and says, “hey, look at that red buoy floating down the river!” So I had to get a quick video of it. Three of the other four vessels have all started their loop from north of St Charles on the Mississippi and the fourth is Still Waters II who are cruising on their second loop. They all met when Still Waters II got to the intersection of the Mississippi with the Illinois and they turned north so they could eventually complete the entire navigable length of the Mississippi (after here, they are continuing down the Mississippi rather than turning onto the Ohio River with the rest of us).
At 5:00 pm, Fern’s daughter Debbie came down to give us the briefing since Fern is still recovering from knee replacement surgery. Debbie described the preferred method for leaving their docks utilizing the reverse transmission trick to clear the shafts and propellers from any potential debris before untying the dock lines. Then she described the current (up to date and water) conditions for the next 200 miles on the Mississippi and the Ohio Rivers. Included with this information are the safe (and apparently only) locations for anchorage along the way. We had a plan that we thought was very doable, but Debbie squashed that plan and now we have to revise our strategy going forward. We will still be resting here tomorrow and enjoying the local town, but when we leave, our stop destinations may have to change for safety sake. In fact over the course of the presentation, the rest of the loopers all decided that it would be better for them to stay tomorrow, rather than leave as planned. So if they make their final decision in the morning to stay an extra day, we’ll all be cruising together again on Thursday. We’ll have to see how that works out in the morning.
Back onboard Kailani, some of the rocking (but not all) has ceased and Tracy whips up a shrimp scampi dinner that we enjoy on this fairly nice late October evening. There’s rain in the forecast for later on tonight with some scattered showers tomorrow, but we’re looking forward to enjoying this small town regardless.
Wednesday: This morning is decision time for the other four loopers (we had committed to spending two nights here). So after some coffee and some discussion, all four boats, Still Water II, Aurora, Blurred Lines and Gammal Dansk all fired up their engines, went thru the pre-departure process for clearing potentially fouled props and were soon headed off into the fog for Kaskaskia Lock. It’s a relatively short 40 mile cruise with the current, but I’m concerned for them in this fog (to complete their story, by 3:30 pm they were all safely tied up at the lock wall).
So today, Tracy and I are walking into town for the famous Blue Owl Restaurant meal. This is downtown Kimmswick, MO and this restaurant has been featured on the Food Network, Wall Street Journal, The Travel Channel and The Oprah Show to name a few. People come from all over the world to experience this small town gem and we weren’t about to pass thru without a taste! The home cooked meals are spectacular, but the desserts are the treasure.
They serve all in house prepared foods and desserts and the most famous dessert is their Levee High Caramel Apple Pecan Pie that has 18 apples in each pie! When our waitress described the available desserts I had to stop her at the carrot-cheese cake. This is a top and bottom tier of carrot cake surrounding a center layer of cheesecake, and for a simple request, they’ll throw a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top…Done! Everything was great and to top it off, our waitress’ folks are from Waterbury and Thomaston, CT. Her dad used to paint the faces on Seth Thomas clocks. And as we were leaving, we got to meet Mary Hostetter, the owner and she was very nice in sharing her pleasure to see so many loopers stop in for her home-cooked meals.
The sun never broke thru today but the winds died down and the fog eventually dissipated and two more loopers came into the marina for the evening.
Thursday: The overnight was a stressful night. Tracy spent the night trying to sleep in the salon because she was concerned about watching for logs and lines to snap. By morning, we were still secured safely to Hoppies barge but Tracy had gotten very little sleep. We spent two long hours trying to decide on whether to go or not. We both didn’t want another night like last night, but today’s weather outlook is bleak with rain all day and winds out of the north at 20 mph gusting to 35 mph. This is not a good day to be on the river. So with the desire to go coupled with the sensibility to be safe staying here, we finally decide to remain, add more fenders and wait it out because tomorrow is forecasted to be pleasant, partly sunny and negligible winds. Our new Canadian friends on Sea Wolf decide to stay and Duette says they’re going to go for it, then they decide to stay also.
The day is mostly overcast with periods of light and heavy rain. The barge traffic is still going strong in both directions, however most of the unbound tows are empty barges, but with the 4-5 knot current, they still throw out ridiculous wakes. Bill and Jim of Duette and I play some cribbage in the afternoon in Hoppies clubhouse. Afterwards Tracy and I get all bundled up for the rainy/raw walk into town for dinner at Smokey Robinson’s Cajun Smokehouse. They’re the only location open after 3:00 pm in this small town. We walk in around 4:45 pm and we’re the only ones in the restaurant besides the staff! We have a great meal with pulled pork nachos and fried pepperoni nachos for appetizers, then we share the combination plate for two of smoked ribs and pulled pork. We purposely over-ordered so we could bring leftovers back aboard for the next couple of days at anchor. As we are paying our bill and getting ready to walk back to the marina, the waitress asks if we’re going back to Hoppies and after confirming, she says to hang on because Mike, the owner/chef is leaving to pick up Bill and Jim at the marina and he’ll drive us back so we don’t have to walk in the cold rain. Another local helping out loopers.
Back aboard Kailani Tracy determines that the onboard heater is not functioning properly caused likely by insufficient raw water intake. The Mississippi River debris has probably clogged the intake and once we are tied up tomorrow at Kaskaskia Lock wall, and there is negligible current, we’ll be able to research and hopefully clear any blockage(s). For tonight we just use our electric heaters and the electric blanket on the bed.
Friday: I wake to a bit of low lying fog over the river. Not to worry, the fog is generated from colder air than the water and as soon as the sun works a bit, the fog will be gone. This is a non-issue since we don’t plan to leave until almost 10:00 am. So Frankie gets his morning walk, I get my three cups of coffee and Tracy gets her two cups of coffee and by 9:15 am we’re starting the engines and ‘flushing’ the props. This is a must when you are in moving water with so much debris scurrying by. It’s possible that something large (or small) can get fouled in the propellers so one the engines are running and the boat is still tied to the dock (barge here), you run each engine once in reverse, then in forward and see if anything spits out. We do it twice on each propeller and are satisfied that our propulsion is alright. Ray has already helped Duette and Sea Wolf off the dock properly (against the 5 knot current) and is alongside Kailani with Tracy ready to accept the lines from Ray. He un-cleats from the bow to the stern and leaves only the forward spring line which holds the boat from drifting back (with the current). Then with me at the helm, I give a bit of port forward and Ray tosses the line to Tracy. Once we’re free of the dock I head Kailani upriver into the current, then slowly turn the boat towards downriver once we’re in the sailing channel.
Once we’re on course, we have 37 nautical miles to get to the Kaskaskia Lock and Dam for the evening. The Kaskaskia Lock allows boaters to tie up to the lock wall on the dam side for the evening at no charge. The only stipulation is that you must call them to let them know your intentions and they keep track of the number of passengers, the homeport and the final destination of each vessel that ties up to their wall. That’s a fair deal and by 1:00 pm Kailani, Sea Wolf and Duette are safely tied up for the night. Paul from Sea Wolf also discovers that every thirty feet or so on the wall, there’s a duplex outlet with 110 volt AC power (since he’s Canadian he says that he found ‘Hydro’). But nonetheless, we have 110 power for small appliances like space heaters (so we don’t have to run the generator all night).
The location is perfectly calm and quiet and it’s so secluded that we let Frankie loose on top the lock wall and he runs free for a half hour or so blowing off some steam after being either cooped up aboard the vessel or leashed everywhere he has gone for the last couple of weeks.
Then we convene with the crews of Sea Wolf and Duette for some conversation about the day’s cruise and some plans for going further south to the Ohio River.
Saturday: Fog is heavy and not going away for a bit. We discuss with Sea Wolf and Duette the options looking forward and since Duette is a slower boat cruising with fuel conservation in mind, he can not make Little Diversion Channel if we leave at 11:00 am.
Plus there’s forecast(s) ahead looking at sever weather on Monday and since we would be in an open water anchorage if we left tomorrow, we decide that we may be here on the lock wall for a few days waiting out the severe weather. Our first decision is to stay put for today and continue to watch weather opportunities and pitfalls to navigation further south of here. We will have to watch our resources for the next couple of days as there are no marinas until we get to Paducah.
While we are passing the time in the afternoon a catamaran vessel cruises up the Kaskaskia River and we help them tie up. They are a French couple that started their adventure in June 2017 when they left France to cross the Atlantic Ocean. They’ve been to Florida, up the ICW to Maine, then around Nova Scotia on down the St Lawrence River to four Great Lakes, then into the river system in Chicago. The had their mast shipped to Mobile Alabama and once they have their mast again, they will be sailing to the Panama Canal then up to Hawaii and Alaska before turning around and sailing down to the tip of South America and returning to France! Now that’s an adventure!
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.
Sunday: As agreed last evening, we all take a leisurely pace thru our pre-departure chores this morning as we have plenty of time. First, we all get the chance to meet Bob and square up with him for the dock fees and we have a pleasant time talking with him about his marina, it’s uniqueness and his plans for improvements. Then we all stock up with on-board water for our fresh water holding tanks and Wild Goose gets a pump out. By 10:45 am Wild Goose is all pumped out and pulling away from the dock and out into the river followed by Kailani, then Sea Cottage. Once out in the river, Kailani leads the pack followed by Wild Goose, then Sea Cottage in a row. Today we only have to overtake one tow and pass one tow so the 28 miles is a real smooth cruise in spite of the off and on rain that falls during the 3 hours and 20 minutes on the water. The day is spectacular for eagle watching as we spot 18 eagles with 8 of them bald eagles. The eagle sights really made the cruise a pleasant one and soon we were approaching the Beardstown Railroad Bridge and our dockage right after the bridge. About a mile before the bridge, I called the bridge tender to ask him what the pool level was doing to his air clearance as we were all right on the border of safe passage unless the water was up some and we’ve had quite a but of rain the last two days, so I wanted to confirm with him. Once I asked him, he simply said that since there were no trains coming he’d be more than happy to raise it for us so there would be no chance of any of us hitting it and soon the bridge was raising and we all passed safely under it.
Right after the bridge is the Logsdon Tug Service on the left descending bank and they are a working tug yard, but they allow pleasure craft to tie up to their barges and/or tugs to spend the night. There are no services here, just a safe tie up in the river currents. And there is also the possibility that at 2 in the morning, they could come out and let one or all of us know that we’d have to move our vessels because they need to get a tug out into the water. After all, they are a 24 hour a day, 7 days a week working tug yard. So I call them on VHF 10 as directed when I made the arrangements and a tug employee answers and directs us where to tie up. Wild Goose pulls into a niche between two tows and two barges, then we raft up to him while Sea Cottage pulls up to the port side of a tow boat and ties up to that.
Since these are the spots they have told us to go to , we’re hoping we’ll be getting a full night’s sleep without a midnight maneuver! Time will tell on that score.
Once we’re all tied up, Barry and I take a walk into town to check it out and all we can find for a Sunday afternoon is rolled up sidewalks in a fairly large community. Some of the guidebooks described this stop as extremely interesting and lots to see and do, but we can’t find anything in those regards, so we enjoy our downtown stroll and return to the vessels before the rains come.
Once we’re back and on our respective vessels, all on battery power, the rains come with a good 30 minutes of heavy downpour. The heavy type where you can’t even see across the river!
Well, we’re all safe on our respective boats for what we hope will be a peaceful night and tomorrow, we’ll head out for a longer cruise down river to a nice anchorage spot that was recommended to us by Jeremy Fowler a week ago at Heritage Harbor Marina. We’ll have to pass thru the last lock on the Illinois River called LeGrange Lock and Dam. It’s a wicket type dam and the lock is normally a 10 foot drop, but we’ll see what’s in store for us in the morning. By Tuesday we will be off the Illinois River and onto the Mississippi River where we’ll leave Kailani for some minor repairs while we drive home for a week.
Monday: As is our procedure whenever we have a lock to cruise thru, we make a call early in the morning and the lock master says that the wickets are down and there’s at least 12 feet of water over the wickets and the lock is closed. Just follow the red buoy and there’s 420 feet of channel width over the wickets. So there’s no need to plan for an opening thru the La Grange Lock. So our plan is to depart around 9:00 am. At around 8:00 am we go up to the office to pay our fees for the dockage and as we’re walking back to the boats, the tow captain says that he’ll need the space where we’re docked pretty soon. So we tell him that we plan to shove off at 9:00 am and he says that his boss will fire him if he waits that long, so we must go into rush mode and prepare the vessels for departure. We’ve been doing this for so long now, this isn’t a problem and at 8:20 am we’re all off the barges at Logsdon Tug Services and prepared to head downriver towards a suitable anchorage. We have not decided where we’ll anchor yet, we’ve only decided to start moving and see how the river treats us.
Well the river is good and bad to us today. The good first: there’s a two knot current helping us down the river.
The bad: there’s a ton of floating timber as a result of yesterday’s storms raising the river levels and there’s a 15 knot headwind causing wind-driven waves the whole day. So effectively, we are cruising at about 8 knots and gaining the extra speed up to 10 knots, but we must avoid all floating debris at the same time! Once we see that the river is pushing us so much and we got a relatively early start, we could potentially go all the way to Mel’s River Dock Restaurant at mile marker 21.1 which is nearly 60 miles away from us. But eventually, we decide that shooting for Mel’s makes a lot of sense and by 2:45 pm we’re tying up to the floating dock at Mel’s. Collin is the new owner and he meets us at the docks to assist with the tie ups. Within fifteen minutes we have all nestled up to the dock and secured our lines. Sea Cottage relaxes aboard their vessel, Wild Goose goes for a bike ride and Tracy and I go up to the restaurant for some lunch. Then we spend the afternoon chatting and relaxing amongst our friends from all three vessels. Tomorrow we will be heading off for different destinations so today is our last day together for a while.
We all agree to meet at the restaurant for dinner at 7:00 pm and we have a really good time together and stay in the restaurant as long as we can, acting like we don’t want the night to end.
But soon we must leave, walk back to our boats and Wild Goose turns in while Sea Cottage and Tracy watch “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” before turning in for the night. We all try to run our generators for a while to make sure the batteries last thru the night, but the generator on Kailani doesn’t want to start. So I go into the generator compartment and try to get it started. First I check the battery and right away I have a sense what the problem is because as I check the voltage at the posts, I’m only getting 11.75 vols, so there’s an issue with my system that this battery is not getting recharged as it should. I immediately go up to the bridge to make sure the engines will start so we can leave in the morning and they start right up. I leave them running for a while just to re-charge the house batteries a bit, then I shut them down. Tracy returns form watching the movie and then we turn in for the night.
Tuesday: Since I can’t make coffee aboard Kailani without a generator, I go up to the Riverdock Restaurant for coffee and breakfast. As I’m finishing up, Barry walks in, sits down and has breakfast with me. I buy a large coffee and a large cinnamon bun to go and bring them back for Tracy.
We have short cruises today, but we all want to get off the Illinois and onto the Mississippi. So with 25 nautical miles for us and 41 nautical miles for them, we all prepare to leave the dock. By 9:15 am we are all cruising down river and today the current is as strong as yesterday but the debris seems to be a bit heavier than yesterday, so we maintain constant vigil and we also cruise at a slightly slower pace so we’ll have more time to react if we see something hazardous floating by.
We end up with 2 passing situations and no overtaking situations, so the cruise is very easy, at least until we get to the Mississippi River. Once we hit the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers, Sea Cottage and Wild Goose will continue cruising down river to Alton Marina, but we will turn up river and head to Port Charles Harbor. So for the last 6 miles, we will be going upriver into a stronger current. Just before the turn, we are getting over 3 knots push, but when Kailani turns up river, we go from 11.3 knots per hour to 6.5 knots per hour and that’s with an increase of 100 rpm’s on the throttles.
Once we split up and they continued down river, they still had 20 miles to go and we had 6 miles to go and we only were tied up about 45 minutes before they were all secure in their marina.
Since we’re going home tomorrow to cure a case of severe homesickness, we will not be cruising together with Sea Cottage or Wild Goose for a while and we will miss being together with them, but they both have plans for returning home at some point so after we all make our respective trips to the homeland, we should be able to eventually catch up with them again.
Once we’re all registered at Port Charles Harbor, we go back to Kailani and do some chores that need completing before we leave for a week. Also, Paul Hopkins will be stopping by later in the afternoon so we can go over the list of items we want done while we’re gone. Then at 4:00 pm I will get picked up by Enterprise and taken to their office so I can get our rental car, then return to the marina.
We eat up some left-overs for dinner so they won’t be science projects when we get back from CT, then we spend the evening preparing for our 9:00 am departure tomorrow. Our plan is to break up the 16 hour drive into two eight hour drive days so our goal will be to make Akron, Ohio by tomorrow evening. The forecast is calling for rain tomorrow so we will pack accordingly and leave wet weather gear available if necessary.
Wednesday thru Saturday: We start the long two day drive back to CT. Rain on both travel days makes for even longer days, but by Thursday evening we are home in CT and ready for a weekend of family, friends and birthday parties.
Sunday: Due to the breakdown at the Starved Rock Lock we are staying here in Ottawa at least one more day. We use the day to do some additional unique shopping and Tracy sets up another movie night with the selection being Forest Gump. We get the crews from Big Bear, Sea Cottage and Wild Goose and we all have a great time watching the movie. Jeremy Fowler sets up a room in the marina offices for us that has a large screen TV and he agrees to stay overtime so we can use the room. Now that’s a guy who cares about his customers! Also we get the on-site restaurant to deliver food to us while watching the movie and it’s really a comfortable evening for our last night in Heritage Harbor Ottawa. After the movie is over around 9pm we all turn in agreeing that we’ll call the lock first thing in the AM and go with whatever they recommend for time of departure, but we will all be ready to leave for 8am incase he says to come right away!
Monday: As planned, we make the call to the lockmaster at 6:15am and he tells us to be there for 9:30am and he’ll get us thru. Since the lock is twelve miles downriver, leaving at 8:00am will be just perfect. So Carousal, Big Bear, Kailani, Sea Cottage and Wild Goose all pull off the docks at 8:00am and head for the Starved Rock Lock. Once we’re within range for the VHF, we call him again and he says that it will be another good hour to an hour and a half, so I decide to duck into Starved Rock Marina and top off my tanks while we’re waiting. The little bit of extra fuel would come in useful if we’re doing a lot of waiting at locks while idling.!
While we’re waiting, two more loopers come by and cruise right up to the lock to wait. They came from the marina and go a lot faster than our pack of trawlers, so Island Bum and Bella Blue were able to sit back and stay at the dock longer. However their strategy didn’t get us into the lock chamber any quicker.
No, in reality, the hour to an hour and a half that we were told at 9:15am turned into three full hours!!! We were called into the lock chamber at 12:15pm along with the tow Daniel Egan and we were soon cruising south again towards Henry Harbor Marina.
With the three hour delay at the lock the total time on the water today for this forty nautical mile trip turned out to be eight hours and fifteen minutes. So needless to say we were all very tired sailors after all five boats were tied up at the old lock wall. This is a primitive marina where virtually nobody knew anything about boats or shore power and we were basically on our own to fend for ourselves on this tie-up.
The shore power connections were on telephone poles about 30 feet from the old lock wall, so getting our cords to reach and stay connected became a virtual nightmare and after we were all hooked up it looked like before the night was over we’d be getting introduced to the local volunteer fire department. The only thing they were good at was taking $1.00 per foot fee for staying the night. At least they had a semi decent restaurant on site and Tracy and I were so exhausted from the day that we just walked up, paid our $46.00 for the dockage and stayed right there and had a meal that someone else cooked and someone else cleaned up. That was the best part of that dinner.
After dinner and letting Frankie run around free because he really couldn’t escape this little peninsula of land, we all agreed to plan on a 9am departure for Peoria which was only 30 miles downriver and no bridges or lock to deal with.
Tuesday: As agreed we were all ready to shove off at 9am and soon all five vessels were in the river cruising downstream towards Peoria. The first half of the trip was extremely quiet with no other tows or vessels to pass or overtake. Then the second half of this leg got rather busy with three tows to pass and two tows to overtake. We had two vessels with AIS, the Automated Information System that allows transmission of vessel names, captains, size, destination, speed, etc. onto other vessels with similar AIS to read and it just so happened that in our flotilla, Sea Cottage and Carousel both were equipped with this technology. So with each approaching and overtaking vessel, we were able to call them by name and get responses regarding which side of their vessel they wanted us to proceed. This insures a safer and more stress free cruise for sure.
In less than four hours, we were pulling into the Town of Peoria and cruising towards the Peoria City Docks. We knew that the city docks would be a tight fit for the five of us, but knowing that it’s midweek in October, we didn’t plan on much boat traffic being tied up for the night at the wall, so we were surprised that once we got there there was only room for one, maybe two vessels and the rest would have to seek dockage elsewhere. The good news is that on the way down as we passed the Illinois Valley Yacht (IVY) Club Tracy called them to see if they had room for five transients, just so we’d have a plan B and that’s exactly what Kailani, Sea Cottage and Big Bear did once Carousel and Wild Goose were secured on the city docks wall. So we back-tracked seven miles to the IVY Club and Tim the Harbor Master was waiting for each of us as we came in thru the break water into the club slips.
Soon we were all secured and hooked up to very good power and the rest of the afternoon was ours to enjoy. The only thing is that the city docks are right in the heart of all the action in this town and the IVY Club is 7 miles out of the hub with no close services.
But we do know that there is Uber here and we will definitely be using them tomorrow because Peoria is the home of Caterpillar and that’s where our hard working engines come from, so tomorrow, we’re going to spend time at the Caterpillar Museum for sure.
Wednesday: Erik, Barry and I make arrangements for an Uber to drive us to the Caterpillar Museum and Visitors Center. We wait out front of the IVY Club and Daniel shows up on time for our ride.
Soon we’re getting dropped off in front of the Caterpillar Museum for our tour of the facility. Once we’re in and paid, we are led into the bed of a Cat 797F Mining Truck. This is one of the largest mining trucks in the world with a payload capacity of 400 tons of ore and can travel at 42 miles per hour fully loaded! We are sitting in the bed of one of these vehicles and we’re basically 25 feet off the museum floor. In this bed we will watch a fifteen minute video about Caterpillar and the layout of the museum. After the video we walk down two flights of stairs to get to the museum floor where there are timelines of the company, full scale pieces of some of the equipment Cat manufactures, video presentations showing the different aspects of the manufacturing process, simulators, a nascar room and of course the fourteen foot high wheels of the Cat 797F Mining Truck! We spend two hours watching, listening and being amazed at some of the facts and figures describing the Caterpillar Company. At all times, there are guides on the museum floor to answer questions and make suggestions on stuff to see and do.
So after Ron, the guide suggests we try the simulators, we walk over to an area where you can sit in the seat of an excavator, or a bulldozer and operate the controls on a simulator screen. Both simulators are set up for the equipment to backfill a pipe that’s already been laid in a trench. So you can try bulldozing the soil back over the pipe or scoop, swing and drop the soil with the excavator. These are both very neat simulators and it’s quite entertaining to try the controls of these pieces of machinery.
After we’re done in the museum area, we go back upstairs to the Cat store and look thru all the merchandise they sell with the Cat logo. There’s shirts, jackets, parkas, gloves, hats, decks of cards, mugs, keychains, etc. , pretty much anything you can imagine is in this store for sale with the Cat Logo. After Barry buys a few hats and I but hat and a pocketed T Shirt, we walk a few blocks to Kenny’s Irish Pub for some lunch. The portions are large and filling, then we walk six blocks to a Walgreens so Erik can get some products. The Walgreens ends up being inside a local hospital and when we finally get to the block where the hospital is, we walk into one of the entrances to find an unattended entrance with nobody available to help us find the Walgreens. But as we’re deciding our next move, a hospital employee comes walking out of the elevator towards the exit. She is an Oncology Dietician and her day is over. We ask her if she would be so kind as to show us the way to the Walgreens and she tells us that it’s around the block inside the main entrance to the hospital. Then she offers to take us there, so here’s this lady who is leaving the hospital ready to go home after a hard days work and she takes us around the block, up a hill and into the hospital main entrance, then walks us down the main corridor to the Walgreens b before we can thank her for her time spent helping us out. Once again, the willingness of people to step in and help strangers is refreshing and well appreciated.
After we’re done with the hospital trip, Barry calls for an Uber and soon we’re back at the IVY Club Marina. We have reservations for dinner at 7pm so we all retire to our respective vessels so we can get ready to meet back up in the clubhouse dining room at 7pm.
Dinner is a blast with the crews of Kailani, Sea Cottage and Wild Goose and afterwards it’s 9pm so we all head back to the vessels for a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow we plan to cruise 40 plus miles to either Tall Timbers Marina or if the water is still too shallow, we’ll be anchoring behind Quiver Island right next to the marina.
Thursday: Sea Cottage finds oil stains on his engine room floor while doing his engine checks this morning and has to bow out of today’s journey. Wild Goose and Kailani hold off departing while Sea Cottage makes contact with a mechanic from the next marina over and within 15 minutes, he’s checking out the status. Wild Goose and Kailani discuss moving on without Sea Cottage, but decide to wait out another day to see if Sea Cottage can get back on the water today. The mechanic determines that one of the turbochargers needs to be replaced and it will take until probably next Monday to get the parts and then Tuesday to install them. Now Wild Goose and Kailani are thinking about moving on because Kailani needs to get to the Mississippi for some repairs while we drive back home for a visit with family.
But for today, we’ll stay here and make a shopping trip to East Peoria where there’s a Costco, Target, Walmart, Bass Pro Shops, etc. Pretty much every kind of store for anything we could need. So Barry and Carol from Wild Goose, Jennifer from Sea Cottage and Tracy and I get into an Uber car and travel over to East Peoria, stopping first at Costco. After some supplies, we walk over to the Target and we find a few things, but basically strike out there. So then we call for an Uber to get us to the Bass Pro Shops where we do well and score a quite a few necessary purchases. Then we all sit down for a lunch in the Bass Pro Shops Restaurant. After lunch and loaded down with bags and boxes, we call for another Uber to get us home.
Wild Goose and Kailani make plans for a Friday departure while Sea Cottage is still laid up needing repairs. The rest of the day is spent cleaning boats, spending time around the IVY Club and getting Kailani ready for tomorrow’s departure. We make arrangements to meet Ron Johnson, the Harbor Master at 8:00 am for a pump out then we’ll shove off.
Friday: We wake up to heavy rain and news that the Cummins mechanic has shown up with Sea Cottage’s turbocharger and he expects to be done by noontime. So since it’s raining fairly heavily, Wild Goose and Kailani decide to roll the dice and stick around until noontime so we can cruise together with Sea Cottage. Noontime and the turbocharger is installed, but the mechanic has found that a coolant hose needs replacement, so off he goes to locate one and we all decide that Saturday will be a nice day for a cruise to Havana.
We still move Kailani over to the pump out dock and get that out of the way so it’s not still on our to-do list tomorrow and it turns out to be a good thing that we did complete it today.
Tracy goes over to Sea Cottage and watches Shark Tales with the crew of Sea Cottage while I get some last minute chores done in preparation for tomorrow’s cruise. I’ve already spoken to Bob at Tall Timbers numerous time and each time it appears that the water levels are rising and we should be able to get into his harbor on Saturday. Also I call Logsdon Tug Service in Beardstown and make arrangements for the availability of space for our three vessels at their tug/barge dock and they confirm that they have only three spaces and nobody has called yet for Sunday, so we will be good when we arrive there.
With that all in place, Friday evening is a relaxing night and we all agree to be ready for an 8:00 am departure, but that we will call the Peoria Lock and check status prior to leaving.
Saturday: Erik calls the lock at 6:15am and he says to be there for 8:45 am and he’ll be able to get us thru. So we all agree to depart by 7:15 am for the 10 mile run to the lock. Kailani pulls out first followed by Wild Goose then Sea Cottage and we start cruising downriver towards the center of Peoria. As we are passing under the bridge in Peoria, the Spirit of Peoria, a paddle wheel cruise liner is blowing his horn to pull out from his dock. So he falls in behind the three of us and we are all cruising downriver towards the Peoria Lock and Dam. We also had spotted three cruisers that left the Peoria Town Docks ahead of us and were already a couple of miles ahead of us. We thought that possibly the lock master would mistake them for the three of us that had called earlier this morning, but what ultimately occurred was that the three of us and the Spirit of Peoria arrived at the lock at nearly the same time and the lock master told us that the paddle wheel had the right of way so he would go first. The good thing was that the drop was only five feet, so the Spirit of Peoria with its 134 passengers heading to St Louis entered the lock first, the lock dropped 5 feet, the gates opened and the paddle wheel continued down river, the gates re-closed and the lock master filled the chamber and soon he was opening the up river gated for us to enter. All this occurred while a downriver tow with 15 barges waited along the right descending bank for us to complete our lockage. That was very accommodating of him and soon we were thru the lock and cruising downriver towards Havana and Tall Timbers Marina. Bob, the marina owner, called and said he wouldn’t be there when we arrived but there was sufficient water and he wanted Sea Cottage (the largest vessel of our fleet) to enter the harbor first, take the northernmost long dock, then for the other two vessels to come thru and dock at any of the remaining three finger slips. So it was good to have that information.
But we still had to cruise 30 more miles to get there and during that cruise, we had to overtake one 15 barge toes and pass 2 other up river tows with 12 barges each. This has become rather commonplace for us as Sea Cottage has their AIS light up their screen with the tow name, speed of vessel, and location. So even if they are around a blind turn in the river, the AIS lets us know they’re there and we can call them so there are no surprises. We always ask the tow Captain which side of his tow he wants us to pass and the answer is in whistles. When both vessels are going in the same direction, ‘one whistle’ means he would like us to overtake him on his starboard (left) side which is our port (right) side, and if he says ‘two whistles’ he wants us to pass on his port side and keep him on our starboard side. Conversely when vessels are in opposite directions, ‘one whistle’ means to pass him on his port side and our port side while ‘two whistles’ means to pass him on his starboard side and our starboard side. It’s really quite simple and easy to remember once you use it a few times.
By 1:00 pm we are looking at the entrance to Tall Timbers Marina and as requested, Sea Cottage enters first followed by Wild Goose then Kailani. The marina harbor was loaded with asian carp and once they heard the roar of our diesel engines, the harbor was jumping with hundreds of carp. It was truly a spectacle to watch as Wild Goose was right in front of us and while Carol was getting the lines ready for dockage, one carp jumped right onto their stern platform and stayed there for about thirty seconds before wiggling his way back into the water. It made for an interesting run into our slips.
Tall Timbers Marina turned out to be a really nice little marina unlike most we’ve seen and stayed at over the last six months. We would later find out that Bob Skoglund designed and built most of it on his own and little touches like picnic tables on floating pavilions out on the docks in between vessels made for a nice afternoon relaxing. The power was excellent as was the wifi, so all in all this was a very nice stop. We found out that today is Carol’s birthday, So Barry and I walked into town to scope out the restaurants for a location to have a celebratory dinner. We decided on the Town House Restaurant and since they didn’t open until 4:00 pm we just decided to call them later for a reservation. Once we returned to the marina there was Shirley who had helped us with our dock lines earlier walking thru the marina so we told her we were planning to call later for a reservation for 7:00 pm at the Town House Restaurant and she said there was no need for the call, we would be fine, then she drive off and we returned to our slips. Later (around 5:30 pm) Barry called the restaurant just to be sure and as luck would have it they said that it could potentially be a problem seating right at 7:00 pm but to come by anyway and they’d do their best to fit us in, so apparently, Shirley didn’t know much about the restaurant business in Havana!
We all agreed to meet at 6:30 pm to start walking to the restaurant and we got there just at 7:00 pm and the table was available, they just had to set it up with place settings and we’d be able to be seated. Once we were all seated, Barry let us know that he was picking up the tab since it was Carol’s birthday and we all let him know him much we appreciated his gesture. He and Carol just appreciated that we all were there to spend the special day with them.
The meals were very well prepared. Most of us had either the Rib-eye or the NY Strip and we all left room for dessert. Tracy secretly went over to the waitress and asked her for a special dessert for Carol and she was told that this restaurant didn’t have a dessert menu but they could do a drink or something. We were all surprised that we were in the only restaurant in the country that doesn’t have a dessert menu! But as we were walking back to the marina we passed a Dollar General and for 9:00 pm in a small town, it was hopping! So we went to check it out and Barry and I could three gallons of Edy’s ice cream and we brought the ice cream back to the marina, sat down on now of those pavilion picnic tables between Sea Cottage and Kailani and ate ice cream under the light of battery operated lanterns that Kailani and Wild Goose had on board their vessels. Carol really had a great birthday all in all. After the ice cream, we decided that since tomorrow’s cruise was only 28 nautical miles, we’d stay later into the morning here, take advantage of the marina power since the next two nights would be without shore power and leave around 11:00 am or so. Goodnights all around and we retired to our respective vessels for the night.
Sunday: The winds and seas from Friday that lingered into Saturday are now gone and the day looks like it will be nice for the 31 nautical mile cruise to Michigan City, Indiana. Today will be our last in Michigan and after arriving back in the USA on August 25th, we’ve completed the Michigan leg in just under a month’s time, but the eastern shore of Lake Michigan has been a real pleasure. We’ve stopped in ten pretty harbor towns and one island town along the way here in Michigan and including a trip to Munson Hospital in Traverse City, we’ve seen some spectacular sights. The weather and the seas of Lake Michigan have been good to us and we’ve really enjoyed this opportunity to visit a part of Michigan that is a vacation paradise. Each one of these harbor towns caters to summer tourists and we’ve just missed the throngs by a few days and admittedly a lot of the shops, restaurants, etc. start to close up right after Labor Day, we’ve been fortunate enough to have just the right amount of services and tourist attractions available to us to get a real sense of the area.
Michigan City is in Indiana and in the Central Time Zone, so we will be cruising into another state and another time zone all in this four hour cruise. Once we’re out of the St Joseph River and Inlet, we turn Kailani to a heading of 220 degrees, run the rpm’s up to 1,100 and cruise the 30 miles to the mouth of the Michigan City Inlet.
After about 5 miles, we can see a huge nuclear reactor cooling stack dead ahead and we surmise that it must be our target destination and for the next 25 miles, that stack stays right square in our sights, so it is our target. Then as we are about 8 miles from Michigan City, we can start to see the tops of the tallest buildings in the Chicago skyline off to our starboard. That will be our destination tomorrow, but being able to see it today makes it feel closer than it is. As we slow to idle speed entering the Michigan City Inlet, we see that Caribe has already gotten here safely and is anchored out in the inlet surely preparing for a similar departure tomorrow towards Chicago, so maybe tomorrow we’ll get a chance to cruise with Tom.
By1:00 pm we’re turning into the Washington Park Marina and ever since we’ve been in the Michigan City inlet, we’ve been hailing the marina on VHF channels 16 and 09 plus Tracy has called them on the cell phone, but we’ve not received a response. So we pull into the marina and see two fifty foot slips open in the first row we come up to and we just pull into those two slips, then go up to the office and tell them the numbers of the slips we’ve taken for their records. As we had agreed, if they asked us to move we’d have surely moved the vessels, but without response from the marina office, I can’t see how they’d expect us to relocate now. And as our luck held out, they just amended their records and showed us in the two slips we took rather than the two they had prepared for us, so that was considerate of them to let us stay right where we were.
A few end of cruise chores to complete then the crew of Sea Cottage and the crew of Kailani walked over to Bartlett’s Fish Camp Restaurant and had a nice Sunday afternoon meal prepared, served and cleaned up by others. That’s always a plus. After dinner, we walked back to our slips with the sun setting in the west and decided to plan for another 9:30 am departure tomorrow as we cruise into Chicago.
Monday: The early morning check of the seas and weather conditions indicate to us that Chicago will be somewhat calmer in the afternoon, so Sea Cottage and us decide to postpone our departure to 10:00 am then we’ll arrive in Chicago around 2 pm. We’ve already moved into Central Time Zone so we won’t be changing the clocks mid-voyage.
So at 10:00am we’re leaving the docks of Michigan City and headed across Lake Michigan for DuSable Harbor and downtown Chicago. As we head out of the Michigan City Inlet and turn to 300 degrees for our heading, we can see that it’s a bit foggy towards Gary, Indiana to our port, but clear ahead for at least 15 miles. Yesterday as we were cruising into Michigan City, it was very clear and we could see the high rises of the Chicago skyline off in the distance (32 miles away), but today is different and we won’t be able to see Chicago for a while.
The seas are a bit choppy to start with 1-2 footers being the predominant wave size for now, but as we get farther into open water, the waves grow to 3-5 footers and coming at us from our starboard stern quarter, so we start to get pushed around a bit and the visibility starts reducing ahead of us.
The visibility never goes below 8 miles, but it does prevent us from seeing the Chicago skyline until we’re much closer. Also, Lake Michigan must know that this is our last day cruising her, so she’s ‘waving’ goodbye to us as high as she can. This makes the crossing a bit more tedious, but after three plus hours of cruising, we can finally see our destination ahead in the clouds.
It’s very nice to see our destination ahead particularly after a rough crossing, so we are anticipating a smooth run once we’re inside DuSable Harbor and slowly cruising towards our slip. The Chicago Harbors all use Dockwa for their reservation system and Dockwa let us know our slip assignment was going to be C29. So I had touched base ahead of time with Mike Hervey aboard Carousel to tell him that we were coming into C29 and he said that he was docked right in front of us and that, being on the tee wall, we would have a real easy time coming in for a starboard tie. So as we were idling into the marina, Mike was waiting on the dock to receive the lines from Tracy and it’s a good thing he was there because we had called, VHF 09, VHF 16 and VHF 67 without a response, then Tracy had called the phone number without a response, so there were no dock hands on the dock when we arrived. But AGLCA loopers are always ready to lend a hand and that’s exactly how we completed our docking, with looper help.
When we went to the marina office to check in and ask for an additional night’s stay, Tracy gave them a piece of her mind about the lack of hands on the dock and they said they apologized, but they were in a sort of cave so the radio wasn’t that reliable. Well, we felt they should’ve moved the radio antenna out of the ‘cave’ if that was the issue. Oh well, on to the good news. The reason that we needed to stay for the extra night was that as we were crossing today, Tracy scored Orchestra, Row L seats for the Chicago performance of ‘Hamilton’ for the Wednesday Matinee! So she’ll finally get to see the performance which is her birthday present for this year. “How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean by Providence, impoverished, in squalor. Grow up to be a hero and a scholar?” Weeeee doggies! -tc
In some respects, and after being in some towns with a population of 532 people, it’s nice to be in a big city for a change.
In the later afternoon, Erik and I take a bike ride to a local Ace Hardware store downtown so he can buy some 4” PVC pipe to make fender boards. Chicago has some really nice infrastructure for biking and walking/jogging throughout the city and as we are biking along the bike path to the store, we pass a concession that rents bicycles and has a sandwich board advertisement showing that they do tune-ups for $49.00 so on the return trip, we stop and I ask the guy for the tune-up because I presently have no brakes on this bike I bought at a Walmart in Southport, NC. He says he’s just about to close and could I come back tomorrow, so I figure that right after tomorrow’s cruise, I’ll bring the bike over to him and get the tune-up.
For dinner tonight, Tracy and I walk over to Giordano’s on the Navy Pier for some Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza. We walk in and they let us know that it takes 45 minutes to make the pies because they put them in twice and slow cook them, so we wait for our sausage, bacon and garlic deep dish pie to come out. 45 minutes later our waitress is placing our pie on the rack in between us and we’re ready to dig in. As I spatula out my piece of pie, I see large chunks of something green in the pie and it turns out to be broccoli. So we call the waitress over and she realizes that she made the mistake of writing broccoli when we said bacon. She apologizes up and down about her mistake and says there will be no charge for the pie and did we want her to make us the correct pizza? We asked if it would take another 45 minutes and she said it might be a bit quicker, but not by much, so we just dug into our $22 dollar free pizza and ended up paying seven dollars for the sodas! So right away, we’re finding ways to save money in the big city.
We spend a bit of time walking around the mostly closed shops of the Navy Pier building and then walk back to the marina for the evening. Tomorrow, we’ll be taking the Architectural Boat Cruise down the Chicago River with the Strasel’s so we’re looking forward to that.
Tuesday: Together with the Strasel’s, we have tickets purchased for the Architectural Cruise Tour on the Chicago River. This trip is serving two purposes for us, one to see and hear about all the architectural styles and accomplishments in the Chicago Skyline and two, to see and get familiar with the Chicago River that we will cruise down on Thursday. So as recommended by the website, we are on the dock thirty minutes prior to cruise departure and we’re the only ones there and it’s looking like we’ll have a private cruise. But once we have Zach safely onboard and settled into a spot for him, other people start arriving and before departure, the boat deck is full of other tourists ready for the cruise. Precisely at 11:00 am, the Captain is pulling off the dock and cruising right past DuSable Marina into Chicago Harbor and the mouth of the Chicago.
In the next ninety minutes we cruise under no less than thirty five bridges and thirty of the thirty five we go under again on the way back to the slip at Navy Pier. So we are able to see some spectacular architecture and get a good feel for what we will be cruising thru in the coming days. After the cruise, the Strasel’s return to the marina and Tracy and I stop for a nice lunch at a bistro cafe we pass by.
Then we’re back to Kailani for the afternoon and I bring my bike over to the bike concession guy for the tune-up. He says “give me forty five minutes and I’ll have your department store bike running like a bike shop bike”. So I take a walk and he works on my bike. He ends up having a rather busy afternoon with rentals, etc and it ends up taking him two hours to get everything completed, but he ran thru each piece of that bike with care and accuracy. Just as I got there he was taking the seat post, the handlebar post, and the pedals off to dab the threads in grease so those areas will last longer in the open air environment I keep the bike in. He really went extra on the service and once I got it back, he was right, it rode very well, certainly better than the $130.00 I had spend when I bought it in WalMart!
Tonight, we go back to the Navy Pier with the Strasel’s for a comedy play at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. The play is called Nell Gwynn and it’s about the first female to appear on stage in old England theaters. Prior to Nell Gwynn they would use male actors to portray females. It’s a funny comedy and a very entertaining evening spent in Chicago. All in all with the cruise tour, the bicycle tune-up and the comedy theater performance it’s been a very fun-filled and entertaining day.
Wednesday: But as fun-filled and entertaining as yesterday was, nothing so far can top the anticipation of the performance of Hamilton this afternoon at the CIDC Theater that we will be attending. OMG, OMG, OMG….- tc It looks like a thirty to forty five minute walk downtown to the theater, so at high noon, we leave the marina for the 1:30pm matinee performance.
By 12:45pm we are in the theater and waiting along with others for the doors to open at 1:00pm and right at 1:00pm the doors open and we are shown to our seats that are literally in the center of the theater and twelve rows back from the stage!
You can’t get better seats than Tracy found here, so we’re really anticipating a great opportunity ahead. Soon the theater is full, the lights go down and the performance starts. Poor guy…I drag him everywhere! -tc Now I really have had no interest in this play up till now, but that’s not to mean I haven’t heard every one of the songs already because Tracy has been listening to the soundtrack ever since the original play opened on Broadway. So in the long run, the talent is spectacular, the set is first class and three hours later, we have both been entertained to a level that neither one of us expected and we are both very grateful to have had this entertainment opportunity. We walk back to Kailani at the marina and its now time to start thinking about tomorrow’s cruise plan. I walk over to Sea Cottage and we review the particulars for tomorrow including bridges, locks, and protocols for barge traffic. While there, I call Barry on Wild Goose and talk him into joining us for tomorrow’s departure and he agrees to join the pack. Then I return to Kailani for the evening knowing that in the morning we’ll get a pump out and head off for the next leg of our adventure, the Inland River System.
Thursday: Today starts the 1,300 mile leg of our journey to take us from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. We depart from our slip and move over to the pump out dock. Soon thereafter, Sea Cottage, Wild Goose and Kailani are entering the Chicago Harbor Lock to leave the waters of Lake Michigan and enter the waters of the Chicago River.
Once we’re out of the lock that drops us three feet, we’re cruising right thru downtown Chicago and all the high rise towers of this huge city. The downtown portion of the river has Riverwalk on both sides of the river so there are people out walking, jogging, biking, etc and all waving to us as we cruise right past them in our little three yacht flotilla with Kailani followed by Sea Cottage with Wild Goose sweeping.
It’s extremely impressive to go under so many bridges in such a short period of time. To that point, we will pass under 64 bridges today with the lowest fixed bridge causing some real puckering in that we will pass under at an air draft of 17’-9”!
You can assume since I am still writing this blog, that we made it safely and you would be correct! We passed under 60 bridges safely and had the last four drawbridges in Joliet opened for us along with two locks and one electric fish barrier to pass today to reach our destination of the Joliet Wall.
To clarify the electric fish barrier, this is a three hundred yard distance of the river that has electrified water to deter the invasive Asian Carp species from entering the Great Lakes. They can be found throughout the inland river system, but since the electric fish barrier was installed, there have been only two fish that have passed the barrier in ten years. Now please don’t get all worried about the United States Army Corps of Engineers going around killing millions of fish, no the electric fish barrier is meant to be a deterrent, not a killer. It just tries to convince the Asian Carp that it’s time to turn around and stop going upriver! We shut off our on-board electronics just to be safe and turned them back on after we had safely cleared the barrier waters.
With so much of today’s cruise being done at idle ‘no wake’ speed, we were not able to reach our destination 37 nautical miles away until 5:45 pm. That’s a total of 8 hours and 15 minutes of total cruising! This was a very long day indeed. And we picked up other looper boats along the way that had come in from the Cal-Sag River to join up with us on the Joliet Wall, so Tracy organized a pot-luck dinner and an hour later 7 boats were sharing a quickly pieced together meal and enjoying the food and the camaraderie. It wasn’t hard to fall asleep tonight after cleaning up the dinner and setting our cruise plan for tomorrow even with the barge traffic going by 12/7!
Friday: From where we’re docked here on the Joliet Wall, there’s a lock 2 miles downstream from here so the strategy is to call the lock in the morning and if there’s a long wait for commercial traffic, you just stay on the wall instead of floating out in the channel. So a call was made to the lock at 8:00am and the response was to get there in thirty minutes or wait for 2 hours and 30 minutes! So we all went into fast departure mode with lines, power, etc. Soon we were all pulling away from the wall and turning to head downstream for the Brandon Road Lock and just as luck would have it, as soon as all 7 boats were in the channel, the Rock Island Railroad Bridge right in front of us and before the lock, blew it’s whistle indicating that it was coming down! This was a good 10 minutes before we even heard a train whistle and when it finally arrived she was pulling at least 120 railcars! So we were waiting here for seemingly forever and I was sure we had missed our lock window, but as the railroad bridge lifted and the lock appeared around the corner, there was the barge and tow exiting the lock and we were right on time! Sometimes luck is on your side, sometimes not, but today was starting out to be our lucky day.
With some boats secured to the floating bollards and other boats rafted to the boats on the bollards, we were soon being lowered through the Brandon Road Lock and on our way further south on the river system. Today will be three locks, so hopefully luck stays on our side throughout the entire cruise day. And so it does as we are green lighted at the next 2 locks with a total of 15 minutes delay for the day! Now that’s something to write home about, or at least cause to buy lottery tickets. So after three locks, three bridge openings and a half dozen tow passings, we were pulling into Heritage Harbor 7 hours and 40 minutes after departure and had cruised 40 nautical miles versus yesterday’s 37 nautical miles. So compared to yesterday, we certainly have made better progress today, and once we’re all tied up at the marina, we are pleasantly surprised at the customer service here. They really go out of their way to insure a pleasurable stay for transients as well as their seasonal customers.
Like some other marinas we’ve stayed at, this marina has Jeremy Fowler, the Harbor Master, who offers up his time and knowledge for loopers to sit with them and present information about the next 200 miles of the journey. He spends 2 hours describing all the marina choices, all the anchorage choices and even provides locations to duck into when waiting for a lock opening or when avoiding an upstream tow. We all attend Jeremy’s presentation then a few of us take advantage of the on-site restaurant to have a nice relaxing dinner. We’ve all decided to stay put tomorrow and leave on Sunday, so there’s no need for any cruise planning before bed tonight and with all vessels safely nestled into the finger slips here with no current or wakes, it’s a very comfortable evening for some well deserved sleep.
Saturday: Heritage Harbor offers courtesy cars, so today, we’ll take one or two cars and make a shopping trip to the local Super Walmart with the crew from Sea Cottage and Wild Goose. Five of us cram into a suburban and Barry drives us to the plaza. We split up into three groups and go off to complete our individual shopping lists. An hour later, we’re meeting in the parking lot and trying to fit all the groceries plus all five of us, but with some smart packing, we get it done and soon, we’re heading back to the marina.
Someone had been watching the Starved Rock Lock status and realized that it was shut down for repairs, so a few of us went to Jeremy’s Saturday afternoon presentation of the rivers to get more accurate information. He said he’d been tracking the lock status and had spoken to the authorities who told him that the tows were backing up and that we should expect the repairs to be complete by mid next week! Well that puts a crimp in our plans, but it’s something that’s completely out of our control. So we’ll continue to monitor the progress and see what happens going forward. Everyone is sort of beat after a big day in port, so we all retire to our own vessels and turn in for the night, anxious to see what fortunes or misfortunes will come our way tomorrow.
Sunday: A beautiful day for a 40 nautical mile cruise. First we must wait for Jack Witt (owner of Snug Harbor Marina) to arrive with the package he picked up for us at Walgreen’s in Ludington. He said he would be here by 9:40 am and he shows up right on time. So we are prepared for a 10:00 am departure from the docks.
Jack helps Tracy with the lines off Kailani first, then goes over to Sea Cottage and helps with their lines. Our cruise time today is estimated at five hours and it turns out rather boring. Not due to the length, it just works out to be rather blah for scenery except for one area that is interesting, otherwise it’s more sand dunes and coastline cottages (5,000 sf cottages!).
The interesting area is Silver Lake State Park Off-Road Vehicle Area. Look it up on Google Maps, that’s the official name of the area! Anyway, this place is loaded with vehicles running in all different directions in the sand, up the dunes, down the dunes, across the dunes, etc. It’s just a spectacular site for 11:00 am on a sunny Sunday morning. Its fun to watch and cruising at 9 knots, we’re able to watch for quite some time as this tract of sand is probably two miles long along the coast.
The entire cruise today is following the coast just outside the shallow water, so we’re never more than a half a mile off shore the entire cruise. Eventually we are approaching a familiar vessel and I radio Tom aboard Careb to say good morning and let him know that we still have plans for a golf date if we can work out common ports and good weather. His transmission is running flawless now since the work at Shepler’s Marine and he’s a solo cruiser, so it’s good to chat with him and let him know he’s not alone out here.
Our marina, Hartshorn Municipal Marina is about three miles in from the inlet on Muskegon Lake and by 12:15pm we are approaching the break walls for the start of the inlet. This is a very beautiful Sunday in mid September, so needless to say, there’s lots of boat traffic here today. Just north of the inlet, there are about thirty boats pulled up on shore or anchored just off shore so people can enjoy the sixty nine degree waters of Lake Michigan. But the main vessel traffic seems to be right in the middle of the channel entering Muskegon Lake. I lose count, but there has to be at least seventy five to one hundred boats of all shapes and sizes entering and leaving the inlet. It’s the perfect situation for why the ‘navigational rules of the road’ were written. Unfortunately, too many boaters have not read this document even though the supposition os that you must read and know them to operate a vessel on the waters, both inland and international waters. Oh well, we just take our time, settle into the line of vessels entering the channel and slow to idle/no wake speed.
In addition to the nearly one hundred vessels motoring along this channel, there are three vessels anchored, a research vessel, a coast guard vessel, and a World War II submarine (museum). Just after passing these three vessels and still in the channel as we’re idling behind two Scarab boats, a charter fishing vessel comes flying past us between Kailani and the channel wall and slips in between the Scarabs and us!!! He must have lots of fish to clean once he gets to the dock or something.
After successfully and safely navigating the inlet channel, we are in Muskegon Lake and headed towards our marina two miles in on the lake. We radio the marina and two deck hands are at slip 60 to receive the lines from Tracy and by 1:00 pm we are safely tied up and electric is connected. We docked bow in so we would have a starboard tie-up on this slip, so I move the power cords to the mid-ship starboard connections so the cords reach the dockside power tower. However it’s not until at least an hour later that I realize that I didn’t flip the switch on our circuit panel to let the panel know we were getting our source from the starboard connections rather than the stern connections. Oh well, one more thing for our checklist to remember.
Muskegon has virtually nothing to offer here where we are located except the USS LST-393 which I will be visiting in the morning before we chose off tomorrow. LST stands for ‘Landing Ship Tank’ and there are only two LST’s remaining from World War II and one of them is right here in Muskegon. So we relax for the rest of the day, Tracy fishes (duh!) and we turn in just before 11:00 pm.
Monday: Our plan is to move again today to Grand Haven. It’s simply a 16 nautical mile journey , but first, everyone will wait for me to visit the LST-393 before our departure. The museum opens at 10:00 am so I start waking over at 9:30am and I’m in the parking lot waiting for them to open by 9:50 am and there are several volunteers milling about with a few other cars in the visitors lot.
At precisely 10:00 am nothing happens! The gate doesn’t open, the volunteers don’t come out and open the ticket booth, nothing!!! So by 9:15am I’m talking with the other visitors trying to figure out what happens next and a couple come walking out of the staff exit, so we call over to them and ask if they know when the museum will open, to which they respond that the museum is closed and yesterday was the last day for the season! So not able to view the LST which was the only reason I opted to come to Muskegon, I sadly walk back to Kailani, tell my story to Tracy and then we prepare for departure.
As mentioned, today is just a short 16 mile cruise down the eastern shore of the lake to Grand Haven and our next stop at Grand Haven Municipal Marina. By 11:20am we’re backing out of our slip and headed out into Muskegon Lake towards the inlet. This being a weekday in September, the lake and the inlet are nearly empty compared to yesterday and we just have to maneuver around a few small fishing boats to get out into the lake. As we’re avoiding two small fishing boats, the fisherman in one of the boats has his rod bent into the water and he’s wrangling with a nice size salmon. Yes the elusive salmon that Tracy’s been trying to lure into her net! In no time we’re out on the lake and the seas are nice and calm today. 2 hours and 10 minutes later, we’re tied up at Grand Haven Municipal and we’re right next to Sum Escape. Tom and Julie just crossed their wake four days ago and now they’re hanging out here in their home port until they are hauled out for the winter in a couple of weeks.
After Kailani and Sea Cottage are all tied up, we get ready for a trip to the local Walmart for groceries and various sundries. Erik, Jen, Tracy and I are all set and I call for an Uber and seven minutes later Tom shows up to drive us to the Walmart about three miles away. On the way we’re talking with him and determine that it’ll be less hard for us to get an Uber ride back to the marina after shopping because he is out of Muskegon and just happen to be here in Grand Haven dropping off a rider just as we were requesting a ride. He said that he didn’t know of any Uber drivers based out of Grand Haven so we could surely try afterwards, but we probably wouldn’t have much luck. We tried to convince him to stay and wait for us to shop, even to the point of asking him if there was any shopping he needs to do at Walmart to justify waiting, but it was to no avail, he dropped us off and left for the return trip to Muskegon.
We spent ninety minutes and six times that in total goods before we were back outside requesting a ride on the Uber app and just as suggested earlier by Tim, there were no drivers to accept our request. So we called Rich’s Taxi and soon Rich and his wife were pulling up with an older model Dodge Minivan with ample room for the four of us and all our bags of goods.
Fifteen minutes later we were all settled into the marina and Tracy was working on tonight’s gourmet meal of Shrimp Scampi and garlic bread. The plan was to have dinner ready for 7:30 pm then eat aboard Sea Cottage while watching the first half of ‘Gone With the Wind’. The plan worked out perfectly as Tracy cooked up a delicious meal and the movie played on Erik’s DVD player for the entire two hours without stopping, shutting off, or losing audio. That’s a first for us watching videos aboard Sea Cottage. After the first half was over it was agreed that tomorrow night the Strasels will prepare dinner and we’ll watch the exciting conclusion of ‘Gone With the Wind’. Then we returned to Kailani, I set up the auto-brew for the morning and we turned in.
Tuesday: As predicted yesterday, the weather is holding out for us and today we have planned another relatively short jump of 27 nautical miles to Saugatuck where we have reservations at the Coral Gables Marina. We have planned this so just in case the weather turns bad, we’re far enough up the Kalamazoo River that winds and waves off the lake will not affect us in the slips.
We agree with Sea Cottage on a 10:00 am departure and Tracy takes us off the dock at 9:50am and through the inlet into Lake Michigan. The winds are light and variable while the waves are 1-2 feet, but they’re coming out of the northeast, so as we turn to head south to Saugatuck, the waves are hitting us on the stern starboard quarter (right rear of the vessel). So we get rocked around for the three hour cruise, but it’s all manageable and soon we’re turning into Saugatuck inlet and cruising the Kalamazoo River towards Coral Gables Marina. We’ve had experience (both good and bad) stopping at locations where there’s dock space run by a hotel, motel, restaurant, etc. so we’re ready for anything today, but as we approach, we’re met by Larry the Coral Gables Manager and he’s a licensed Captain who’s made the voyages of the great loop many times moving boats north and south for customers and he knows boats and dock lines, so it’s very smooth pulling into our slip and getting all tied up. This is a pleasant surprise to us both and he even lets us know there is a truck with the keys in it if we need a vehicle and if we need a pump out, he’ll call an offsite truck to come in and pump us out. So the pleasant surprises continue. Or we could take on of these lil nifty retro boats! I want the pink one!- tc
After we’re all tied up and utilities connected, we spend a few minutes washing the boat, then relax for the afternoon.
Tonight is dinner on Sea Cottage with the Strasels catering (meatballs over rice) this time. We have a delicious dinner and watch part 2 of ‘Gone with the Wind’ and now I can say that I’ve begun watching Oscar winning movies with Tracy. Before we left she asked me to make an effort to watch as many Oscar winners as we could get our hands on while we are on this adventure. It was an idea by her as a way to pass some time during the voyage and now, nearly halfway complete, we’ve started. Hey, we might be slow, but we get there.
Wednesday: We have forty miles today so we agree on a 9:00 am departure from Coral Gables and right at 9:00am Tracy is backing Kailani out of slip 14 and onto the Kalamazoo River headed for the Saugatuck Inlet. Once we’re out into Lake Michigan, we’re confronted with slightly heavy fog in all directions. With me at the helm, I check with Sea Cottage and ask if they want me to lead us in a straight line to St Joseph which will take us out of sight of land, or would they rather I follow the land contour and keep land within our sight based on the fog visibility. They let us know they’d rather keep land in sight, so I divert from the proper heading and with the radar showing me the contour of the coastline, I keep land within sight and maintain a heading that parallels the shoreline no matter where it may take us. In reality, we’re only going to add about 15 minutes to our cruise with this strategy, but it will keep the entire entourage more comfortable in the long run.
I turn our VHF radio to the weather station and surprisingly, they are reporting that there are no hazards to navigation in lower Lake Michigan. Are we on some different planet?? Oh well after about two hours of half to three quarters of a mile visibility, the fog banks lift and we have clear sailing to St Joseph. At least as far as visibility is concerned, we still have waves out of the northeast hitting us on or stern quarter and we’re riding them like a mechanical bull as we work the helm to stay on course.
The cruise time works out very well and by 1:30pm we’re pulling up to the pump out dock for a pump out prior to settling into our slip. We decided to get this pump out just in case we’re held up here for the supposed three days waiting for another good weather day. We only have two more cruise days to get to Chicago so we’re in great shape timing wise. There’s no need to push past a bad weather day.
After our pump out we pull into our slip and soon we’re all secure with power hooked up and our bow is nearly thirty feet from the marina office, so we’re convenient to everything from this slip. We converse with the crew of Sea Cottage and decide that we will stay here until better weather because the next stop, Michigan City, is not as active a location as this one and if we’re going to get held up for weather, there’s more to do here than in Michigan City. So we get comfortable for what might be a couple of days waiting for safe cruising weather. We’ve cruised for five consecutive days and 156 nautical miles, so relaxing for a day or two or three is well earned.
Thursday: A day in port even though the weather fared well today. Since we’re in for the day, I bring out the griddle and make a nice breakfast of sausage links and French toast. After breakfast, we make arrangements with the crew of Sea Cottage to go check out the local candy store, Wolf’s Marine. The manager of the store Rich comes down to pick us up and soon we’re talking the aisles of Wolf’s Marine checking out the goods. Sea Cottage finds a few items and Tracy and I find a few and Rich is there to drive us back to the marina. It’s nice when retail stores provide this service to liveaboard boaters passing thru.
Later in the day, Tracy and I put on our bathing suits and walk to the beach on the shores of Lake Michigan. The sand on the beaches here is so silky smooth, its really nice to walk on the beaches. But today’s temperature is right up around 85 degrees, so we figure the water should be tolerable and if not, we’ll just sit in the sun and read. Besides tomorrow will be the last full day of summer, so we’ve got to get our licks in while we can.
Once we’re on the beach, we walk into the water only to find that the water temperature is not as warm as we’d expected it to be, but we still walk in up to about our waists, hang around in the water for a while, then return to the blanket for some sun. There are a very few other sun worshippers on the beach today and none of them are really dipping their toes in the lake either.
We walk back to Kailani, have some burgers for dinner, then return to Sea Cottage to watch the last half hour of the movie we started the previous night.
Friday: Day one of the St Joseph Fall Sidewalk Sales and we get a ride from Andrew of the Marina staff to downtown. He drops us off on State Street and we walk around to a few stores, do some Christmas shopping for kids and stop at Burgers & Brews for lunch.
Then we walk some of the town where statues and commemorative artwork is displayed, mostly along the St Joseph River. As we’re walking along the river we notice that Careb is tied up on the wall, but Tom must be somewhere in town because he’s not aboard. We call the Marina and Steve comes out to pick us up for the return trip to West Basin.
Saturday: We expect that today will be our last day here in St Joseph, so with plans to complete some chores aboard Kailani we step outside to start our day and see that Careb is in the marina. Tom had finally decided to recharge his batteries with shore power after being on the river wall for three days. So he’s here in West Basin hooked up to shore power and he expects to leave in the morning also.
Tracy does some inside and outside cleaning and I get out the tools for making our fender board with the four foot padding that we bought at Wolf’s Marina. Dinner tonight is some spare ribs that Tracy prepared in the pressure cooker and we’re back aboard Sea Cottage watching ‘The Shack’ for tonight’s entertainment. After the movie, we agree to plan for a 9:30 am departure which gives Sea Cottage enough time for pump out and fuel fill after the marina opens at 9:00am. We say our good nights and return to Kailani for the night. Tomorrow we should have good seas for the cruise to Michigan City.
Sunday: Tracy should get discharged from the hospital (All is perfectly well!- tc) today as more loopers head out of Leland to move south. Around noontime, I get a call from her that she’s being discharged. We agree that she’ll use her cell phone and get an Uber ride back to Leland and I’ll meet her in the parking lot in about 45 minutes.
While I’m waiting in the parking lot, I get a call that Tracy’s back in town in front of the Haystack store. I tell her to wait right there and I’ll be there in 2 minutes. At the top of the street, I’m looking right at the store and I can’t see Tracy, so I call her back and she says she’s right in front of Haystack, across from the water and right next to the cinema. I ask “what cinema, Leland doesn’t have a cinema?” So we surmise that she’s been dropped off in Leelanau and not Leland. She looks on her phone and sees that it’s fifteen minutes away and she wants to start walking and meet halfway, while I tell her that after just being discharged from the hospital, she should sit right down on the nearest bench and I’ll walk the fifteen minutes to meet her. Oh yeah, my phone is also dead, so I have to shut it off now. Then I start walking towards Leelanau.
Soon, I’ve walked more than 20 minutes and haven’t even reached the cut-off road for Leelanau. However, I do run across a couple walking the other way and the gentlemen says, ‘either your going the wrong way or we’re going the wrong way!’ I tell him what I’m trying to accomplish and he lets me know there isn’t a cinema or a Haystack in Leelanau, but there is is Suttons Bay! Also, he tells me that if I keep walking I might make it there by dark. So this very nice couple who has come across my predicament very Kindly offer to take me back to their house where we’ll get into their car and go pick up Tracy! More kindness on the loop. Once we find Tracy in Sutton Bay, she realizes that when she checked Google Maps it said that it was 15 minutes by car for this 123 mile jaunt! We sure are fortunate that the Lindner’s walked by me today.
They take us all the way back to Leland Marina and refuse anything for helping us out. The only thing they ask is that we continue our adventure and stay safe the rest of the way.
Once back aboard Kailani, Tracy just spends the rest of the day relaxing and catching up on the sleep that she didn’t get in the hospital, knowing that we will return to looping tomorrow because weather looks good for cruising.
Monday: We untie the dock lines at 9:20am for our planned 9:30 am departure and soon Kailani and Sea Cottage are cruising out the breakwall into Lake Michigan for our 36 nautical mile cruise to Frankfort. I had called earlier this morning and secured two slips for us at Frankfort Municipal Marina.
Our cruise today will take us past Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore where sand dunes rise nearly 500 feet above the water surface right on the coast of the lake. The views are spectacular. Many people drive up to the top of the dunes to a designated parking lot, then climb down the dunes only to lose steam and realize that they’ve sapped their strength and need to be rescued to get back to the top. Maybe they should come up with a way to have the parking lot at the bottom of the dunes, then the sand hikers would be going downhill when they’re tired.
The other sight to see is the Point Betsie Lighthouse. This is a still functioning lighthouse that has become fully automated after being tended by a lighthouse keeper since 1858 when it opened. This lighthouse marks the hazards of the Manitou Islands Channel. Today the Lighthouse Keeper’s house has been restored and you can actually rent it and live like a lighthouse keeper for an extended period of time, Neat!
Once we pass the Point Betsie Light we only have 4 more miles to get to the entrance to the Frankfort Seawall Channel. As we enter the channel, we call the marina on VHF 09 and get our slip assignment and how to prepare our fenders. Tracy preps the lines and fenders and I bring Kailani into our slip as Tracy hands our dock lines to the two dock hands awaiting our arrival. By 1:30pm we are all secured and connected to shore power. This is a nice big harbor so we will take down the dinghy so Tracy can explore these waters for trout and salmon. I also bring down my bike so I can take a ride exploring the land based attractions here.
We coordinate a community dinner with Sea Cottage and Almost There and at 7:30pm we’re feasting on bacon wrapped pork tenderloins, barbecued chicken filets, whitefish, vegetables, breads and applesauce. A great meal for all nine of us and nobody leaves the table hungry. Tomorrow will be another good day for cruising and we will prepare our plan for tomorrow before turning in.
Tuesday: The morning check of the weather shows that the seas will get gnarly by mid-day and Frankfort Municipal Marina offered us three nights stay for payment of two nights, so Sea Cottage and Kailani decide to stay in port today and tomorrow since winds and waves are forecasted to be stronger on Wednesday. So we make the commitment to stay here for two more days and out come the bikes.
Tracy has gotten some information that here in Frankfort, we might be the recipients of a northern lights show this evening. So she goes into research mode and learns that there’s a very good chance that in the northern sky we should be able to see the effects of the Aurora Borealis, but we’ll have to find a good spot that has a clear view of the northern sky and does not have a lot of white light. Tracy and I ride our bikes to the lake shoreline and when you walk out on the concrete break wall for the harbor entrance, you can get far enough out to get a clear view of the northern sky unobstructed by sand dune hills. While we’re out there on the jetty wall, we spot a large Salmon cruising the crystal clear waters of Lake Michigan and it’s just more proof that there’s tons of Salmon in these waters, they just aren’t that hungry. We ride back to the marina and let the crew of Sea Cottage know that tonight might be spectacular and they will be prepared to walk down to the beach with us at 11:00pm.
While the bikes are out, Tracy and I take a ride the other way in town towards the Frankfort Tackle Box and Tracy gets a lot of feedback about how to fish these waters. The clerk also tells us about the smoked fish store just a bit further down the street and we go to check it out.
The Port City Smokehouse has a great selection of fresh freshwater fish filets and some meat items also. They also carry a selection of pate spreads and fruit jams. So we buy some great tasting stuff (they offer samples of all their pates and jam spreads) and bring it up to the cashier to pay. As she is ringing up our purchase, I mention the sticker that’s on the register that says “this register cash & credit only”. I hand her my credit card, I ask if after she rings up the credit sale, do I have to give her the same amount in cash? She just replies without looking up from the register, “sure, the credit slip goes in the drawer and the cash goes in my pocket”, to which I respond “did you know that I’m a retired IRS agent?” And she replies “did you know that my Mom and my Dad are retired snipers from the Marines?”. I guess I can’t win every conversation, huh!!
Back to the boat and Tracy whips up some nice hot chicken soup for dinner and while eating our soup, Natalie and Brianna call on FaceTime to say hi and ask when we’ll be home. It’s nice to touch base with family back home, it makes the distance and time away a bit easier.
I speak with my friend Gregg Baker down at Belhaven Marina in Belhaven, North Carolina and my sister, Lisa who’s near Raleigh, North Carolina. They both are making preparations for getting smacked by Hurricane Florence later in the week. The present forecasts are for the eye to make landfall fight between Carolina Beach and Wrightsville Beach, so Belhaven might get hit pretty hard. Gregg says that the mayor is calling for a voluntary evacuation of the entire town except emergency personnel and that they are expecting to get hit with 9’ storm surge waves when it hits. That could end up being very problematic for this very friendly and favorite town of ours on the Atlantic ICW. We have some great memories from staying in Belhaven. We can only hope that Mother Nature is kind to the southeast coast.
It’s about 10:00 pm and we start getting ready to walk down to the beach with the crew of Sea Cottage. Tracy’s plan is to walk half way out on the concrete jetty wall and that should give us a sufficient view of the northern sky with the least amount of white light. We walk down there with chairs, blankets, flashlights and a thermos of tea. When we get there there’s a few fishermen out further on the jetty wall but they soon return to shore because they haven’t caught any fish. We monitor the sky for a few hours and after watching some commercial nets, some satellites and some shooting stars we decide to call it a night. Tonight wasn’t our night for spotting the northern lights. Tracy will continue to monitor future opportunities for viewings.
Wednesday: The weather today turns out just as predicted and the winds are blowing fairly high even here in the protected Betsie River, so we’re glad we decided to stay the extra day. Besides tonight is our free night at the docks, so what could be better. I monitor the cruises of Journey and Rejoice and they both get kicked around quite a bit out on the lake today, so it further attests to our decision to stay put.
Tracy and I walk into town for breakfast and end up at the Crescent Bakery. It’s a very small sitting area in this bakery and all the tables are full, so we buy coffees and pastries to go and go out and sit in the park adjacent to the City Hall building. After breakfast, we walk down the shopping district and go into Hull’s Glass Blowing. We have a splendid time talking with the second generation of Hulls to run the store and his clerk. We finally select some nice pieces for Christmas presents and move on. Next store is the Sunbeams of Promise store that has Petoskey jewelry and other types of gem jewelry on display for purchase. Tracy buys a few more gifts and a Petoskey Stone polishing kit for the Petosky stones that were given to her back at the Petoskey Marina last week.
Its a beautiful day in mid September, so I take a nice walk in the afternoon, then we go to dinner with the Strasels to Dinghy’s Restaurant and Bar. Almost all of us have the barbecued ribs and they’re delicious, served with Cole slaw, cornbread and choice of potato. The service is rather slow, but the food is tasty once it’s served. After a pleasant walk back to the marina, we say our goodnights as Sea Cottage will cruise to Ludington tomorrow and we will cruise to Manistee. Then three days from now, we’ll meet back up in Pentwater at Snug Harbor Marina. Flirty car!
Thursday: The early morning check of the weather confirms yesterday’s forecasting that today will be a spectacular day for a cruise. I walk Frankie and upon return to Kailani,
Tracy and I help Sea Cottage off the dock for their 40 mile trip to Ludington, where they’ll spend two days and meet us in Pentwater.
Then we prepare Kailani for departure. We have to load and store the bikes and load and store the dinghy, then we’re ready for shove off and at 10:00am we’re backing out of the slip for our twenty five mile cruise to Manistee. Once out of the slip and headed out Betsie River, there are at least eight boats fishing all around us and we have to maneuver around them to not tangle their lines. This is hard for Tracy because she still hasn’t caught that elusive Salmon yet and to see all those fisherman, it just verifies that the fish are still biting.
Anyway, soon we’re out of the harbor and turning due south for our destination. The ride is relatively calm with rolling waves coming at us right off our starboard bow, so we have a gentle roll most of the way. When we’re about five miles from the entrance to the harbor, Tracy lays on the throttles and takes care of some blow-by which we hadn’t done in a while. The fuel gauges move faster than the temperature gauges when we do this, but it’s necessary and we’re planning on re-fueling once we get to Manistee because they have the least expensive fuel price on the Michigan coast at $3.05 per gallon.
So by 12:45pm we’re looking at the entrance to the harbor between the breakwater walls and also three Coast Guard vessels in the water. Manistee is a large Coast Guard station and we had heard that there was a ‘pan-pan’ on the radio south of us with two people and a dog in the water. I don’t know if that was the reason, but we had to maneuver around them nonetheless. I called the Dock Hand, Dennis while we were in the channel and he was waiting on the fuel dock for us and we took on 120 gallons of fuel and Tracy did a great job of cleaning out the black water holding tanks. Thee tanks had not been pumped out since August 31st, so we got a full two weeks out of them which is probably a new record for us. Ten minutes later, we were all secured on the sea wall and we told Dennis that we wanted to stay here for two nights rather than only the one when we had made the reservation. He said that wasn’t a problem.
Around dark Tracy’s northern lights app started bleeping with signs of a potentially good viewing tonight, so off we went at 9:10pm towards the coast to look for a light show. All we got was darkness and more darkness, no northern lights. Oh well, it was a great weather evening and we got in a nice long walk for exercise.
Friday: Three looper vessels depart this morning with a slight hazy fog hanging over the channel out to the lake. By the time Wild Goose leaves the fog is nearly burned off and they should all have a nice day cruising south.
The bikes come out for a trip to Walgreens Pharmacy which Google Maps says is 2.3 miles away. Well it was just like my Dad’s old school because it was uphill both ways!!! When we got back I was exhausted to say the least. But it was nice spending the extra day here in Manistee.
In the late afternoon while Tracy and I are fishing off the boat and dock, a coast guard vessel pulls up to the seawall; behind us and five guardsmen get out and walk up the stairs to the street level in town. We’re not sure where they went, but when they returned, I offered to be their designated driver if they were at a bar and had one too many. Just offering is all. They sorta laughed at it, but the Captain was mostly serious and said the keys were staying in his pocket. Dinner tonight is pizza delivered to the marina and it’s a delicious pizza but of course, we can’t finish the order and I put away the left-overs. Then we relax for a few hours and turn in for tomorrow’s cruise.
Saturday: There’s no fog to deal with today, so I get the lines and electricity ready for departure, then give Frankie his morning walk. He really likes these morning walks, but anytime he doesn’t get one, he still is good about using the grass pad aboard Kailani. As we are idling out the channel into the lake, I see Careb coming into port. He’s stopping at the Manistee Municipal Marina for fuel, then heading back out into the lake to resume cruising. The diesel prices at this marina are the lowest in the area at $3.05 per gallon so he’s maximizing his dollars. It’s good to see him back in the water. The last time we saw him he was on the hard getting his transmission rebuilt at Shepler’s Marina in Mackinaw City.
The cruise today is spectacular in terms of sea conditions. We get one of the prettiest early fall days for upper Lake Michigan and we take advantage cruising 33 nautical miles to Pentwater. The lake is jammed with fishing vessels, so that’s a sure sign of how calm the conditions are. Here we will meet up with Sea Cottage and resume cruising together for a while longer. We have a reservation at AGLCA Sponsor marina, Snug Harbor and once we get there, we see that Wild Goose is docked here also and Miss Norma is here too. We haven’t seen them since Campbellford on the Trent Severn Waterway. Trisha is also here and they are a brand new looper vessel that hasn’t even started the loop yet, but they plan to start next year and were looking for experiences to put into their memory banks for when they shove off. We met them walking the riverwalk in Manistee, and now they’re here with their vessel Trisha.
This marina is really gorgeous. Jack Witt, the Owner, has done a spectacular job with the property. With Kailani docked on the sea wall, it’s like docking in a park.
There’s oak trees, picnic tables, grills, green lawns and the largest laundromat I’ve ever seen on the loop or elsewhere!
Dancing Waters Charlevoix, Michigan
Sunday: So this morning turns out to be a ‘coming and going’ type of morning. It starts out very regular with coffee and Frankie’s walk in the park. Then when Frankie and I are back aboard and waiting for the scheduled departure target of 9:30am, phone calls start coming in from Charlevoix Marina that right now it looks like the slip opportunities are not as plentiful as last evening’s call. Plus the weather is looking slightly questionable for a longer run to Leland, so we are now waffling on whether or not to just stay put here in Petoskey for another day. We let Journey and Sea Cottage know that we’re thinking of just riding out another day in Petoskey. Journey is also on the fence about leaving and soon enough, as we are getting used to the idea of staying, Charlevoix Marina calls Journey, then us and says they absolutely can take all three of us today. So we switch back into departure preparation mode and Tracy calls Sea Cottage with the news. They are somewhat leary about making a change to their plan, but they agree and now they will be caught up with us by the end of today.
I set my navionics for the mouth of the Charlevoix channel because there’s a sixteen foot bridge to pass thru that only opens at the top and bottom of the hour, so a good plan is to arrive there with ten to fifteen minutes to spare so as to cut down on the wait time. My navionics shows a one hour and forty one minute cruise, so I tell Dale we’re going to shoot for an eleven o’clock departure and he says he’ll be cruising a bit slower, so he will leave at ten forty five. We want to shoot for the one pm opening because there is a large ferry that uses this bridge on the half hours.
We help Journey off the dock and by 11:05am we’re pulling away from our slip. Once Tracy has all the dock lines cleaned and stowed and the fenders put away, we are out of the harbor and we take Kailani up to cruising speed, 1,100 rpm’s and 9.6 knots. Navionics shows us arriving at the mouth of the Charlevoix channel at 12:49pm so our strategy is spot-on accurate. I have downloaded a new tracking app called NEBO and it tracks our voyages and locates other boats using the same app, so all throughout this cruise, we are able to see Journey just ahead of us and also, we are able to track Sea Life and Rejoice on their way from Mackinaw City to Beaver Island. This is a cool app!
Journey and Kailani reach the mouth of the channel at 12:52pm so rather soon after that, the bridge is opening and the two of us along with four other vessels make our way thru the opening and into Round Lake and the Charlevoix City Marina. Soon we are both all secure on the docks and we just have to wait for Sea Cottage to catch up. And they do arrive after the 3:00pm bridge opening. It’s good to see them again.
Tracy and I are quite hungry now, but Sea Cottage had some sandwiches along the way, so they’re not hungry. Tracy and I walk up to the Villager Restaurant and have great sandwiches. By this point, we’ve decided to stay tomorrow and spend a full day exploring this village as we’ve heard great things about it, so as we walk to the restaurant, we talk about some of the things we’ll try to do tomorrow.
Monday: Today is Labor Day and we’re not leaving the docks today. Neither is Sea Cottage, or the Journey. It’s a good day to relax in a great little town full of shops, restaurants and tourist attractions. First thing we do is go to a restaurant for breakfast. Everyone tells us we should go to ‘Smoke on the Water’ the best breakfast in Charlevoix, so we do. We sit at a sidewalk table so Zach can occupy the end seat and it works out great. The food is better, just as advertised.
Afterwards, Tracy and I get out the bikes and she tries her new electric bike and we go off to see the mushroom houses. The mushroom houses are the brainchild of Mr. Earl Young who built a series of little cottages using local materials. He started in the early 1900’s thru 1970 and designed them to look like they were an extension of the local environment. He constructed 29 structures over his career and 28 of them are still in use today as rental cottages, houses and office buildings.
Later in the day, the throng of ‘Loopers’ in the marina calls for docktails, so we get together on one of the picnic tables and share some stories of adventures on the loop.
Tuesday: More weather keeps everyone tied up today so the day is more of the same with camaraderie, laughter, and another docktails. Rejoice has shown up at the marina also so we get to meet Rick and Deedy and they are another fun couple to share time with while cruising. Tracy hosts a movie night in the Boater’s Lounge and we show ‘City Island’. Attending is Dale & Merna, Rick & Deedy, Erik, Jennifer & Zak along with Tracy and I. Everyone is pleasantly surprised by the movie because they never heard of it and it was entertaining for all. Of course, the four different types of popcorn that Tracy popped for the movie was a nice touch! So now Tracy has started a new tradition, ‘Cine-tails’ for when movies are shown in lieu of docktails!
Wednesday: Another day in port and the only good thing is that the marina has gone to offering two days for one days payment, so as this is our fourth day, we’ve only paid for two days. At least if we can’t be cruising, we’re getting a sort of a deal out of it. Tracy and I take another bike ride over to the beach and enjoy some time wading in the water looking for Petoskey stones. We don’t really find any, but we do find some other stones that will be very pretty in a stone collection. The colors are very bright and all the stones are nicely rounded due to the pounding of the lake waves.
Another ‘Cinetales’ is hosted by Tracy and this time we watch ‘Somewhere in Time’ starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour and the reason that we watch this is because it’s one of only two movies that were filmed at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. We have another fun evening with Rick & Deedy and Zak. The movie is a sorta tear-jerker, so Rick, Zak and I are forced to make our own laughs, which we do a real nice job of handling. Everyone leaves thinking that tomorrow might be a chance to move farther south on Lake Michigan, so we say our good-nights with reserved anticipation.
Thursday: Every summer Thursday in Charlevoix is a farmer’s market right in the park adjacent to the marina, so bright and early I walk up to the market and buy some fresh bagels and some Mike’s Mustard, a local condiment. I see Dale and we’re both thinking today is a getaway day as winds and waves are slated to start dying down near mid-day. So we all agree to plan for a 10:30 am departure to coincide with the bottom of the hour bridge opening.
Journey pulls out from her slip and I follow up right behind him. A sailboat that had been docked in Round Lake all week raises his anchor and falls in line between Journey and Kailani. Meanwhile Dale radios that he will be waiting for the ferry to pass thru the bridge first, then we will follow the ferry. Erik radios me and says he will miss the 10:30am opening, but he will continue to prep for departure and will follow up at the 11:00am opening.
The Bridge Street Bridge starts opening at 10:25 am and soon, the ferry has passed thru and is turning to his starboard to dock the boat with his passengers from Beaver Island. After he safely passes thru and into Round Lake, Journey followed by the sailboat followed by Kailani pass thru the open bridge to heads out to the Lake. As soon as we’re out in the lake, the wind and waves are battering us around a bit A BIT??? as they hit off our starboard stern. Both Dale and I theorize that once we clear the shallow water and turn more southerly towards Leland, we should be in calmer water. Well it does calm down a bit, but not before destroying, once again, our galley and everything that was on the galley dinette table. Tracy had wanted to return to port!!! and I kept saying that all we had to do was get out to where we could turn more southerly and the waves would be hitting us on our stern instead of our quarter. Afterwards, we discuss the situation and Tracy was really strong about wanting to turn back and I really should have, but I wasn’t as clear in understanding her as she thought she was in expressing her desire to turn around. Next time, we’ll have to be better at communication, both vocalizing and listening, so we don’t get into a misunderstanding again.
Anyway, Tracy is able to get word to Sea Cottage to stay in port and not come out into the seas we are in, so we’ll wait for them until tomorrow in Leland for them to catch up again. After half a bumpy ride and half a smoother ride, we are soon in sight of Leland Township Marina and by2:00pm, we’re tied up and hooked up to shore power for at least the next two days. After registering, and straightening up the galley from the cruise, we walk into town to do some exploring.
This is one of the last working fishing communities left on the shores of Lake Michigan. There are only 50 commercial fishing licenses issued in the entire state of Michigan and there are two of them right here in Leland!
We walk into a riverside sandwich shop and order two baguette sandwiches that are out of this world good. Neither of us can finish our entire sandwich, but sitting on a picnic table right next to the river watching the salmon try to jump up the dam is a great way to spend a relaxing afternoon in Leland. I may have to reward myself later with some ice cream!
I bump into Dana, Rick & Deedy in town and I let them know that we are so full from the sandwiches that we won’t be going out for dinner later. I wish that wasn’t the case because they are both talking about heading out tomorrow towards Frankfort and we will be staying here to wait for Sea Cottage to show up. But as with every new turn on the loop, we seem to always run back into boats we’ve met along the way, so I’m sure we’ll see Journey and Rejoice again soon.
Friday: We all stay in port today and look forward to better weather soon. However Sea Cottage shows up from Charlevoix and their ride was much better than our yesterday. Anyway, Tracy & I walk more of the town and check out shops, restaurants, etc. We heard a lot of comments that Leland is a one night stop, but we have different tastes and we could force ourselves spending a few nice days here in this quaint little fishing village.
Amphicar Boat/care driving/cruising.
We say goodbye to Rejoice and the Journey while Sum Escape, Lark and our good friends on Makin’ Memories, the Colemans show up. It’s a nice day in Leland with so many loopers and we thoroughly enjoy the day. I spend quite a bit of time catching up with the Colemans and its a real joy to see them again.
Dinner tonight is with Sea Cottage and we walk up to the BlueBird Restaurant for some prime rib. The dinner is quite filling and we don’t have room for dessert, so back to the vessels we go for the evening.
Saturday: Tracy and I go up to the Early Bird for breakfast and then walk around the stores looking for gifts for family and friends. While we’re in a woman’s clothing store called ‘Haystacks’, Tracy suddenly feels light headed, dizzy and asks for me to assist her in sitting down to re-orient herself. I started staggering in circles as if I was physically drunk but I was NOT dizzy which was the strange part, not did I feel like I was going to faint. All I could think was, “What are you doing walking in circles like this?” My answer to myself was “Of course, you are having a stroke.” It did pass after a few minutes which would make it a TIA (mini-stroke), but I knew enough to know that either mini or major it was a medical emergency and needed to be immediately checked out. – tc The store clerk helps us and soon, Tracy feels better enough to walk back to the marina. As we get to the marina, I tell her that I’l like to go into the main building and use the restroom, she can just wait for me in the boater’s lounge.
When I come out of the lounge a few minutes later, there’s Tracy sitting on a couch in the lounge with two Marina Patrol Sheriffs that had come into the building, attending to her They call an ambulance and soon there are three paramedics working on Tracy’s vitals and recommending a trip to the hospital, which is Munson Medical Hospital in Traverse City. So off we go, no lights and sirens, just a quick pace through country roads to Traverse City.
Upon arrival at the hospital, the ER staff is waiting by an exam table for her and I’m shown to a waiting room. Soon, she’s wheeled into a holding room where more people can check vitals, etc. She is very conscious, painless, and totally coherent, just ‘not right’. Eventually she is transferred into a 23 1/2 hour room for continued observation including a Head CT Scan, MRI, carotid doppler and cardiac ultrasound. Once she’s settled into her room and has ordered a dinner, I go down to the cafeteria and get a meal so we can eat together. Just as I’m opening the elevator door to return to the room, there’s Tracy being wheeled out for her MRI. So we don’t end up eating dinner together, but we both get much needed nourishment. After dinner and Tracy’s feeling much better, I make arrangements with Uber to get a ride back to Leland and Frankie. Everyone back at the marina has been watching him today and we’ve missed tonight’s docktails hosted by the crew on Lark. Oh well, I let everyone know how she’s doing and that she’ll probably be back tomorrow. Frankie and I spend a quiet evening aboard Kailani and hit the sack.