Saturday, October 7, 2017

Back To The Ohio River

Wed-Fri Sept 27-29

When we turned from the Mississippi River to the Ohio River it was 16 miles to the new Olmsted Lock.  Although the lock walls are complete, the dam is still under construction, so we went straight through the open gates on both ends of the lock. 

Two more miles to Lock 53, but the lockmaster radioed for us to hurry on up to the lock. We put the pedal to the medal to increase our speed to 8 mph!! We ended up waiting an hour for the barge to get out of lock 53. Just like the Illinois locks, there were many barges waiting to get through the locks.

Locks 52 and 53 were built in 1908 and upgraded in 1970 and are way past their service life! The lockmasters work very hard to keep these locks operational. Just one more year until Olmsted is complete and these two locks will be removed.

So we get in lock 53 and the gate closes behind us, well it sort of mostly closes. And it feels like it is being filled with a garden hose. It takes an hour to raise 2 feet of height! We exit carefully going around the barge waiting to go in the lock. 

We go 10 more miles then pull over to the Kentucky side of the river in 15 feet of water to anchor and raft with Resolute and Sweet Liberty. It was my turn to supply docktails -- simply crackers, cheese, sausage,  olives, hot pickled asparagus, salsa and chips. We are exhausted from waiting all day.

Up early and we cruise the 14 miles from the anchorage to lock 52. The lockmaster tells us to anchor that it may be a while. It was only 3 hours and we were called up to the lock! There were eight of us floating in the chamber. The fill of lock 52's chamber was a bit faster than 53 but it still seemed a long time. It is difficult trying to keep the boat in one place. But we all get through Lock 52 and head for Paducah. 

And guess what? Paducah is having a bbq festival! There are 35 bbq vendors: pulled pork, brisket, ribs, candied bacon, corn, and every dessert imaginable. And vendors with shirts, crafts and things like live music!! What a welcome to Kentucky after battling the current on the Mississippi River and the locks on the Ohio River.
Kelly, Terri, Kim, Tom, Pat, Pete
Daily there were more loopers making their way down the Mississippi, so we decided we should move on up the Ohio. It was only 1-1/2 hours up the Ohio River to the confluence with the Cumberland River where we officially started our loop. 

In Deep Ship Crosses Wake!!!!!
We "crossed our wake" at 12 noon on Friday, September 29, 2017!!!! Our official loop is complete! We have the gold burgee!!!
Gold Loopers
America's Great Loop took us only 400 days (including a couple visits home), 6958 miles, 2179 gallons of diesel fuel (3.193 mpg), 1043 engine hours (6.67 mph).  Not counting regular maintenance, we had nearly $7500 in emergency repairs. We stayed in marinas 369 nights, and anchored 31 times.

It really was a great adventure! We have made some good friends, visited many cities and towns, and boated in some beautiful water all around the eastern part of the United States and Canada. Thank you to all who have been reading our blog.  We have only touched on a small bit of our loop story.

I have personalized an old Irish toast:

There are great ships
"Cross Your Wake" ships
Such a feat trip
For In Deep Ship
On the Great Loop you'll see.

But the best ships
Are the friendships
To toast and vow
They're the best now
And may they always be!

This is dedicated to our boating buddies, we wouldn't have had such a fantastic voyage without you........

Thank y'all for being good friends
We'd cruise the Loop with y'all again
Our routes are true, we're boaters--that is what we do

We really have to say
These great memories will always stay
We thank you and won't y'all stand up and just say wow!

If we had more docktails
Invited all the loopers we knew
We would see the biggest dish would be friendship
And the crowd around would say:
Thank y'all for being good friends!

Kelly and Terri
In Deep Ship
America's Great Loop
Sept. 29, 2017

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Great Mississippi

Thurs-Wed Sept 21-27

Look what I found with the camera! Yes a bald eagle.
Technically Grafton Marina is still on the Illinois River, but you can look around the island and see the Mississippi River. We met Resolute and Mother Ocean in the restaurant for dinner. Nice air conditioning and excellent food-they have a cajun chef!! We are glad to be finishing the Illinois River and the low water levels, but we have heard the water in the Mississippi is low also. 
Our Lady of the Rivers
The next day we moved to the Alton Marina. It is on the Mississippi River and only 2 hours from Grafton, but much closer to the lock we need to go through next. Alton has nice covered slips to escape the hot sun. On Saturday Kim from Sweet Liberty and I walked to the farmers market. It was dog day, so lots of pets, pet products and some very nice vegetables!

Kelly and I took an uber to the Mel Price lock and dam for a tour and to visit their museum. The uber even stopped at the store so we could get a few supplies.
A barge entering the Mel Price lock
                                           Looking up the Mississippi River to Alton IL
That night we went to the Argosy Casino with Pat and Pete on Resolute. No gambling for us, we had a very nice dinner in their restaurant. The casino even picked us up then drove us back to the marina.

Before sunrise we departed for the lock, but the lock has us wait about an hour for several other boats to arrive. It was a hot sunny day-excellent for our first leg down the Mississippi. Wow, what a push from the current!! We were going 12 mph most of the 4 hour cruise to Hoppie's.
All the wing dams in the river are showing because the water is so low.

We could see the arch in St. Louis quite a few miles away! We took turns with Resolute posing in front of the arch for these gorgeous pictures!

In Deep Ship at the St. Louis Arch
Hoppie's is a living legend--it is the last remaining marina on this 200 mile section of the Mississippi River. Hoppie and Fern are in their 80's and still want to be at the marina. Hoppie caught our lines and tied up the boat. Daily at 4:30 Fern gives a river update on where to safely anchor the rest of the way down the Mississippi and up the Ohio River to Paducah.

And another phone booth!!!
We were ready to depart when Fern radioed that Lock 53 was closed. After a couple hours, the announcement was that a log was jammed in the dam but should be cleared later today. We have 2 days before we can get there, so we untie our lines again and go on down river.
The Mississippi River is so wide that these barges were moored in the middle of the river!
It was only about 40 miles to the Kaskaskia River Lock to tie up for the night. Resolute started their generator and air conditioning and invited us all (6 more people) in their boat to cool off. A couple of cool beverages, chips and dip and we discussed tomorrow's plan.
Tied to the Kaskaskia Lock wall
A 70 mile run down to Little Diversion Channel at 12 mph--we feel like we are flying! Sweet Liberty provided the snacks for docktails, but it was a gourmet meal!! Kim says she loves cooking hor d'ouvres and we could taste the love! Their boat is a beautiful old Chris Craft Roamer. Plenty of room for 7 guests for docktails. After eating and talking, it was back to our own boat to prepare for tomorrow.
Kim and Tom on their dinghy
We will finish the Mississippi River and head on up the Ohio River! We enjoyed the next 50 miles of the Mississippi at 12 miles per hour! But as soon as we turned the corner into the Ohio River our speed went down to 6.5 mph.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Rest of the Illinois

Fri-Thurs Sept 15-21

We finally left Joliet with many other boats and we all got through Brandon Road Lock and Dam without a delay. The go-fast boats were speedy and got through the next lock Dresdan quickly.
We waited so long, the cows went home!
Five of us slow boats waited and waited. It was 6:30 pm by the time we exited the lock. The nearest marina is 2 hours away, but as it got darker we had to slow down. It was 9:30 in the dark dark dark before we found the marina. We were exhausted, but at least we were tied safely to a dock. The Illinois locks are pretty old and have a lot of barge traffic. With only one small lock chamber, the process is very slow.

The next day we were prepared to wait again, but it was only a 2 hour wait for the Marseilles Lock. The lockmaster wanted 2 boats to raft to us on the starboard side of the lock and 2 boats to raft to the boat on the port side of the lock. Made for lots of conversation!

It was a short cruise to Heritage Harbor to spend the weekend at their very nice marina. There were lots of loopers there for a big dinner in their restaurant! I am not one for a big birthday celebration, but Kelly forgot....he is in deep ship!!

After borrowing the courtesy car to get a few items from the store, we were ready on Monday to travel on down the Illinois River. We got in and out of the Starved Rock lock really fast. The cruise was relaxing and we enjoyed the sites. We can see that fall is arriving. And look at those Asian carp jumping!!!

Here's the best part of Peoria, their cruise ship.

We pulled into a marina for the night, but it sure was a pain trying to get out the next day after the water level dropped. This guy in a john boat assisted.

We received word that a barge went aground and the Corps of Engineers closed the river at mile 77. We kept going downriver hoping that the news was wrong. We found Quiver Island with enough water that five boats anchored for the night.
Pat and Pete with dog Jude on Resolute
Off the next morning for Logsdon Tug Service. It is exactly as it sounds--several barges for their tows to tie to, but they also let loopers tie up for $1/boat foot. It was another hot hot day.  Four boats - Resolute (Pete and Pat), Mother Ocean (Dennis and Jan), Midas Touch (Mike and Marian) and In Deep Ship walked several blocks to a Mexican restaurant, but their frozen margaritas cooled us off!

We departed right before sunrise to get to the last lock on the Illinois River and get past mile 77 and the skinny water. The barges are still waiting but they are letting anything that needs less that 7' of water pass through!

It was a long day cruising down river and we arrived about 5pm at our last stop on the Illinois River at Grafton Marina.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Chicago to Joliet

Sun-Thurs 9/10-14

We had planned on staying in Chicago for a couple days, but the first night was quite windy (remember it is called the windy city). The wind formed continuous rollers on the water from the southeast which jerked and pulled the boat all night-absolutely no sleep! For another first, we spotted this Stealth plane flying over Lake Michigan!!!

We left the next morning through the Chicago Harbor lock which separates Lake Michigan from the Chicago River. There are plenty of tour boats and pleasure boats and even a Coast Guard patrol boat down the narrow river/channel. Thanks to Loopers Craig and Sherry on Cha Cha and Gilberte and Yvon on Lake Effect for capturing the great pictures of In Deep Ship.
Chicago Harbor Lighthouse
In Deep Ship cruising by Navy Pier

We were concerned that we might be a tad too tall to fit under the bridges in Chicago, but we had almost a foot to spare!

Then comes the section of the Chicago Sanitary Canal with a gazillion barges and tugs pushing them all over. One tug asked us to find a hole to hide in because he needed all the available space to move the barges.  We found a string of barges two wide with one missing. We pulled in, wrapped a line around the cleat and waited for the tow to pass. Well it was traveling so fast in this narrow (4 barges wide with maybe 8' to spare) channel that the tug sucked the back end of the boat towards the barge which caused the front starboard side to scrape against the moored barge. (Ronnie, we have some more repair work for you, but we still have the yellow paint.)

Then we come to the part of the canal that is electrified!! It is designed to keep the Asian Carp from getting into Lake Michigan. 

We finally get out of the industrial area, what a relief! We wait about an hour at the last lock for the day and pull into the city of Joliet. They have a free wall we can tie up to with free electricity. We are staying here a few days to wait on boat parts and visit Kelly's sister.

Enterprise showed up the next morning right on time with a fantastic $15 a day rental. A small car, but it was easy to drive and great on fuel. Google helped us find our way out past the cornfields to visit Kelly's sister and brother-in-law, Donna and Jerry. We had a talkfest and went out to dinner then talked some more. What a great visit!! By the time we got back to the boat all the other boaters were in bed.

The excitement the next day was simply laundry. Then the next day was grocery shopping. But the boat parts came in and the mechanic showed up to replace the injector tubing that was repaired way back in Betsey Bay. We are ready to go!! That evening there were 11 boats at the Joliet wall with new people to meet every day!  

RioMarLago also pulled in. Remember-they flew by us on the Ohio River about 1 year ago at the start of our Great Loop. We actually met them in Florida and now see them again. But they are a speedy Bayliner and  will "cross their wake" before we make it to the Ohio River to cross our wake and finish the loop.

There was a Nascar race near Joliet so they had fireworks that night in town--right across the river.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Let's Finish Lake Michigan

Fri-Tues, September 1-12

We visited several more towns down the coast of Michigan. The first was Snug Harbor in Pentwater. The first two nights were not so snug--we bounced around from the wind coming in from Lake Michigan. We then moved from the face dock to a slip and no more movement! We found a great coffee shop with delicious scones. On Labor Day the city basically rolled up the sidewalks!  My favorite store Bitchen Kitchen was still open and I procured a few more necessary items for the boat and for home.

Another whole day was used to call harbors within 100 miles to check the price of diesel fuel. Don't want to wait til we get to high-priced Chicago to buy fuel! 

The winds finally died down after 6 days in Pentwater and we left early for the 7 hour cruise  to Grand Harbor. Five boats left: Time Out, Ellis' Island, Cha Cha, First Forty, and In Deep Ship. We were helped in to the dock by Donna Mae-- another looper. The local bus service took us to the grocery store. We had 30 minutes to shop before catching the last bus back to the marina. We looked like game show contestants putting stuff in the cart and rushing to the next aisle!

That night we went to a local restaurant 'Tip a Few' for their mexican specialties. The real  special treat was meeting brand new loopers that are becoming famous for their RV trek around the country with his 90 year old mother! Look for their book and movie (soon to be released) "Driving Miss Norma". Also that night we got to see the special fountain show, but without the music. It was a great show!
Grand Harbor light show
The next couple days we kept on moving since the weather was still super nice to be on the water. We went to South Haven and then to Michigan City, Indiana. Wow it was beginning to feel like summer! And we entered the Central Time Zone so an extra hour! Great sunshine and very little wind.
Michigan City Lighthouse

View of Michigan City Marina from the top of the lighthouse
The next day was on to Chicago! We took a short detour to Portage City, IN to fill up our tanks with diesel fuel at $2.379 a gallon! We won't have to buy fuel again until we get to the Ohio River!