Saturday, August 17, 2013

Green Turtle Bay

 We pull anchor at 7AM for our 30 mile run to Green Turtle Bay one of the best stops on the great loop.  I have stopped here several times before.  We have one lock to traverse.  The only glitch is that the tow traffic has been diverted to this lock due to the closure of the TN river lock for maintenance.  We have been told to count on a 2-4 hour delay waiting for this lock.  

Of course when we near the lock it begins raining, but we are used to that!  I call the lockmaster several times on the cell phone and he tells me in the last call, get up here in 45 minutes and I can lock you up between two downbound tows.  I urged IH up to 20 watching the wake for fisherman and other towboats, it was a Saturday but the rain had dampened the fishing spirit.
 We entered the lock and when the gate opened a tow was at the entrance.  He backed up to allow us enough room to pull out, thank you I radioed.  No wait as we arrived at Green Turtle Bay by 11AM.    Link to Green Turtle Bay website
 GTB is a large marina with a restaurant (Yacht Club) covered slips, courtesy cars and a protected basin off the busy Cumberland River. 

 Tom is switching out the Great Looper burgee for the St Pete Yacht Club burgee.  He is having to answer to many questions about our voyage by curious dock folks attracted by the burgee.  It works.
 A thunderstorm appears so we batten down the hatches.

We see a ferry behind the marina heading down the canal to the TN River (Ky Lake)

 We walk into town and we discover a store with a few booths of pistols and rifles for sale but not to out of state residents.  Oh well, nice to ogle. 
 I am attracted to this weapon for IH to keep pirates away.  Can't conceal it though.
 Grand Rivers is the adjacent town, nice quaint stop complete with boutiques that we don't visit.  No bars either as the county is "dry".  Good news is that restaurants allow carry in wine, no corkage, but we have been told to keep it on the floor as this is a family restaurant.
The pies looked great at Patti's but we did not partake. 
The Captain in front of Patti's Restaurant known for its 2 inch thick pork chops and bread baked in a flower pot.  Link to Patti's

Friday, August 16, 2013

Closing the Loop, Cumberland River

Bridge at Cairo, IL
 We depart our calm anchorage just after 7AM after taking up our stern and bow anchor.  We have another 110 mile day, half with the 6 MPH push on the Mississippi and the rest against a 3 mph current on the Ohio. We arrive at 4:30PM. The Ohio river level was elevated due to heavy rains in Tennessee around Nashville we learn.  
Approaching Paducah on the Ohio
There are anchorages not as far but we elect to push on as we are able to run 20 MPH if necessary.  We did speed up a few times but the Ohio River was busy with towboats who would not appreciate a 4 foot wake from us.  Again we saw no pleasure craft today just towboats every where from Cairo to Paducah, busy with river commerce.
 We passed the lock and dam under construction on the Ohio to replace locks 53 and 52, known as Olmstead.  20 years and not near completion. 
It did cross my mind on this leg of our journey what does one do if there is engine trouble or a collision with drift damages the props and shafts. No AAA out here.
We pass Paducah and  turn up the Cumberland River to an anchorage behind Cumberland Towhead Island. great spot though the current is running. We set the anchor with plenty of chain rode and watch carefully, we are holding, though Tom isn't so sure about this.  If we drift back, it is into the Ohio River channel.  Tom checks our position several times in the night, we hold our position.  Great having an anchor watch crew.  We grill out again.
Tom is used to running every day so this anchoring out is a new gig.  I promise him tomorrow we have a short day and he can run at the next stop.  No cooking either.

When we entered the anchorage we had completed the journey known as the great loop which we started in October of 2007 as we left Cincinnati for FL on IH.  A great journey of 7000 plus miles.  Great Loop description

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Little River Diversion Channel, Mississippi River Mile 49

The Muddy Mississippi
 After a chart briefing at Hoppie's Marina we learned the next stop was an anchorage at Cape Giradeau up Little River which is a diversion channel for storm water around Cape G. It is 110 miles downriver but with the current we depart at 7AM and arrive at 3PM just idling the engines.  So,  don't anchor there if rains are predicted or suffer the consequences.  Again our luck was with us, no rain, clear and cool, so no A/C needed.

An Illinois high security prison, don't pick up swimmers we are told. 

 Note the rock walls that were constructed into the river perpendicular to the flow, called wing dams.  Don't try to pass over them.  We stayed on the "sailing line" to avoid these.  if the water was up a foot or so you would not see them but look out.  The purpose is to speed the flow of the water to keep the silt from dropping out and shoaling up the channel.

Watching out for towboats keeps us on our toes.  We have not seen nor will we see any pleasure craft on the 212 miles of the Mississippi.   
 Oh Oh, two tows coming up river in a bend.  I call them on the radio and they say to stay on the one whistle which means port to port passing. They thank me for the call. 
 Then the larger one starts passing the small one reducing the available channel.  I call them again, "Should I hold back here, I ask" "No Captain keep her coming and thread the needle" I am told.  So between them I pass.  Huge rollers come off their sterns as they push their loads up river against the current.
Little River Diversion Channel
The Mississippi in the background
We turn up the Little River Channel and find a calm anchorage though deep at 18 feet due to the high water on the Mississippi. No current in here though.  We use the dinghy to set a stern anchor as the wind is blowing us around in the narrow river. We enjoy grilling out and watching a James Bond DVD.  The wine isn't bad either.   

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Hoppie's Marina on the Mississippi

The girls left yesterday so Tom my son in law and I wandered over to a dirt bar called Fast Eddie's in Alton, IL.  Everyone we saw in the last marina said it was not to be missed. Huge $.99 hamburgers which were fantastic with a great selection of beers. It was worth the walk.
 We left Alton at 800AM for the 45 mile run with two locks to Hoppies Marina.  The weather had cooled off, it was delightful. We delayed our departure for three days for the Mississippi to calm down.  The Missouri River was flooding and therefore  dumping plenty of drift into the Mississippi just below St Louis.  We kept in contact with the marina owner at Hoppies, Fern, who is in her 80's and very knowledgeable of river issues.

Tom fending off in his first lock
 After the second lock which is above St Louis there are no more locks until below New Orleans. The river runs wild. There is little recreational boat traffic and plenty of barges referred to as towboats even though they push their loads.  We waited for the river level to drop 8 feet for the drift to disappear and we were pleasantly surprised that everything was clear. Current about 6-7 MPH so a nice push south.  We started on the Mississippi in Grafton IL at river mile 212 and we would enter the Ohio River at Cairo, IL at river mile 0. 
 Tom took his turn at the helm looking for drift and towboats.  
We arrive at Hoppie's at1:00PM.
This is the only marina we will pass on the Mississippi.  Being a river boater I knew how to parallel park into a 6 MPH current.  Note the muddy color of the water.  
I love the old lawn mower reused as a base for a pump at the marina. 
Another south bound boat docked in the late afternoon.  IH is tied up on the outside here.
 We walked into town and enjoyed seeing a nice village.  Many boutiques but not much interest to two guys.  All the stores and restaurants closed at 3PM. Turns out many (mostly women) travel the 30 miles from St Louis for lunch and shopping and then return so no traffic in the evenings.  We elected to cook on IH. Better wine as well.  That explains the lack of bars as well.

 Many historic buildings. This one had been a restaurant, now closed.  
This is Mimi's boutique. 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Alton. IL

 We only had 16 miles today to Alton so I had time to finish the oil change I started yesterday.  Today I changed 4 oil filters, luckily the engines had cooled so with a fan I survived the 2 hour job.  We departed at 11:30AM on a beautiful day with a light north wind.  This was our first time on the Mississippi River. Much wider and more scenic than the Illinois.

As we approached Alton Debbie perked up, a casino she said.  The marina was within walking distance of the marina.
 The marina is behind the breakwater on the left.  You can see the blue roof on the covered slips. We were told that during the June flood the river overtopped the breakwater and pushed drift into the marina, a real mess.  Great conditions today.  
Island Hopper was too tall for a covered slip so they placed us on an end spot.  This would be our home for 4 nights as the Mississippi River below St Louis was high due to flooding in Missouri.   
I had scheduled a crew change here.  Debbie and Bryce the terrier were heading home and my son in law Tom Lang was taking on duties as a deckhand.  Because of the delay here, my daughter Aynsley and her two children decided to come, Ella and newborn Evan.
Ella age 4 1/2 enjoys self portraits with Popi's camera and hat.
 Popi is enjoying a few minutes with Evan (EJ) 2 1/2 months on our "patio".
 We used the dinghy and new electric outboard for harbor cruises.  Ella especially enjoyed a ride with her Daddy.
 Late one evening this raft arrived.  We talked to the paddler the next morning.  She is paddling from the beginning of the Mississippi to the Gulf coast.  No motor just oars. She gave up on ice, too.  She left the next day for points south.  She paddles about 40 miles a day and sleeps on the river banks.  Not my idea or Debbie's! as a good time. She was a river guide on a river in Georgia for a number of years so she knows those aspects of her challenge.  

Tommy and Ella are getting ready to unload the girl's luggage as they are leaving to head back to Cincy.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Grafton, IL

We departed at  810AM for our 88 mile run to Grafton, IL the confluence point of the Mississippi and IL Rivers.  WE arrived at 300PM, traversing one lock.  Light winds and warm today, with sprinkles as we were docking in Grafton.  The IL river was very calm in the morning.
Only a 9 foot drop in the lock so the lockmaster said it was OK to drift in the lock without tying up, easier on the mate, harder on the Captain. 
 The river is home to numerous power plants and chemical plants not dissimilar to the Ohio River.  The Illinois River is much smaller than the Ohio so one must exercise caution in passing tow boats as you can see here,
 Had to slow down for the ferry crossing our path.
 Many summer homes line the banks but most are built up to avoid the flood waters. There were two major floods this year, one a near record.  I suspect the drift seen here was the result of these floods.  River is normal now, lucky for us.
As we leave the IL River and enter the mighty Mississippi, we find Grafton, IL and the Grafton Marina.  WE walked around town after I changed the oil in the diesels.  It must have been 150 degrees in the engine room but the oil must be hot when changing it.  I tipped the dockhand to take the oil to the dump pit, I was exhausted.  We cleaned up and went into a quaint town for dinner.