Sunday, September 21, 2008

Still Safe in Grafton Harbor, Il....Again

The first photo shows me wading from the flooded parking lot at the marina to the ramp leading to the floating docks. The second photo is us at Muriel's brother's house in Perry, Ia. with her father. The third photo is looking down the Illinois River into the Mississippi showing whole trees and a lot of debris floating down the river due to the flooding. The next photo shows a tow headed downstream into a fog bank. The last photo is Shelly inside the top of the arch at St. Louis.

We have been here in Grafton for over a week now. We have been to St Louis to visit the arch and we drove to Iowa to visit Muriel's father. He is doing well and looking great. We got back to the boat last night, Saturday, about 8:oo pm. On the way back we stopped in Hannnibal, Mo., the home of Mark Twain, to look around. We did not spend much time there. From the information we get it sounds like we will be here for several more days.
We have heard that the marina at Alton, the next port downstream where about a dozen looper boats are stranded, has lost it's electrical system due to the flood and will not be able to repair it until the water receeds. This means they do not have electrical power, toilet or pump out or water or showers available. Glad we are here!

Muriel and some of the women went into Alton today to do some shopping. I spent most of the day cleaning on the boat, starting with the roof of the sundeck and coming down. I just cot a good start. I will continue tomorrow. It sounds now like we might start to move about Wednesday.

Tuesday, Sep. 23...The river has returned to a near normal level here at Grafton. We have started to see some pleasure boats out on the rivers, we can see both the Illinois and the Mississippi from our slip. We learned this afternoon that the Coast Guard will now allow pleasure boats to move down river. The Illinois above us is still closed and still at flood stage for much of its length. We do not know how the water above us in the Illinois will affect us here at the mouth of the river.

We plan to leave here Thursday around mid-day and move downstream about 20 miles to Alton, Ill. This will give us a chance to see for ourselves how the river is and get us 20 miles closer to Hoppies, the next stop for most boats. This will also give us another day to get feedback from other boats who will leave tomorrow and Thursday.

Our plan now is to spend about a week traveling from here to Green Turtle Bay at mile 31 on the Cumberland River. This will get us out of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers and back into more cruiser friendly waters. From what we hear we will find spotty cell phone coverage from there to Mobile so our blog entries may skip more time between entries for a while.

We are all getting excited about moving again.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Still Safe in Grafton Harbor, Il

The first photo shows some of the group of loopers stranded at Grafton, Il. enjoying some snacks and drinks. The second shows a view of an old wall just down stream of the marina. This wall was on dry ground when we arrived here. The third photo shows the same wall as the water rose. A day later the wall was under water. The fourth photo shows some of the group at the end of the dock where the ramp to the ground goes under flood water. The last photo is Carlie, she does not like the water she has to walk through to get to dry gorund so she hoped up into the cart.
We are still in Grafton, Il. We have rented a car with Southern Comfort and went into Alton last evening to eat at Fast Eddies, a grill which is quite famous among loopers as a fun place to get a great hamburger at prices which have not increased for about 20 years. Can you believe a 1/2 pound burger for $1.29? It is a good burger too! We went to St. Louis today and spent the afternoon in the arch. The water was still rising this evening when we got back to the marina. The water is now covering the parking lot from about an inch to several inches deep. We took off our shoes and waded to the ramp leading to the floating dock. It is supposed to crest this evening and then begin to drop in the next day or two. Everyone here expects it will be about the middle of next week before we will be able to begin our travel down the rivers. There are attempts underway by the AGCLA to co-ordinate resumption of the thirty or so boats who are, like us, held-up in the rivers by the floods. We intend to stay put until we are sure we can handle the current in the rivers and the boats ahead of us have cleared out of the limited anchorage spaces down stream from us.
We are now planning to leave Friday morning to drive to Perry, Ia. to visit with Muriel's father. We will drive there on Friday and drive back on Saturday or Sunday. From the best predictions we can find we will probably not be able to start back down the rivers for nearly a week.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Havana to Grafton via Beardstown

The first photo is our group enjoying the leftover dinner at Tall Timbers Marina at Havana. The second photo shows our boats tied to the barges at Beardstown. The third photo shows some of the debris that came down the river from the tug which pulled out from up stream of us.

We enjoyed the Tall Timbers Marina at Havana. It was small but the facilities were nice. We enjoyed a left overs dinner with the other four boats for dinner. It was called left overs but I think nearly everyone made their dish just for dinner. We left the next morning intending to tie to a free barge at Beardstown. When we got there the barge was surrounded by driftwood and debries and was too small for all us anyway so we tied to the barges at Logdston's Towing Service. We were tied to a barge load of corn and had to walk the edge of the barges to get to a fixed barge which has a stairway up and over the levee. This was a challenge for Muriel since she does not like heights but she made it up and over several times. We did get to tour a tug which was also tied up at the barges. We enjoyed visiting with the Captain and viewing his engines and the helm. He steers with two levers, one for the rudders ahead of the props and the other for the rudders behind the props.

The river was filled with floating logs and debris which got trapped in front of the boats. When the tug had to move to go help another tow sort barges the debris he released all came down stream on to our boats. We had to get out with boats hooks and work it away from our boats so that it would not put excessive presssure on our lines and the fine debris would get into our raw water intakes for the generators.

We left in the morning intending to tie up at the wall in Hardin at a restaurant but after talking with son Jeff about the forecast for Ike to arrive in the St Louis area on Saturday night we decided to run on to Grafton and get into the marina before the storm arrived. This was a good decision. We got heavey rains over night and some strong winds. The marina is nice, everything is new and the price is reasonable. The town is very small, about 650 population, but we have enjoyed walking around town. We got a great hamburger yesterday and the marina has a courtesy car which we took to Jerseyville yesterday to go to the store. I expect we will stay here until the river peaks and begins to fall. This is expected to be the end of this week.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Chicago to Havana via Joliet, Ottawa, Chilocothe

The first photo is locking through with a tow of barges. The second shows some of the white pelicans we saw several places along the way. The third photo shows our group of boats entering the lock from Lake Michigan to the Chicago Sanitary Canal through downtown Chicago. The fourth photo is just after passing under the Michigan Ave bridge in downtown. The last photo is looking down the canal under some of the many bridges we passed under in downtown. One of the bridges is 17 feet above the water and does not open. We were 16' 9", it was a little unnerving to pass under this bridge. We did not get a picture because we were too busy watching the bridge to be sure we would get under it.

We really enjoyed going through downtown Chicago in the river. The buildings were spectacular from the water. Muriel especially enjoyed it since she lived there until sixth grade. After going through downtown the river goes through the industrial area where Muriel's father worked when they lived in Chicago. She remembered some of the roads we went under. It began to rain late in the day and we arrived in Joliet, Ill in the rain. I had replaced a fresh water pump in Chicago and when I checked it for leaks during the run on Monday I saw water misting around the engines. and water driping off a hose at the raw water pump in the port engine. When we arrived in Joliet I asked for the location of a parts store and began walking in the rain. I walked to four parts stores and about two miles before I found the hose I needed. By the time I got back to the boat I was a drowned rat. I replaced the hose and the next day I found that it was not that hose that was leaking but a hose on the starboard engine and the water was spraying over to the port engine and not weting the starboard engine at all. I had this hose onboard and replaced it on Tuesday evening at the marina in Ottawa. This was a very nice, new marina and the manager is a looper from two years ago. He was very eager to please all loopers and sell boaters on the new marina. We received gift packages and a review of his experiences on the Illinois River. They had a reporter and a photographer from the Ottawa paper to cover the evening's events.

The next day we ran to a marina which seemed to be the only one which could handle the five boats we were running with and supply diesel fuel. It was an experience! The marina was a graveyard for old barges and tugs. We learned today when we arrived at the marina for today that the family that owns the marina has a reputation up and down the river for being outlaws.

Today's stop is a very small marina in Havana, Il. The facility is nice but very tight for five boats of our size. Muriel and I walked into town to find the post office and the town is a quaint midwestern town. Tonight for dinner we all shared left-overs and met on the dock for dinner. Good times with good friends.

We have been amazed at the amount of wildlife we have observed along the river. We have seen many bald eagles, deer swimming in the river and along the bank. We have seen the jumping asian carp which have invaded the rivers of the midwest. One area was loaded with white pellicans and ibis. We have passed many barge tows and even locked through with one tow. This is a new experience. We have not delt with tows before now. I guess we will see many more tows from here to the gulf.

We have been separated from most of the boats we were with throughout Canada. Ithaka has hauled out in Chicago to be stored for the winter until Chip and Michelle return next fall to continue the loop. Blue Max has fallen behind because they have stopped near Chicago to visit friends and meet up with family who will travel with them for a while. Southern Comfort is still in our travel group.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Grand Haven to Saugatuck to St Joseph to Chicago

Photo one is Muriel with her Aunt Shirley and Uncle Ray in Grand Haven. Photo two is Carlie supervising the installation of a new fresh water circulating pump on the starboard engine. Photo three is the little hand powered, chain ferry in Saugatuck. Photo four is the Chicago skyline from Lake Michigan. Photo five is Muriel and Shelly standing near the Chicago Aquarium with the marina and the Chicago skyline in the background.

Grand Haven was quite enjoyable. We extended our stay until Sunday, 9/1. The women enjoyed the shopping in the downtown and with the car they were able to get out to a very nice grocery store. The looper boats, 13 of them, all had a Labor Day cook out on Saturday. I drove the people from two of the boats out to the grocery and they bought all of the food and we all split the cost for hamburgers, potato salad, and all the fixins. The Habormaster was very nice and worked hard to accomodate us when we all kept extending our stay.The town has a lighted fountain across the "river" from the marina. The fountain only runs each night from 9:30 til about 10:00. The color of the lights and the sprays are coordinated with the music. The Saturday morning farmer's market was super. We got to visit with Muriel's Uncle and Aunt and we had Shelly's medicine shipped to their house and they brought it to us on Saturday morning. They are very spry at 85 years, they play golf twice a week.Most of the loopers left on Sunday. We ran to Saugatuck where we anchored in the small harbor. The marina spaces were filled for Labor Day. The town is an art center with many small art studios. Muriel enjoyed walking through town and looking at the shops. We purchased nothing! There was a small chain ferry which crossed the channel entering town. It is passenger only. The operator, a woman when we saw it, cranks handle all the way across the channel to wind the chain over the drive wheel. The chain sinks back to the bottom as the ferry passes and boats cross over it. On Monday morning we left with several other boats and skipped South Haven, which was a planned stop and ran to Benton Harbor, St Joseph while the weather was good on Lake Michigan. The forecast was for good weather Monday through Wednesday morning and then wind and rain. We did not see any on the towns. We did dingy back to another marina and had happy hour with some boats there and discussed the possibility of crossing the lake on Tuesday to get to Chicago before the weather turns bad for several days. We decided to go for it. It is a 55 nautical crossing about 25 miles above the south end of the lake. It was probably a good decision. The lake was a bit rolly early but settled some as the day progressed. The auto pilot functioned well with the following seas and we enjoyed a relaxed crossing. Our longest crossing yet. The approach to Chicago was a bit dissapointing due to the haze obscuring the skyline. This was also a bit intimidating because the haze also made it a bit difficult to see the inlet to the harbors.
We arrived in Chicago two days ahead of schedule and were not able to get a slip in the favored marina but we did get into a marina about a mile south of the desired marina. The first choice marina is adjacent to Navy Pier and downtown. Also, the entrance to the Chicago Canal is adjacent.
Muriel, Shelly, and I got out and walked to the Aquarium Tuesday after we arrived and it is closed until Friday. We then bought a ticket to ride a tour boat through the cannal with a guide describing the buildings. This included a water taxi to Navy pier where the tour started. We then purchased visitor passes for the Chicago Transit System which allow us to ride any of the busses, trains, or subways for 72 hours.
We plan to leave Chicago about this weekend and begin our trip on the rivers.