Tall Timbers Marina, Havana, IL to Big Blue Island South of Beards Town IL — September 29, 2013


We had a lot of rain yesterday afternoon and in the evening.  We went to dinner with 3 other Looper boats at Tall Timbers.  Nice mix of people and the food was pretty good at Grampa’s Restaurant in Havana.  When we were going to start back to the marina it was raining really good and only a couple of us brought rain jackets to ward off the rain (it did not work).  The Owner of Grampa’s was nice enough to give us a ride back to the marina, approximately 8 blocks.

This morning was nice although a little cool at about 45 degrees.  We got started at about 8:30 and headed south on the river.  I call the next lock when we were about 3 miles away and he told us to call back when we arrived.  When we did get there he had a tow in the lock and we waited about 45 minutes for the tow to finish the lock and have them refill it for us.  While we were waiting we were joined by Once Upon a Time and Aerin E, two of the Looper boats we met at Tall Timbers.

We did pass a dredge operation on the Illinois.  It was interesting that the dredge company was from Manistee Michigan. A long way from home.  They had the channel blocked but we called them and they directed us around the outside.  The water was deep enough for us to get thru.

We moved along and traded radio messages between boats about an anchorage for the night.  I had checked with Bob, the Owner of Tall Timbers, and his recommendation was at an Island called Big Blue, the upstream end.  It had plenty of water and we were probably 100′ out of the channel.  Once Upon A Time and Champ III anchored at the upstream end and Aerin E anchored at the down stream end.

Candy like Big Blue Island for her walks.  I had her off lease but well supervised so we did not have her disappearing into the under brush.  The shore of the island was nice firm sand with lots of sea shells.  A lot different than the Mississippi mud we are not looking forward to.

Brent and Susan from Once Upon A Time came over for desert and cocktails after dinner.  A good time was had by all before we decided to call it a day.

Mile 78 Near Grand Tower, IL on the Mississippi to Angelo Tow Head, Cairo, IL — October 4, 2013

We were up and at it about 6:00 this morning.  I did my engine checks before I started the generator.  I needed the power to brew coffee.  Candy and I went to shore and I
took a photo of the boats at anchor.  It is a real nice anchorage other than the depth if runs from 15” to 45’ with the deeper portion in most of the area. There is no current and the holding power was good.  Great protection from the tows on the river with the rock walls around it.

We had some local fishermen come in last evening and set some lines for catfish.  They had floats on the surface and the lines went straight down.  They were back this morning and they showed me one of the fish and it must have been at least 30 lbs. as the guy had a difficult time picking it up.  They said they had 2 tubs full of fish so their work paid off. I am assuming they will sell these when they get back to shore.

We started down the river today and the sky was pretty dark and low clouds.  I had checked the weather radar and the only rain I could see was a line of showers and storms up around Chicago stretching east to west.  The visibility was only about 2 miles but plenty for river traveling.

We had a lot of tows today.  We passed a couple going south but there was tow after tow headed north.  I think the dredging in St Louis has slowed things up because they were talking that the Cairo area (intersection of the Lower Mississippi, Upper Mississippi and the Ohio River is al jammed up.  I think the biggest tow we saw was a 5 wide by 6 long, 30 barges with most of them loaded.  The prop wash behind the tow is really something to see.  In some cases it was worse than the freighters on the Detroit or St Clair Rivers.

We ran into a tow near the end of the day that was kind of strange.  I was leading the group and called to the tow for a preferred pass. He did not respond.  I waited a
few minutes and another tow called him and said some pleasure boats were trying
to contact him and he acknowledged that transmission but did not call me back.  I waited and then decided to tell him what I was going to do so he could respond if he did not like it.  Well he heard it and said OK to pass on the two (starboard).  As he went into a slight bend in the river he cut me off with no room between the buoy and the barge to
pass.  I slowed and waited for him to pass the buoy but as soon as he did he speeded up to the point he was going almost as fast as us.  Well we speeded up and passed him.  I am not sure what his issue was but today he did not like pleasure boaters.

We arrived at the anchorage around 3:30 and it did not long for the 4 boats to get anchored and setup. The shore is great for Candy and she had a chance to visit the other boats in the dinghy, when we checked on plans for tomorrow morning.  We have 60 Miles tomorrow and we are going against the current of the Ohio River. We also have two locks.  The first one may have the wickets down which means we do not lock thru but cruise right over the wickets.

Hoping for good weather.

Hoppies Marina, Kimmswick, MO to Mile 78 Near Grand Tower, IL on the Mississippi, October 3, 2013

We spent a lot of time talking about the weather this morning because the next 3 nights are anchor out time.  There are 4 boats that will be travelling together (Champ III, Once Upon A Time, Terrapin and Lindy).  We have about 260 miles to reach the next
marina, Green Turtle Bay.  The weather was forecast for possible thunderstorms today but there was nothing on the radar this morning in our area or the area we were going to.  More thunderstorms for tomorrow and a cold front is coming thru on Saturday that will drop the temperatures from 90 to 70.

We ended up leaving Hoppies about 9:00 and headed down river.  Lots of tow traffic in either direction today.  We had some really large tows that we passed.  We talked to
all the captains to make sure we did what they thought was best.  All of them were very good in communicating what they needed done.  Never any hesitation in their voice on what they wanted you to do.  Some of the tows were quite large.  The last one we passed was 5 wide by 6 deep.  Quite a bit of cargo in 30 barges.

Most of the day was sunny with some clouds but we did have a light shower for about 10 minutes in the early afternoon.  Nothing serious and so we were fortunate the forecast was not correct for us.

We did pass a River Boat Paddle Wheeler near Chester IL.  They were going into the bank and there was a tour bus and large van waiting along side the river for the boat.  I think they were going to unload passengers from the paddle wheeler. Chester Illinois is also the location of a State Penitentiary that is located along the banks of the Mississippi.

We Arrived at the anchorage approximately 3:15 and had all the boats anchored by 4:00 and the dogs on shore by 4:30.  Candy got to meet Tasha from Terrapin on
shore.  They had a great time running around the sandy shore.

The adults had their docktails on Once Upon A Time and we got to know everyone a little better. Great Group of People but we did have one argument start when it became apparent one couple were Spartans and the other couple were Wolverines. Well not really an argument but each displayed their loyalty to their schools.

It was a good time with smoked catfish that was purchased in Grafton so it was Mississippi catfish.



Grafton Harbor, Grafton, IL to Alton Marina, Alton, IL — October 1, 2013

No big rush to leave this morning because we were only traveling 16 miles.  We got underway about 10:15 with fairly heavy skies.  You can see the haze in the pictures.

Spent part of the early morning talking to the other Looper boats.  I thought we were all going to travel together but as we pulled by they were not ready to leave so out we went.  The Mississippi was real quiet this morning.  I did not see any tows on the river and only 2 other small pleasure craft.

It still is a pretty dramatic change from the Illinois River to the Mississippi River.  The Mississippi has the sheer rock walls in this section and it is pretty wide. The water was calm and we did have a couple of Asian carp jump today but if I recall a lot of the actual action with the carp is over.

The Alton Marina is right downtown.  You can see the bridge over the Mississippi in the photos and there is a casino just to the north of the marina.  The local grocery store will provide transportation and there are harbor hosts at this marina.

The harbor hosts have a meeting every evening at 5:30 to pass on the information they have on the river and traveling it.  They get their information based on feed back from previous Loopers who have traveled the area and then let them know how things were.  They will provide transportation for the Loopers to a local restaurant for dinner after the meeting.  Probably will be another good evening swapping stories.

We will move on to Hoppies tomorrow.  There are 2 locks on the Mississippi that we need to go thru tomorrow.  Then all the locks will be done with for a while.

Big Blue Island South of Beards Town IL to Grafton Harbor, Grafton, IL — September 30, 2013

Woke up this morning to heavy river fog.  Temperatures were cool and there was a lot of steam coming off the river.  Candy and I almost had a hard time finding Big Blue Island.

The sun came up and by 8:30 we were making preparations to leave.  By the time we got onto the water the fog was history and the day was warming nicely. Earin E was not quite ready to go when we went by their anchorage but they said they would catch up shortly.

We traveled down the river and did not have any locks between the anchorage and Grafton so there would be no delays.  The Asian carp were still jumping but there were not quite as many today.  We did not get any to jump into the dinghy thankfully.

Once Upon A Time was leading the way today and I followed.  We got a little close once so I backed off the throttle a little and by the time we arrived at Grafton they were about 1+ miles in front of us.  Actually that is not bad because it allows the marina staff to deal with them before we arrive.  We fueled in Grafton like we did last year and the price with discount was $4.07 per gallon.

There were 2 other Looper boats in the harbor, Beach Quest and Field Trip.  Both of those boats were in Heritage Harbor at Ottawa.  I had not talked to them but I saw the boats on adjacent docks.  We did get the courtesy van from the Harbor and drove into the local Walmart for groceries. It was interesting that there were 7 of us in the van and trying to move around Walmart as fast as we could so we could get back.  As it was we got back to the boats at 6:30.

All the Loopers went to dinner at the Piasa Winery just across the parking lot from the marina.  Interesting place in that they advertise that they have no deep fryer.  Lots of food and drink and conversation.  It was good to meet some more Loopers and hear their stories.

Tomorrow 4 of the boats are going to Alton and all 5 will meet at Hoppies on the Mississippi on Wednesday.

Illinois Valley Yacht (IVY) Club, Peoria Heights, IL to Tall Timbers Marina, Havana, IL — September 27, 2013

What a glorious morning with temps in the low 50’s but warming quickly.  No clouds and little wind and temps predicted in the mid 80’s.

Candy and I saw a tow go by when we were finishing our morning walk about 7:00 and I called the Peoria Lock at 7:30 to find out what their status was.  They thought they would be clear in about 2 hours.  I woke Lenore and said we would leave in about an hour or so to time getting to the lock around 10:00.

The cruise down to the lock was uneventful but Peoria looked nice in all the sunshine and there seemed to be plenty of boats in the marinas in downtown.  We did not pass any tows on the way to the lock although there was some traffic re-arranging barges on the side of the river.  When we got to the lock, it was empty and they opened the doors as we approached.  Only a drop of 10′ so it went quickly.

The weather stayed good for the day.  We did pass probably 5 tows during the day going south and probably 2 headed north.  Some of the towns are fairly large, 3 x 4 (3 barges wide by 4 barges long). They seem to all be traveling about 5 or 6 mph.

We arrived at Tall Timbers Marina in the early afternoon and tied up.  We had stayed here last year and this is the last marina on the Illinois River.  We still have 120 miles to Grafton IL. at the intersection of the Illinois River with the Mississippi River.  We will need to anchor out one night.

Havana is a medium small town of about 3600 residents with more than enough restaurants.  They are a little light on grocery stores.  The only store with some groceries is the Dollar General store.  No fresh food but lunchmeat, eggs, juice, snacks and dry goods.

There is a very nice Riverfront Park in town.  Candy and I have walked it.  It stretches about 5 city blocks along the river and has a Nature Center and a Campground.  The Tall Timbers Marina is at the north end of the park.

I talked with the Owner Bob about the spring floods.  He said the flood reached the 100 year flood mark plus 8″.  So they set a new record at flood level. He said he was glad they made him put his house and workshop above the 100 year flood level.  He designed the marina to be able to withstand flooding and other that one broken gangway he achieved his goal.  He had 3.5′ of water in the parking lot and had to launch the boats he had on stands but he survived well.

Heritage Harbor, Ottawa, IL to Illinois Valley Yacht (IVY) Club, Peoria Heights, IL– September 24, 2013

Another crisp morning in Illinois.  Temps were about 47 this morning when Candy and I went for our walk.  Along the way we met a man talking on his cell phone and from what I overheard he was talking to the 1st lock of the day, Starved Rock Lock.  When he was off the call I introduced myself and asked about the lock.  He was from the boat Pazza Bella and related that the lock were going to bring a big tow up and should be ready in about an hour and 15 minutes. Needless to say we needed to hustle as the lock was about 11 miles downstream from us.

I had awaken Lenore before Candy and I went out so she was up and moving about.  I was able to get underway in about 20 minutes after Candy and I got back to the boat.  Almost thought we had a problem when the starboard engine would not start but in rechecking the switches and found while the key switch was over to the right. but it had not fully clicked on.  Boy did that relieve a few anxious moments.

Underway we moved along at about 11 mph, a little faster than normal but I needed to catch Pazza Bella who had departed maybe 5 to 7 minutes ahead of us.  We did catch up and settled back to a 9.5 to 10 mph speed to the lock.  We arrived just as a tow was departing the lock.  There was also a sailboat that was waiting lockage down so there were 3 of us in the lock.

The remainder of the trip was interesting from the standpoint that we some significant tow traffic on the river.  We also had some other pleasure craft on the river and I followed one all the way to the IVY Club.  He was back and forth on the river and his speed was erratic.  I tried several times to pass and he would speed up and then I would fall back behind him and he would slow down.  He continued on past the IVY Club.

When we arrived at the IVY Club Pazza Bella was in their slip and helped the harbor master with our lines.  The couple on Pazza Bella are Mike and Veronica from Charleston South Carolina.  Mike and Veronica are 6 months into doing the Loop and headed to the rendezvous at Joe Wheeler State Park on the Tennessee River.  We had dinner with them at the No Wake Zone bar and grill across the street from the IVY Club.

Lenore and I had stayed at the IVY Club last year but the bar was closed and it thunder stormed most of the evening after we had arrived last year.  They had a big flood this spring.  When you look at the photos the water was 3 1/2 feet above the second floor of the building and they are still in the process of renovating.

We will stay here 3 days to get mail and we ordered a replacement chip for the chartplotter as the chip for the center of the US is somehow missing.

Harborside Marina, Wilmington, IL to Heritage Harbor, Ottawa, IL — September 21, 2013

Good sunny morning with the river ready for us.  It was cool this morning but not real cold. We called the 1st lock before we left the dock as it was only 2 miles downriver.  They indicated they had no traffic and to call them back when we were in site of the lock.

All went well at the first lock and there were no delays.  The travel down the river was great with minimal boat traffic on the river for a Saturday.  We did not see any tows or pass any along the way.  We contacted the next lock when we were a couple of miles away so they could hold the lock if there was down bound traffic.  Again they said to call them when we were in site of the lock. When we arrived at the next lock we heard the lock master call to the “pleasure craft down bound”.  We called him on the radio and he said he was trying to contact the boat in front of the lock door where the kids were swimming.  They responded and he told them to have the kids get back in the boat because they were filling the lock and they did not want the kids getting sucked into the valves (honest – his words).  Needless to say the kids scrambled back into the boat in a hurry.  It was a 18′ runabout with 3 adults and 2 kids aboard that had passed us on the river about 45 minutes before. The locking was uneventful after the swimming.

We arrived at Heritage Harbor in Ottawa IL, that is just a few miles above the Starved Rock Lock.  We had help from some of the local boaters in getting tied up.  Lots of friendly people on the dock.  Being a nice sunny weekend there were quite a few of the boaters at their boats to enjoy some of the final good weather for the season.  They had a dock party in the early evening and there were a lot of good stories form them and they asked a lot of questions about the loop, especially when they found out this was our 2nd loop. I left the dock party about 8 but it continued for another hour or so as the evening was getting pretty chilly.

Sunday we had a visit from friend we made last year, Don and Kate from Fandango.  We had traveled with them on the Mississippi last year and then saw them again in Belhaven NC.  We traveled with them from the Dismal Swamp to Norfolk and were going to meet up wit them again in Canada but the closing of the Erie Canal had them on the Hudson River side of the closure. They live in Wisconsin and drove down for the day.   We had a nice brunch at the Starved Rock Lodge.

We decided to stay Monday so we could do laundry in town.  They have a courtesy car at the marina so it is easy to get into town.

DuSable Harbor, Chicago, IL To Harborside Marina, Wilmington, IL — September 20, 2013

Chicago was great in spite of all the news about what was going on in the south part of the city.  We were in downtown and enjoyed it.  Candy really liked walking Navy Pier and the weather for the most part cooperated.

We went to dinner downtown and then walked a block to a grocery store.  It was interesting that there are several grocery stores in downtown Chicago unlike Detroit.  This was not a small neighborhood store although it was not a large Kroger store either. It was convenient.

We struggled in the morning about whether to leave or not because there was a 40% chance of thunderstorms.  Most of the forecasts did indicate the chance of rain would be gone by early afternoon and the radar looked pretty clear so we decided to leave.  You can see in the photos that it was cloudy.

Even with the cloudy skies, going thru downtown on the Chicago River is spectacular.  Winding thru the hi-rises and looking at the City from a different perspective is quite an experience. It is just unfortunate that it does not last longer than it does.  As we were leaving downtown we had to wait at a railroad bridge for 3 commuter trains to pass.  The clearance in the down position is only 10′ but the wait was only about 20 minutes so it was not bad.

The barge traffic on the river was not to active.  We did have to pass several tows and there were a lot of tows moving barges from one dock to another along the way.  Lot of areas where the barges were being loaded and unloaded.  I guess it was a pretty normal workday on the Chicago River. About 20 miles down river the Calumet Sag Canal joins the Chicago River.  The Calumet Sag is the alternate entrance to the Illinois River and it is about 10 miles south of downtown Chicago on Lake Michigan.  It is also industrial in nature but not quite as active the Chicago River.

We passed thru the Asian Fish fence.  This is an electric underwater fence to prevent the carp from migrating north to the great lakes from the river system.  They are considered an invasive species.  This system is in place thanks to the Army Corp of Engineers.

We traveled thru our first 2 locks downstream of Chicago for the trip.  The Illinois River locks are very user friendly compared to a lot of the locks we will see.  They have a floating bollard located in the sidewall of the lock.  All you need to do is loop your line around the bollard and tie it back to the boat. You do this at the mid-ship cleat and that is all there is to it.  The bollard goes down at the water goes down so the line length does not need to change.  We were pretty lucky at the locks we only waited at the first lock as they completed bring a boat up and then we went down.  The second lock had the doors opening for us as we approached.

We stayed at a marina called Harborside in Wilmington Illinois.  The entrance to the marina was described pretty good by the manager when we called ahead.  We arrived after the marina office had closed but there were enough locals around to assist with the docking.  Really nice people there for their weekend on the boat.  There was a restaurant on site and one of the locals lent us his golf cart so we could drive up to the restaurant.  When we arrived back the locals were all busy getting things ready for their Saturday night party which I thought was their end of season party.  Candy had a great time going around an seeing if she could help.

One of the local ladies works for Keebler Industries and left a shopping bag full of different crackers and cookies on the boat.  What a surprise and a nice gesture.  We will enjoy them.


Washington Park Municipal Marina, Michigan City, Indiana to DuSable Harbor, Chicago, IL — September 17, 2013

Pretty cold this morning for boaters.  It was 42 when Candy and I went for our walk.  The sky was partly to mostly cloudy and the winds had shifter to the southeast as predicted.  So it looks like we will go to Chicago today.

The wind was up a little so we stayed within about 2 miles of the shore until we passed Gary Indiana and needed to go further out to avoid some industrial area on a peninsula and a shoal area. The water was not bad and the trip was essentially uneventful.  The Indiana shoreline gets more and more commercial as you move west And even on a not so clear day the Chicago skyline is visible from 15 miles away.

This year we decided to stay at DuSable Harbor which is right downtown with great walking access to Millennium Park.  Bay Pier is just on the other side of the Chicago River.  There is a trade off for all this good access, the slip fees are the highest on the Great Lakes and they also charge $20 per night for electricity.

We also have access to their water front parks and hiking trail that extends for miles and miles. Candy and I were out for our walk and you need to be careful on the trail so you do not get run over by the bike riders.

We took a cab last night to a restaurant called Bub City.  It is located on North Clark Street in downtown. The food was good but the crowd was a somewhat younger crowd and Lenore and I brought the average age up a little.  They were pretty busy for a Tuesday evening.  The rush hour traffic was terrible on the way there but better on the way back. Lenore is going looking for a yarn shop today and Candy and I will explore Millennium Park.  There is a chance of rain so we will need to keep an eye to the sky.

We plan on staying in Chicago till Friday morning and then enter the Chicago River to head south.  We are not sorry to put Lake Michigan behind us.  It just has been a lot rougher on us than what we are used to.  The rivers will be better.