After the initial excitement of Chicago and then our first locks we have now settled down to heading down river. Dearest and I are becoming fluent in the river language. Part of the vocabulary necessary are down bound, up bound, north bound, south bound, ones and twos, wickets and bollards.
Some are pretty self-explanatory down bound and south bound mean going south on the river. North bound or up bound is going up river or north. Ones and Twos are right or left same as port and starboard. One is left or port and two is right or starboard. When we have encountered the tow boats on the rivers. We usually will contact them to see how they would like us to pass. The tow captain will answer with what side he would like “Just stay on the two and you will be all right.” That means he wants us to pass on his starboard side. I seem to get turned around and Cynthia is there to help me keep it straight. I’m glad she is there or I could have got us in trouble a couple of times. We let the tow know when we have cleared his vessel and most reply with thanks and safe travels.
We both have been on the radio more than ever before. Cynthia is not afraid to pick up the microphone and hail a tow or a lock master. Sometimes I think she gets along better with the men better than me. She had a regular conversation going with a lock master and he had the lock ready and waiting for us when we arrived. We were through and on our way out the other side in just over 15 minutes. Helps to be courteous no matter who we are speaking. We can thank Fred at the Starved Rock Lock for getting us through quickly.
Right now we have been able to travel between towns and cities and finding accommodations for the evenings have been easy to find. We know that this will not always be the case and are preparing to anchor for an evening. When this begins we will be loading and unloading Toots into the dinghy. I know she wont like it but we will get used to it the more it happens. The dinghy is ready I hope Toots will be.
We ended our first day of travel in Joliet on the cities free wall. We had power and a secure area. The Police Station was right across the river and while up in the night I saw a police cruiser patrolling the adjacent park area. Joliet seems to be the first stop for Loopers and crew from about ½ dozen boats met in the park, everyone was excited and keyed up about the initial river adventures. We all talked and congratulated each other on completing this first day.
It seemed that the excitement of the first day flowed into the next morning with a number of boats getting an early start and some others rushing to push-off and get to the next lock while it was available for pleasure craft traffic. I got caught up in the excitement and after rushing Toots through her morning walk we made ready to leave the wall quickly and passed a number of the early starters at the bridge that was to low for them and we could sneak under since we still were shorter than usual without the radar dome in place. We arrived at the lock in plenty of time and had to wait for the others to catch up. I am learning that rushing doesn’t mean you will arrive at the next destination any faster. It just seems to get you to a spot to wait longer. It was not uncommon to arrive at a lock and find boats that left before us or passed us waiting to enter and pass through.
During that second day of travel we passed through 3 locks and what was exciting at first had started to become routine. By the end of the day we found ourselves tired and ready to stop.
We had phoned ahead and booked a reservation at Heritage Harbor Marina in Ottawa IL.
A very nice facility with very helpful attendants. The big storm was coming through so we stayed an extra day. It was good to be able to take the extra day to relax.
There were 17 Looper boats at the Heritage and it seemed all were going to head out as soon as the weather got better. An impromptu captains meeting was held at the restaurant that afternoon to find out who was heading where and when. High speed boats were heading straight for Peoria about 75 miles, some boats were staying extra days, some were looking for anchorages and others, like us, decided to make a short day and travel just a few miles and stop for the evening.
We made arrangements to stay at South Shore Boat Club in Peru IL. A trip of about 25 – 30 miles. South Shore Boat Club is a smaller operation located right on the river. A tight fit and a strong was making getting into the slip difficult. We were struggling until George showed up and helped us to get into the slip. George is a member of the Boat Club that worked across the street and just happened to see we were having difficulties and came to assist. That set the tone for our stay at the Boat Club. Everyone we met were helpful and very friendly. Overnight docking fee was $15.00 with free laundry and pump-out facilities. With the stay and buying drinks for the people who helped our overnight stay in Peru our total costs were about $25.00.
While docking we even saw our first Asian Carp, ugly bugger. We had been expecting to see more but so far not a lot of action. From local reports we are not expected to see them in the channels as we travel downstream. The carp keep to shallow water and expect them when moving toward the shore or a docking area. I did have a couple fish jump close to me while I was walking on the floating dock. They are a surprise when they come out of the water right next to you. We have heard tales of crew finding their towed dinghies covered with dead and bloody fish after a days travel.
We continued our travels and obtained a slip at the Illinois Valley Yacht Club or IVY Club. We have remained here because the heavy rains from a few days before have created flooding on the Mississippi and travel has become dangerous. Loopers are bunching up again all along the Illinois River waiting for safe travels. We booked a couple of extra days in hopes that boats will start to move and we can proceed with our Illinois River travels.
If you have to be stuck this is a decent place to be. The IVY club members are friendly and helpful. This past weekend we watched sailboat races, attended a Rib Fest and had members give us rides to the grocery store. Being in Peoria, the headquarters for Caterpillar Equipment I called locally and asked questions about our engines on the boat. I spent about 45 minutes on the phone with a couple of people asking questions and being asked questions. The Caterpillar people were very helpful and I ordered parts for pick up the next day. A Looper that had finished his travels picked up my parts for me and brought them back to our boat.
It looks as though boats will start moving soon. From reports from other Loopers some boats down river have begun to move. We plan to leave IVY on the 18th of September and hope that the rest of the boats in front of us will be moving also.
Until next time, here is to enjoying what we have no control over anyway.