Friday, September 25, 2015

The rivers are calling..

Washington Park Municipal Marina, Michigan City, IN - September 6-15, 2015

I made my trip home and visited my two sisters who were both having some medical procedures in September.  Both are doing well, and I came back to Michigan City, IN, on Monday, September 14.

We spent that afternoon and the next day looking around the area...

This is a large, but friendly marina!

It's in a park setting with a beach adjacent to the park...

Part of the harbor area...

This drawbridge was between us and downtown.  Condos or apartments line the channel here...

We left Michigan City before I could get inside to see the interior of this most interesting public library!

Like many struggling towns, Michigan City is trying to get an art community to colonize in the downtown area.  This building is being renovated for artist lofts.

More of the budding art district...

Some of the beautifully designed buildings in town...

And a view down one of the streets in the art district...

Sunset from our slip in the marina...

I'll end this segment with a couple of snaps from my trip to visit sisters.  Nadine and Jerry have a thriving garden and the first night there we fixed veggies and corn bread for supper....Yum!!  These are heirloom tomatoes picked from their patch.

And this is the heron that visits their front yard where a little creek cuts through the property.  It's their good luck sign!  ;-)

Heading back up to Bloomington, IN, on the way to Reba's and Mike's home, I saw the Weiner Mobile!!  It's been a while!

And, in downtown Bloomington, the gorgeous day as a backdrop for City Hall (least I think it's city hall...)

Joliet Free City Wall, Joliet, IL - Wednesday, September 16

In looking at the weather and cruising conditions earlier this week, we had thought Friday would be our first good day to cross the bottom of Lake Michigan from Michigan City, IN, to the 
Calumet-Saganashkee Channel (Cal-Sag Channel), south of Chicago.  We realized yesterday afternoon that we might have a chance at that run today.  We got up early to check the weather.  Yep!  We're leaving Lake Michigan!  As we left the Michigan City harbor, we approached Lake Michigan, awesome Lake Michigan, for our last time on this trip...

We left the marina at 7:15 AM.  12 hours, 81 miles, many bridges that we squeezed under, and two locks later...pant, pant...and we are tied up now at the Joliet, IL, free town wall.  Oh, and it includes electricity!  

We were lucky.  Lockport Lock, our second lock and the one right before Joliet, could have been a show stopper.  We had called them early in the day to see if they had any idea what their schedule might be like around 5 PM.  The lock master was very helpful and said he didn't know of anything that would prevent us from getting to the wall at Joliet before dark...but to call him later and check in with him.

We called when we were about 4 miles out and he informed us that there was a barge and pleasure boat almost ready to go.  The barge had been having trouble getting secured in the lock and he thought we might have a chance to make it if we hurried.

Hurry we did!  We made it and locked through with Good Enuf, a boat we've known since Troy, NY! Several bridges later, we were secure for the night.

Ah, well...and there was this hairy event we had with a double-wide loaded tow on the way down.

We were in the Chicago Sanitary Ship Canal, which is notorious for having barges and tow boats everywhere: parked on the side, moving north and south, loading/unloading.  We had our AIS on and had identified one of about 12 signals that was moving and not standing still.  The sun was already in front of us so we were looking at silhouettes to our front.  I had taken a picture aimed back just a while before to show how narrow the channel could become when there were several barges tied up on the side...and we knew to look for "ways to duck in" should we find ourselves caught in one of these narrow aisles as a barge approached.

Our mistake was in not recognizing that the double-wide barge in front of us was actually moving at 3 kts...towards us.  We didn't understand a call out to "southbound pc"...combination of being desensitized to the many call outs we were hearing and a muddled transmission or reception over radio.  When we finally recognized what was being said, the tow captain was saying "you'd better get on the ones, captain!"

Wayne snugged up to the barges tied on our right...and it looked to both of us that the space we were left with to pass the tow was...well, not quite enough.  But, we had nowhere else to go.  We moved forward, slowly realizing that we really needed to be out of close proximity to that tow's stern as he passed us...or he would throw a wake that would definitely sling us up against the parked barges on our right.  Wayne increased our speed and we zoomed out just before the stern started entering the channel.

Needless to say, the adrenaline was flowing big time through our bodies.  And, as it drained away,  we knew we'd just been through a near catastrophic event...but, thankfully had survived.  Gee. Wish I'd gotten a picture of that.  ;-)

Lessons were learned and improvements will be made to our speaker system on the bridge radios, though that won't take care of all the problem in understanding the calls from tows.   Just as when in the last year-long trip I had fallen off the boat and committed myself to steady, sure steps...mindfulness...while around docks and boats, this event will cause us to take supreme cautions in such crowded conditions from now on.  They talk of "seasoned" or "weathered" cruisers...and they may be talking about the new wrinkles we get from events like this.

We saw a lot of industrial sites along the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.

Below is is one of the fish barriers placed along this waterway to try and prevent Asian carp from entering Lake Michigan (  A noble venture, but apparently it doesn't always work.

Love the signs posted near these, though.  No swimming in these waters unless you're looking for a jolt!

This bridge caught my eye because the canvasing they'd put up to allow for painting the inside of the bridge looked like the beginning of a good abstract painting...

We spent a peaceful night on the Joliet City Dock, right behind Gud Enuf.

At our bow was a bridge being worked on and as the sun set that evening it gave off a glow...

Spring Brook Marina, Marsailles, IL - Thursday, September 17, 2015

We had decided to take an easy morning getting out today because of our marathon run yesterday from Michigan City...and the exhaustion from anxiety during The Tow Incident.  ;-)  

I took Lucy for a nice walk in the city park by the wall.

We got to the first lock around 9:30.  The day was a pleasant one for travel.  Only one unusual incident occurred.  

At the Dresden Lock and Dam we entered with Gud Enuf and a sailboat we'd traveled near all day.  The lock master gave instructions for the power boats to tie to our port side wall...and the sailboat would be "on the hip."  ???  Turns out, it means the sailboat would raft up to Gud Enuf.  It was a bit of a complicated procedure because the sailor was single-handing the boat.

Everything went fine once they were securely rafted.  

Some areas of the river are covered in green.  Not pollen, I think, but vegetation...  And there are lots and lots of duck blinds as we move on down.  

An interesting tidbit about the Illinois River was passed along to us from Gud Enuf.  Apparently the river is notoriously polluted.  If you fall in and ingest water or have it reach open wounds...a doctor's visit is in order.  He said the river is so polluted it doesn't even freeze over in the winter.  

We ended this day at Spring Brook Marina at Marseilles, IL.  I kept wanting to say "mar-say"...but asked the lock master at Dresden for the pronunciation and found out it is "mar-sells" in these parts.

We really didn't get off the marina property here.  Just settled in for the evening and planned out our next day's travel.

The Landings at Henry, IL - Friday, September 18, 2015 

Most of the day today was spent enjoying the trip down the river.  We were beginning to see white pelicans everywhere!  As we exited a lock, we spied this guy floating down with the current...and his buddies are on the shore.

Only towards the end of the trip did it become apparent...we were in for some rain!

And rain it did!  By the time we got tied up to the fuel dock at The Landings at Henry, we were soaked!  Now...the name, Landings at Henry, sounds like a posh place, right?  Well, no.  Actually there is a small marina there suitable for smaller pleasure boats, but transients are placed on either the old Henry Lock wall or the fuel dock.  By the time we got there the dock hand decided they probably wouldn't have any more business for fuel that stormy evening and let us stay on the dock.

The pouring rain simply lent an even more Mad Max-like ambience to the place.  Getting to shore meant climbing up a crumbling rock bank...and walking a good ways to The Bar at Henry's Landing where the bartender took up the $32 fee for overnight dockage.  Here's a view of the area between us and the bar.

Oh, electricity was included...but it was so far away from the boat that we decided just to use the generator.  (Side note here:  Wayne figured up the other day that before we got the new generator we had put 79 hours on the old one.  Since the new one was installed we've used it for over 400 hours.  Hey!  We know how to get our money's worth!)

Still, for all it's "ambiance", the place was definitely sort of colorful.  Here's a shot of the inside of the bar.  Notice some items dangling from the rafters?  Bras!  ;-)

By the time we walked up there to the bar and back to the boat we were soaked through and through....

Peoria Free City Dock, Peoria, IL - September 19-20

The next morning at Henry's broke with the sunrise and gave a completely different flavor to the setting.  The bridge to our south...

On Business was tied to the old lock wall in front of us.

And Lucy and I spotted a heron on the way to her walk.

Speaking of birds, the night silence was broken ONLY by a flock of white pelicans that landed just across this small channel by our boat.  At first it sounded like chickens...I had to get up and take a look to see that it was the pelicans.  Yes, I wanted a picture of the usually adorable critters...but could have done without the ruckus!

Next morning they had moved on down to an industrial dock nearby...

When we untied at Henry's and aimed for the waterway we saw a barge passing and knew we'd need to pass it to make good time.  We were in a wide spot on the river below the bridge and had an easy pass.

Even though the skies are cloudy, it's clearing up!

We had a pretty short day to the Peoria dock so didn't have much trouble finding dock space.  The rub for us was that we had read in AC that the dock was for day use and not overnight...though everyone broke that rule, even the locals.  We decided to chance it and found a spot big enough for our boat.

With the help of a nearby boater we were able to tie up...sort of.  There were no cleats to tie on and only one really stable post.  Fortunately this is a no wake area and most of the time it is observed.  In tying up we read a sign posted that said "overnight permitted" just call the marina telephone number and tell them you're here.  We did...and they said, "You are welcome to stay on the dock!  This is a free dock and we hope you enjoy your stay!"  ;-)

Peoria is a neat town!  Caterpillar, "big yellow," as it's called, is headquartered here and is a big influence in this town's well being.  We decided to stay two days and take in some of the sights in town.

Right behind our boat was the "Landing" where concerts are held during the summer.

That's adjacent to Riverfront Village, as it's called, with shops and parks.

The area was especially pretty at night.

We took a walk around the downtown area the first afternoon there and stopped in the public library for a look-see.  There are some nice architectural pieces in town.

I passed up on going to the Riverfront Museum, even though they did have a dinosaur exhibit that looked good from their web site.  The other exhibit I would have enjoyed is the "awkward family photos" exhibit, inspired by the same web site.  Thing is...I can just visit the site anytime I want a chuckle....

View down Main to the riverfront...

And up Main from the riverfront...

On Sunday we found the buses and rode up to a grocery store.  On the return trip we spotted...yes, a frozen yogurt bar!!!  Back to the boat for lunch, then hopped on the same bus (and same driver) for dessert.  When we got on for the second time the driver said, "Back again?"  Wayne said, "Yes.  We enjoyed the ride so much."  ;-)  We got a "frequent buyer" card from the yogurt shop and had it punched for 2 purchases.  Then we gave it to the bus driver when we made the return trip.

Logston Tug Service barge, Beardstown, IL - Monday, September 21

We tried to call the Peoria Lock last night since it's only a few miles down from the town dock.  We were trying to find out if there were any major hold ups.  They told us they would be letting down the wicket dam early on Monday and that by 10 AM we should be able to pass through "over the dam."

We went on down a little early, just in case things had moved swiftly to open the passage and ended up getting across the wicket dam by 9 AM.

We traveled 81 miles today and ended up tied to a barge by the river at Logston Tug Service.  Long, metal stairs that you could see through led up to the office and shore.  It was one of those walks where I want to concentrate hard on seeing the step without seeing the gap below it.  Handrails were a must!

This is a view from a city park looking down the river at our boat, bow to the current.  Yep.  We were dwarfed by the work boats around us.

We walked to the local grocery store, then back to the boat.  From barge to the town area was a close walk.

Passed by a little park with "river look" vantage point for pictures.

And we went by the town square.

Grafton Marina, Grafton, IL - Tuesday, September 22

Next morning, we were hoping to get to Alton...or Grafton, IL, as a fall back.  We considered how to "get off the barge" and thought we'd covered all the possibilities for problems due to the current, which at that time was on our nose.  We had three lines attached, and all were tied back on the boat so they could be released by me in sequence...bow to stern.  Wayne would hold the bow in with the bow thruster.

Lines one and two came off without a hitch.  The final line, on the stern, would not release.  I thought it was because of the pull on it (the current had then "taken" the bow and was turning us around while we were still tied up).  Bottom line, we were caught perpendicular to the side of the barge with the dinghy pushed up on the side of the barge.  I used both swear words in sequence, over and over again.  I had decided just to cut the line but couldn't find our line cutters.  Wayne was digging them out of the bridge storage area when I realized that somehow, something had changed and I was able to release the line.  

Checking out the dinghy and Popper Upper, we realized repairs to the dinghy lift would have to be made.  Two of the supports were bent into a 90 degree angle as a result of our being held up against the barge.

We couldn't get all the way to Alton before their fuel dock closed...and we wanted a full tank as we headed down the Mississippi.  So, we stopped at Grafton for the night and refueled there.

Several loopers were there...several of whom we'd seen before on this trip.  There are back ups in the "flow" of transient boats going down the Mississippi and up the Ohio River now because of lock construction and repairs on the Ohio River.  One lock has the main chamber closed down until September 26, leaving only the smaller chamber...and the construction on new lock makes a slow passage in that area.  Of course, as in all these rivers, commercial traffic comes first and we PC's must wait our turn.  Hoppies, a favorite stop for loopers on the way down, is booked days ahead now.  We're planning our trip around Hoppies this time since we've "been there, done that."

Alton Marina, Alton, IL - September 23-25

We took our time getting out of Grafton this morning because we only had about 15 miles to go down to Alton.

Here we are, approaching the Mississippi River!

The landscape pretty quickly started to change and looked more...homelike.  

 So here we are in Alton.  We're in a covered slip with plenty of room to have the dinghy off the lift and room for Wayne to work on repairs.

After arriving on Wednesday we took the bus to Alton Station for access to a Lowes, Home Depot, and grocery.  Yesterday, Wayne worked on the lift all morning...then we broke for another trip on the bus up to Lowes area for additional parts.

We've spent some time at this bus stop.  ;-)

We "do" a lot of buses on this trip and this bus system has been the most difficult one to learn.  The drivers are friendly...but the routes are sort of strangely labeled.  Yesterday's trip took a total of 4 hours, only one half hour of which was spend actually shopping.  Time to and from the bus stop....waiting on return bus, etc.  Whew!  We came back worn out, but Wayne jumped right back into the project trying to finish enough of the repair to see if it would function as he hoped.

We're not in a hurry to leave here.  Things at the locks are still congested and loopers continue to flow past us.  We may leave tomorrow if all gets done and we are ready.  Otherwise, we might be here until Saturday.  We figure that from here we might be home around the 16th or so.