June 19 - We spent the first night at Michigan City, and then crossed the Lake to Calumet on Thursday. We went down river 13 miles before stopping for the night at Dolton, IL. Today there were thunderstorm warnings, so we are staying put and catching up on things.
June 22 - Saturday the weather cleared and we were back on the river. The Cal Sag was beautiful, lined with bushes and many herons and cranes. Then we merged with the Chicago Shipping Channel. It is called the "twelve miles of hell" and it is an accurate description. The channel is narrow, barges are parked on both sides and when a barge is coming at you there is no where to go. There were lots of bridges, and the tows had to maneuver to get through them, which kicks up lots of prop wash. We also went through our second lock, 40 feet. That was not so difficult. It was a tense and scary day and we were very happy to pull up to a wall in Joliet for the night. Sunday was better. The channel merges with the Des Plains River and widens out, so when barges go by there was more room. We went through two more locks and then ran into lots of recreational boats, as it was Sunday and very warm. We stopped for the night at Spring Brook Marina in Seneca, IL. Very nice place. The river dictates a slower pace than we anticipated. There is lots of current right now, and we have to wait at locks and for barges to maneuver. So we have not gotten as far as we thought we would at this point. However, we are learning lots, and adjusting to the pace. We are having a great time.
Barges coming under the bridge, and one coming up the river. These pictures were taken when we were a safe distance away!! The picture on the right is the Cal Sag before the miles of hell.
June 24 - The past two days have been less stressful and very beautiful. There is some tension when coming up to locks and having to wait in the strong current for our turn, but going through the locks is getting to be old hat. We anchored out last night at a beautiful spot. It was behind an island and there were cliffs of rock next to us. Several blue herons flew by. It has been sunny and very hot the past few days. Today we got as far as Henry, IL. We are tied to a wall that is a 100 year old lock that has been abandoned and turned into a marina. Upon pulling in we blew our big orange fender that Harry has had for 15 years. Too much current, too much boat and too sharp of rocks on the wall!! The Vicki Lynn has accumulated a few new scratches on her rub rail this trip. Luckily we know a good fiberglass and paint girl who works pretty cheap.
Our anchorage from Tuesday and the Henry Lock wall.
June 30 - After leaving Henry, we traveled a short way to a marina called Hamm's Holiday. It was unusual as the owner has a "collection" of old casino boats, tugs, Chris Crafts, etc. We stayed there through the weekend. The river is quite flooded in this part of the river. Upriver, the locks maintain a pretty steady depth. But below the Starved Rock dam, the water is not controlled. It is at least ten feet above normal right now. This is good for us as far as finding places to stay that can handle our deep draft, but not so good as the current is stronger. We are keeping our ears open to what the Mississippi River is doing, and right now it is also high and has a strong current. We are going to wait for it to calm down before going on it. So we are not rushing down the river. We learned that staying put over the weekend means a lot less traffic and much easier getting through the locks. Yesterday we left Hamm's and traveled about 60 miles down river to a place called Tall Timbers in Havanna, IL. It is very beautiful with lots of patios, plants and a weekend pub. Because we aren't in a hurry, we decided to stay here this week and through the Fourth of July. It would have been difficult to find a place to stay by Friday and probably impossible on Saturday. We will move on from here Monday, July 6th, weather permitting. We will be anchoring for a few days, as there are no marinas big enough for us until we get to Grafton. I don't know if we will have service, so this may be the last update for a little while.
July 9 - We spent a fun and relaxing week at Havana. On Tuesday, our friend from Pullman, Tom Militello rode his motorcycle 300 miles to have a beer with us. No one was counting, but I think we all had more than one!! We had a great time, and checked out all the local pubs for comparison purposes (except one that Vicki really didn't want to go into!). Harry and I walked all over town everyday except Saturday, and just enjoyed ourselves. Saturday, the Fourth of July, it was raining when we woke up and kept raining until 8:00 pm. We did as many inside projects as we could stand, and when we finally got too antsy, I popped popcorn and we broke out the DVD player for the first time on the journey. It was actually kind of a fun way to spend a rainy afternoon. Sunday, we went to town, restocked and went over our charts. We left Monday morning, excited about resuming our journey, but a little sad to be leaving behind many wonderful people we met in the marina. Monday we traveled to Beardstown, IL where a tug company was "gracious" enough to let us tie to a barge for the night. A mere $50 for no bathrooms, no power, no nothing. However, there were no other places in our traveling distance, so we were happy for a safe place to spend the night. Tuesday we continued on down the river to an anchorage behind Willow Island. Very quiet, lots of trees and plenty of water. Wednesday we finished the Illinois River, arriving in Grafton, IL where the Illinois empties into the Mississippi River. We will stay here a while talking to the local boaters about the joys and hazards of the Mississippi, then onto the "Big Muddy" in a week or so. The marina is very nice here, and we have great internet service, but our phones have no service in the marina. If we walk half way up this small mountain, we can get service. So if you need to contact us, use our email or leave a message and we will call you back next time we hike up the hill!
Tom and Harry in Havana, and our luxurious accomodations in Beardstown.
Our anchorage behind Willow Island, and the Grafton Marina where we are staying now. 90% of the Illinois River banks look like this anchorage, all trees and bushes. The water fluctuates so much that there are very few waterfront buildings. This marina and all of its buildings are on floating structures, just like in Havana.
July 20 - We left Grafton today. We had a wonderful time there, took a shuttle up the bluff to a winery with a beautiful view of the rivers and surrounding area. Two days after arriving, the may flies caught up with us. Our boat was totally covered when we woke up in the morning. Luckily they only lasted one day. I guess sometimes they are there for a week. The weather was cloudy and it rained several days while we were there. But the weekend weather was nice. They had an event called the blessing of the fleet. It's a lot like the blessing of the bikes in Baldwin. A huge parade of decorated boats go from Grafton down the Mississippi to The Lady of the Shrine to be blessed. She is a statue on the rivers edge put up after a huge flood in 1951 in thanks that the town of Portage des Sioux wasn't flooded. It's quite an event and it was fun to be spectators. We again met many friendly people and made new friends during our stay here. Today was our first day on the Mississippi and it was uneventful (yeah!). It was a short trip, only three hours because the next stop from here is 60 miles and two locks, and we couldn't have done it in one day. The current here above the locks is not bad at all. We are at Alton Marina in Alton, IL. The first lock is one mile from here, so we can get an early start tomorrow and make it to our next stop. From here, internet and phone service may be scarce until we reach Kentucky Lake, at least six days from now.
Our new friend Dave and crew in the Blessing of the Fleet.
Many of the bars and restaurants in Grafton have signs like this one that say "93 water mark" from a huge flood in 1993.
We went by many bluffs like this on the Mississippi today.
The Alton Marina is tucked in right next to this new bridge.
July 22 - Yesterday the weather forecast was for lots of rain and thunderstorms, so we stayed in Alton one more day. That gave us a chance to walk up town and see the sights. Of course, it never did rain or storm, but better safe than sorry. Today we left early and went through the two locks that are on the Mississippi. We also went through St. Louis, which is a very busy port. Many, many tugs and barges. We were fortunate to be following a tug called the Olmstead. We had talked to him at the last lock, and he thanked us for communicating and being safe. As we followed him through St. Louis, he told all the tugs he talked to where we were, our name and that we monitored Channel 13. So all the oncoming tugs called us, and told us where they were going and where they wanted us. That made a very tense area not tense at all. Thank you captain of the Olmstead, where ever you are! We stopped for the day at Hoppie's Marina, which is a legendary stop on the Mississippi. The owners are Fern and Charles Hopkins. His father and grandfather were lamplighters on the river, as was Charles. The marina is a string of barges hooked together. Fern is known for her knowledge of the rivers from here to Mobile, and she sat down with us for an hour and told us where to anchor, and where not to anchor, and many other valuable hints. The weather is unseasonably cool, which is nice. The river is down now and the current is about 4 to 4 1/2 knots, which is good for the Mississippi. All of our slow moving was a good thing! We will be anchored out for the next 6 days. My connection here is not good, so I can't add any pictures today, check in next week.
July 27 - We arrived in Green Turtle Bay Marina yesterday after four days of anchoring along the Mississippi, Ohio and Cumberland River. After all our worry, the Mississippi was a pleasant surprise. The current was not bad, the wing dams were visible (wing dams are piles of rock from the bank to the edge of the channel installed by the Corps of Engineers: when the river is high, they are not visible and people have hit them and ruined their props) and the river is so wide that even the huge tows and barges had plenty of room. Very beautiful trip all the way. Many miles of the Mississippi are lined with rock bluffs, and all three rivers have very few houses on them, so lots of trees and wild life. A bald eagle flew across our bow one day. The trip was good, although some of the anchorages are far apart, so we traveled some long days. The longest was 110 miles in a little over 11 hours, with the help of a four knot current.
The Alton Bridge at night.
The Arch at the port of St. Louis
The last lock on the Mississippi is just north of St. Louis. Once past that lock, tows are not limited to 15 barges. They can push up to 60 barges. Some we saw were 5 and 6 wide, and 6 long. However, the river is wider and we always had passing room.
The marina at Hoppie's.
Two of our anchorages. The first is Little Diversion Channel off the Mississippi. The second is from Towhead Island, where the Ohio and Cumberland come together. The orange ball on the picture on the left is our anchor buoy. The orange ball on the right is the sun!
August 2 - Today is our last day at Green Turtle Bay. It has been another wonderful week, meeting more new friends, exploring the town, relaxing at the pool or on the deck. A few days were cloudy and we had some rain, but overall the weather has been great. Many of the places we have been people have told us how hot and miserable it usually is at this time of year. We have had some humidity and 90 degree weather, but mostly high 80's, just what Harry had been looking for! We met some people who play guitar and sing on Mondays in the Yacht Club. We had a great time listening to them; they made up songs about us and building a boat. After looking at our boat and talking to Harry, one of them is seriously considering building a smaller Diesel Duck with his wife. They live here at the marina on a 26 foot sailboat. This county is a dry county, so if you want a drink with your dinner, you bring in your own, and they charge you for the mix or a for a glass if you drink beer. It was a strange feeling going into a restaurant with our little care package! Saturday there was a sailboat show here, more singing and booths set up. Fun afternoon. Tomorrow we will head further south, along Kentucky Lake and then during the week, down the Tennessee River.
The Yacht Club at Green Turtle Bay.
Green Turtle Bay's namesake. There are hundreds if not thousands of turtles. I have never seen such huge painted turtles as we saw here. This one is smaller, but wasn't camera shy.
John and John, our musical friends at Green Turtle Bay.
Barkley Lake from the beach at Green Turtle Bay.
August 9 - We arrived at Grand Harbor Marina in Counce, Tennessee off Pickwick Lake Thursday night. It was a four day trip from Kentucky Lake to here. We are at the very corner of Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi. The trip on the Tennessee River was very peaceful. There was less barge traffic, less current and the river was wide and deep. There were plenty of places to stop along the way, although the marinas were small and we had to squeeze in and out of them. We saw more houses on this part of the trip, but still many miles of beautiful trees and cliffs. Monday night we stayed at Paris Landing State Park. A couple who had seen our construction photos on the designer's web site contacted us. They are planning to build a diesel duck and came to look at our boat. They took us out to dinner - very nice couple. Thursday we got up at 5:30 because we had a long day and a lock to go through, but a fog had settled in and you couldn't see the other side of the river. So much for those plans, Mother Nature always wins. The fog lifted around 9:00 and we were on our way. Luckily the lock was not busy and we only had to wait 15 minutes. This lock was going up 55 feet and had more turbulence than any of the other locks we had been in. The water pushed our boat against the wall and flattened our fenders. Harry and I fended off with everything we had, and still could not keep the rub rail off the lock wall. So I had a quick touch up job to do on the rail this weekend. This marina is large and has room for boats of our size.We are staying here today and leaving in the morning to head down the Tenn-Tom Waterway.
Bluffs and an abandoned dock on the Tennessee River.
These trees were growing in the water along the banks. We are guessing they are some sort of cypress tree. Harry likes them because they are a sign that we are "in the south".
We saw osprey nests on many of the daymarks along the river. This osprey is under the nest and above the triangles.
Wednesday we stayed at Clifton Marina. We came through this narrow channel to get in, and once in there was very little room to turn around. We used a spring line to wrap the boat around the end of the dock, and then we were able to get the boat turned back towards the river.
August 11 - We have traveled two days down the Tenn-Tom. It is a man made waterway that connects the Tennessee River and the Tombigbee River, hence the name. Because it is man made, it is narrower than the rivers we have been on. The locals call it "the ditch". We have been told tows use it, but we haven't seen any barge traffic so far. We have gone through four locks, but they all are going down, so no turbulence. Very easy. We stayed at Bay Springs Marina Monday and Midway Marina today. Both are in Mississippi. We got here just before a rainstorm today.
This is the beginning of the Tenn-Tom. The first 25 miles are called the Divide Cut. It was cut out of the rock. Then it is the canal section, which is where all the locks are. We have gone through four, and have six more to go.
As we progressed today, the elevation of the land around us changed. Instead of rock bluffs, we are seeing swampy areas, with flat land on the sides. They tell us we are now in alligator territory, but we haven't seen any yet.
August 13 - It rained the rest of the day on Tuesday. Wednesday we again got up at 5:30 for an early start, only to be fogged in again. The fog started to lift, and we were thinking of taking off, when a tug went by. As we had four locks to go through, we would have been following the tug through them all day, adding many hours to an already long day. So we stayed at Midway for the day. Borrowed their courtesy car, went to Wal Mart to stock up and out to lunch at a great Mexican restaurant. Today we again got up at 5:30, no fog or tows!! We traveled 60 miles today and went through the four locks in good time. We are now at Columbus Marina in Columbus, MS. It is a nice marina and we will stay here at least through the month of September, and possibly October and some of November. We can return to Michigan for my sister's wedding from here, and then hang out a while as we wait for hurricane season to be over. There are only two more marinas between here and the Gulf. Today we saw many blue and white herons, osprey, and king fishers. As I sit here typing this evening, there are several deer across the water grazing. We are truly lucky to have been able to take this trip.
Sunset from our boat at Midway Marine.
We often see herons sitting on top of the channel bouys.
August 29 - We have been enjoying our time at Columbus. We have met new people, started to explore the area and had some visitors. My sister Sandy and her friend Dan came to see us from Atlanta, Harry's brother John and his wife Cheryl came from Muskegon, and our friend Steve Diebold came from Breedsville. We are in Michigan for the wedding until Sept. 8.
This is a restaurant on the water in the marina called Woody's. Has a great view of the river and live music in the afternoon on the weekends.
The marina has three covered docks and one uncovered dock. All the marinas in the south have more covered slips than not due to the hot sun in the summer.
October 9 - We are getting ready to start traveling again. This web site has a limited amount of space and contains as many pictures as it is able to. So to continue our journey, we are setting up web site number two - Vickilynnsails2. To go to the web site click here: http://sites.google.com/site/vickilynnsails2/