Well as Jack Nicholson would say………We’re baaaaacccck. We are on The Loop. Big time. We’ve left powerful, majestic Lake Michigan behind and have started the Hell they (ok I) call The Rivers on this trip. But first a quick update on our time in Chicago and our visit home.
When we arrived in Hammond Indiana our plan was to get onto TxAu and be with Greg and Nancy when they crossed their wake. The lake was just getting bigger and bigger as the day went on so we postponed the plan. They were great tour guides for our walk around Chicago the following day and the next day we were all aboard as they crossed their wake in Chicago almost exactly a year to the day after leaving the city. We were really excited for them (and a little bit jealous if I’m honest – I’m looking forward to our turn) and drank champagne at 10:30 am! Why not? We then had our very own architectural tour of The Chicago River on their boat. Most loopers consider Chicago and the river one of the highlights of the trip and I understand why. It’s a beautiful city and although we only spent a few days, having “locals” be our tour guides was a great experience.
We flew home for a couple of appointments and a little bit of a break and I can’t believe how quickly the two weeks flew by. It was great to be with my favorite people and things – we spent some of Labor Day weekend in Maine with our best friends Robyn and Terry, hung out with Shannon and Evan, had a family cookout at my sister Brenda’s with my niece and nephew and their families ( ❤️❤️❤️ These people and didn’t even get one picture),had lunch with Symes brothers Al and Butch and sister-in-law Barbara, and I was thrilled, of course, to be with my granddaughter Lilah and son and DIL Ryan and Amanda. I DID get pictures of Lilah of course 😍. We also went to Becky’s in Portland and waited in the line that’s always there for breakfast, had drinks and appetizers at Seaglass in Salisbury, MA our favorite place and had a couple of lobster rolls! I’ve said it before – we have been to beautiful places on this trip, but the beauty of New England never gets old. We are lucky to live there.
So – back to the trip. On Thursday we left Lake Michigan and we are now on the Chicago to Mobile portion of the trip. We will cruise The Illinois, The Mississippi, The Ohio, The Tennessee and the Tenn Tom Rivers before our Gulf crossing to Florida and estimate there are about 18 travel days required to do this, maybe a few more. Our hurricane insurance won’t cover us south of Demopolis, AL until November 1st, so we are allowing ourselves six weeks to do about three weeks travel. The Illinois is a mostly industrial area and in this river, as the others we’ll travel, commercial traffic – BARGES – have priority in the locks, pleasure craft can only lock through when the lockmasters have cleared as much barge traffic as they see fit. These barges are huge and though you don’t have to be told to get out of their way, there are rules that require the Captain to hail the barge on the radio and arrange how to pass when you meet them on the river . There’s either a “one whistle” or “two whistle” pass depending on where the tow Captain is pushing the barge. I don’t know why they don’t just say left or right or port or starboard even though Danny has mansplained it to me several times 🤣. There are about 30 locks on this portion of the trip (I think) two of the locks on The Illinois have been on partial closure for several weeks with a complete closure coming up on September 20th until October 5th. Our goal is to get through those locks before the closing to keep us a little ahead of the cold weather. We knew that many other Loopers have the same plan and that there would likely be long waits and lots of company in the locks. Even though I knew all of this I wasn’t prepared for what that meant. So, on Thursday we happily left Hammond with 8 other Loop boats. All of the bridges opened quickly for us, and we were cruising along then we “met” our first barge in a narrow area of the river as he was coming from a lock. We all had to go into a holding pattern in a little “hidey hole” which was a staging area for barges that a tow captain was kind enough to point out to us and wait for him to pass. That took well over an hour. When we got to the lock there was a barge in there, so more holding, waiting and maneuvering…..by the time we were in the lock there were about 18 to 20 boats in there – we were all rafted up to each other 4 rows of 5 boats! Long story short (kind of) we needed to repeat all of this a couple of times that day and the next 2 days which means we have had 3 very long days….we have typically launched at 6:30 am and landed for the day on a wall or a marina at about 5 pm. At least 3 of the boats we’ve locked through with have had issues with overheating engines from all of the idling and our good friends Laurie and Kevin had a transmission cable snap yesterday! They limped into the marina last night with a little help from their friends, It’s exhausting and I can’t believe it’s only been 3 days!
So clearly this has not been a favorite part of the trip for me, I didn’t think it would be but there is good news in all of this:
- Most importantly, we’ve safely made it through the two locks that are closing, and apparently in the nick of time. We are hearing that southbound pleasure boaters are not being locked through at all this weekend and there are many, many waiting.
- I’m amazed at the abilities of the Captains of these boats including and especially my own 💕. Holding a boat for a bridge or outside a lock isn’t like holding a car at a red light, there’s no “Park” And boats float! Even in neutral the boat moves with current and wind and requires careful maneuvering whether you’re all alone or in a crowded area! Then there’s the rafting to other boats in the locks……the Captain has to wait until the boat you’re rafting to is settled on the boat they’re rafting to, then the first mate (me) has to throw lines to the first mate on that boat and then cleat it back to their own boat. When the lock is complete you have to untie and continue on in very close quarters. Most of the boats are big and heavy and it’s pretty impressive watching this all happen without it turning into bumper boats!! Laurie and I have jokes that if this trip had started here, we’d have both quit! These miles and months have made us better boaters and able to manage (knock wood). That said, we’ve all remarked on how crazy, and what a total Shit Show 😳 this has been!
- There has been some beauty mixed in with the beast – beautiful trees and birds and the weather has been great.
- The best news is that we are still with TxAu and Laurie Jean and those friendships become more special to me every day. We’re blessed to have met them and hope to stay with them all the way to Florida if all goes well. We’re also running into other Loopers we met on the East Coast, The Erie Canal and in Canada, so we’re always in good company. Everyone is always ready to offer a hand to a boater in need. The boating community in general are friendly, social people and Loopers distinguish themselves when it comes to kindness and generosity.
- We have really made progress! From the East Coast to the Hudson River to The Erie and Oswego Canals through Canada and down Lake Michigan. Wow.
Today we we are in Peoria, IL and will stay here until Tuesday so that Laurie and Kevin can get their transmission cable fixed and we can visit The Caterpillar Museum tomorrow – think tractors, not crawly things – Danny can’t wait 😊. We are meeting over dinner tonight to figure out our next stops but know for sure that we are continuing to head South. The leaves will soon be turning so the palm trees are calling!
So as I said we’re back and so is my blog. Thanks as always for following us along our journey,
Captain Dan and Cruise Director Jodi