Man, what a week. We’ve been in Illinois, Missouri and Kentucky; three states in four days, three different rivers, over 200 miles and about 40 hours of cruising, locking, anchoring, docking and playing a mean game of “dodge a log”. To be honest, it feels like a lot more than four days, this river section of the Loop has kicked my butt!
We left Alton Marina on Tuesday, just after sunlight at 6:45 am. We’d planned on leaving that morning, but when we got a call from the marina telling us that the water level in the entrance channel was dropping and that they didn’t recommend boats with more than a 4′ draft go through, we doubled down on that decision and got the hell out of dodge! Apparently, the Army Corp of Engineers controls the depths on the rivers, and was lowering the “pool”, there’s been a lot of issues with flooding on the rivers this year. Although the water in that part of the channel was pretty shallow, we made it out no problem and continued our trek south on the Bitchissippi, I mean Mississippi River. Shortly after leaving Alton, we passed by the St. Louis Arch and all went round and round in circles to take photos of one another. The barges love it when we do stuff like that!
As Danny says, they don’t call it “The Big Muddy” for nothing – it is big, it is muddy, and it’s got a current that runs about 5 knots, in our case in the same direction we’re traveling which means you’re going about 5 mph hour than you’re trying to. All the while, you’re watching for and navigating around GIANT barges that throw a big wake as well as all kinds of trees and logs that have come off the banks because of the flooding. They bob up and down in the wake and could really damage your props if you hit them…..it’s pretty serious business to avoid them. Then there are locks. We’ve done locks before, pretty close to 100 of them by now, but everyone told us “just wait ’til you get to the rivers”, and man have we waited…..and waited…..and waited. The barges have priority when locking through and we’ve waited with other pleasure boaters for a couple of hours at each lock this week. We’ve actually been somewhat lucky in that regard….we’ve heard stories of boaters getting stuck for 4 hours or more and having to lock through and continue on to their marina in the dark. We haven’t had that happen (knock wood), but the waiting has made for some pretty long days.
On Tuesday we stopped at Hoppies Marina. Hoppies isn’t really a marina – it’s a couple of barges tied up to the side of the river where you can tie off. It was never anything fancy, but sustained a lot of damage from ice and floods over the last year, and now it’s even more “rustic”. So, there ain’t nothin’ fancy about Hoppies, but it’s an iconic Great Loop stop and on a stretch of the Mississippi where there are no other marinas for about 200 miles. We tied up and walked to the little town of Kimmswick, Missouri for lunch at The Blue Owl. The town was actually adorable, a nice surprise.
The next day we traveled almost 100 miles to an anchorage in a channel just off the Mississippi. I don’t love anchoring, but you have no choice on this leg of the trip, and after 10+ hours of travel in the hot sun, we were more than ready to rest. It took a few tries to get our anchor to set, but it held well until we left the next morning at first light.
That morning it was a little foggy and hazy when we left and the weather forecast predicted some showers. Well, the weather was wrong – we had downpours for the first few hours of the trip and the wind was pretty strong. That was the day I learned about “river eddies”. An eddy is a current that flows in a circular direction opposite the direction of the rivers…..so this means whirlpools. Some were small, some were big and a few of them kind of caught our boat and made it feel like we were whipping around! We weren’t really, Danny never lost control of the boat, but it was scary – for me, not him. So………rain, wind, barges, debris, locks, eddies….. ARE WE HAVING FUN YET????? Nope, nope we’re not! We were very relieved to turn off of the Mississippi onto the Ohio river just as the rain stopped and the sun started to come out. At this point, the current changed and we started traveling “uphill”….our speed went from 12 knots to 6 knots as soon as we took the turn. Nevertheless, I am relieved that the Mississippi is in the rear view mirror, and our reward for that day was tying up at a nice dock in the town of Paducah, Kentucky. Paducah is a nice little city where they were hosting a huge BBQ festival the night we stayed. It was good to get off the boat, walk around and eat some meat! I slept like a baby that night.
Yesterday we traveled about 40 miles from Paducah, KY to Grand Rivers, KY and we’re staying at Green Turtle Bay Marina for a week for some welcome R&R. We had to take a bit of a detour off of the Ohio onto the Cumberland River to get here, there’s a lock that would have been on the quicker route that’s out of service. So the 38 miles ended up taking over 8 hours when you threw in anchoring outside the lock for an hour and a half to wait for a huge barge.
So, here we are in Kentucky for a bit, and yes I know I need an attitude adjustment, I’ve been complaining – a lot. But all is well, and I am counting my blessings. This marina is pretty nice and there are lots and lots of Loopers here – it’s a good place for everyone to slow down. There are a couple of pools, a couple of restaurants and they have loaner cars and golf cart rentals so you can go to town and run errands. It’s really hot out, but we’re plugged into power and have A/C on the boat, so we’re comfortable. I’m about to close down my blog and get some appetizers ready for a big docktail gathering at the pool. I am continually grateful to be on this journey even on the bad days, and happy to be with my Captain. He’s so even tempered, he enjoys every day, and he puts up with me. What more could I ask for? Palm trees and an umbrella drink or two would be nice – but what else?!?
Thanks again for following along (and for listening to me),
Captain Dan and Cruise Director Jodi