Monday, September 17, 2012

Late September

 September 16, 2012

A day that will live in infamy.

Went up to the marina office to get some information on train schedules into Chicago.  Met Gordon and Kate Nissen who we met in Charlevoix.  They have a Nordhaven 46 named Viking Star.  They offered us a ride to the train station.  We got to the station (stop only) just as the train was leaving.  We had a 2 hour wait for the next train.  We are in a very distressed part of town with boarded up houses, fenced in, run down, not exactly the upper east side.  Sitting outside on the station platform looking at a boarded up house with a cat (kitten probably) howling at the top of its lungs.  And no way to leave.  For 2 hours!

FINALLY, the train arrives and we get to downtown and took a cab to the marina and hooked up with Sarenna and One September.  We took the boat Architectural tour of the buildings in Chicago.  It was an interesting tour except that the tour guide felt like she was putting on a stand up routine at the Comedy Store.

By the time we got back to the boat we had little time.  We had either a 6:22 or 9:30 train as our options.  If we took the 9:30 it would be near 11:30 at least by the time we got back to the boat.  If we took the 6:22 we had to leave before we wanted to.  We left early and after much trouble with the cab dispatcher, walked up to the street and hailed one down.

The trip from there was uneventful until we arrived back at Hammond.  No cabs.  Anywhere around.  Called a dispatcher.  15 to 20 minute wait.  They have to call you back to make sure you are real, and my phone does not answer.  Called back to the dispatcher.  Now they don't have a cab available for another hour.  Again, not an area we would like to spend a lot of time in.  After dark at an unmanned train station.  ARRRRGGGGG.

 Walked across the street to a Mexican Restaurant with a Grand Opening sign in the window.  Owner, probably his wife and maybe daughter are the only ones in the place.  My phone is dead, Joy's phone is dead.  We use their phone to find the Casino on the map and it's 5.4 miles.  To far to walk.  Especially with Joy's bad knee.

The owner calls a friend.  He will come in about 30 minutes and take us to the Marina.  I buy a couple of beers and leave a nice tip.  His friend arrives and takes us back to the Marina.  I buy him gas for at least the next few weeks.  At least we got back.  Joy wants to leave tomorrow (oh so not happy).

September 17, 2012

We're still here.  At least it's cheap at $50, buy 1 day get 2nd free.  Weather again.  It's not bad this morning.  Going to get worse this afternoon.  Still have time to get to Joe Wheeler, but not much slack.  Rains are coming.  I wonder what that will do to the rivers.

September 18, 2012

We're still here.  Lady Lake Michigan is not much of a lady.  Actually today she is a real BIT_H!  NW winds 20 - 25 kts with gusts to 30.  NOAA has waves 7' to 11'.  I don't want any of that.  This afternoon they were wind surfing outside the break walls of the marina.  Good grief!  I got to get outta here.  But we can't.  Be patient.

Joy is out of wine and her knee is still hurting her.  So I head to Walmart (just to get away from Joy).  Just across the highway.  I'm walking up the dock and this old (older) man is coming down the ramp and takes a header.  He's going to his sailboat with a load of supplies of what looks like stuff to winterize his boat.  I help him get his act back together (he won't let me take his stuff to his boat) and he heads off down the dock.  Another guy was watching and gives me a lift to Wally World.  This must be where they take the pictures on the internet.  This is really the hood.  I should be carrying, but I'm not.  The walk back is about 2 miles, under the overpass and over the highway and through the wood and I get back to grandma's house and we spend the afternoon on the boat.  Rocking and a Rolling.

We usually dock with 4 lines.  I've got 8 on the boat.  Tomorrow they are calling for Gale Force winds.  I'm glad I'm at the dock even if I am moving around a lot.  At least it's not bad enough for the cats to get sick.

Can't wait to get into the rivers.  Only there are 2 locks closed right now.  The lock at Starved Rock will open tomorrow.  We can get there in 2 days so that is good.  It was a scheduled maintenance.  The Lock 27 on the Mississippi is another story.  Some of the stone fell into the entrance and they found leakage which was undermining the structure.  Got to fix that and they are.  Expect it will be up in a few days but, it will sure back things up.

It's Tuesday and it looks like we won't get out of here until Thursday.

September 20, 2012

It’s Thursday and it’s time to leave.  The weather is tolerable, it’s slightly windy and mild.  The skies are clear and the lake is calm.  The folks from DuSable Marina finally get near us and we meet just inside the break water of the Calumet River and the first order of business is to wait on a barge which is coming out of the river.  Once that is taken care of it’s about a mile and  wait for a bridge to open.  Once that is taken care of it’s time time to go through the first lock.  A grand total of about 2’ lock down.  Certainly not a big deal.  After that, and once Michael on One September figures out he can really get under most of the bridges, we start to make some reasonable time.  And it was pretty uneventful through the Calumet.  The area is very industrial most of the way to the Illinois River.  Not much to see.  Once we get to the Illinois Waterway, things change real quick.

We get to the intersection of the rivers and make a turn and have to make an abrupt stop and head in the other direction.  There is a tug pushing 4 barges of coal coming down the Illinois making a turn into the Calumet.  We back track and go up the Calumet and wait for him to pass.  We could not talk to the tug because we were not on his channel.  Once he was out of the way, we headed down the Illinois Waterway.  There is a note in the chart book that the trip down to the next lock is called “The 12 miles of Hell”.  Now I understand why.  Very congested, very industrial, very thin narrow waterway which is very, very busy.  And right in the middle is the electric fish barrier which the Corps of Engineers put in to keep the Asian Carp from getting into the Great Lakes.  Only one boat allowed in the barrier which is ½ mile long.  So we all had to wait for the boat in front of them to go through.  Kind of difficult bobbing around since by now there were 6 boats in line but, we all made it though.

Arrived in Joilet Illinois and tied up to the town dock right on the river.  The area looks kind of nice but, there have been some problems in the past.  The area does not have a very good reputation with the Loopers.  It is free which is always good.  It also has free power which is even better.  The group has now grown to 7 boats and we had a good time with docktails on the sidewalk by the boats.  Dinner on board and early to bed.

September 21, 2012

Left the dock at 15 till and had about a 5 minute wait until they could open the last bridge in Joilet and we headed south towards the first lock, Brandon Road Lock and Dam.  It’s  about an hour down river and when we get there we had to wait for a little bit.  They had to get the pool ready.  There were 4 boats bobbing around.  Then Karma called the lock and the lock said they would not open the lock until he got there.  Then Karma stopped upstream and made us all wait.  Then they had shift change and we had to wait longer.  Just because Karma does not want to travel with anyone.  What a pain.  Cost us over an hour of travel time.

After 2 more locks and about another 40 miles we get to Heritage Harbor Marina Ottawa.  A nice little marina.  Well run.  Not a lot to do around there but, they seem to have a handle on things.  Good Harbor Hosts, Dock Master, Marina Manager, Nice restaurant, wonderful loaner car;  everything a good marina needs.  Except one thing.  It was real shallow.  We did make it in without touching bottom.  And the Carp show was pretty good.

September 22, 2012

We take a layover day in Ottawa.  While we are here I have the marina call in a mechanic to look at the steering again.  The hydraulic system is leaking at the bridge.  He can not fix it but, says that it will not fail.  Just keep fluid in it.  Cleaned the boat while Joy went into town to the grocery to stock up.

They had a swap meet at the marina where people tried to sell each other their used marine items.  Got invited to a Scotch and Cigar tasting that evening at the docks which I did not attend.  Had dinner at the restaurant.  Pretty good.

September 23, 2012

It’s Joy’s birthday.  We get up early and leave the marina at 6:30.  No sooner than we leave the marina, the fog sets in on the river.  It takes about an hour for it to burn off before we can do any speed.  But it’s a long day.  Only lock today is Starved Rock about an hour down and we went right in.  There are 4 of us traveling and we also had Karma who had left before us and was at the lock.  The day took about 9.5 hours to get to Peoria, 78 miles.  We made pretty good time.

Tied up at the town dock which is a rather unusual situation.  There are no people manning the docks and there are signs which say you should not dock or pay a hefty fee.  You are supposed to pay the fee at the dock box which does not work and no one does.  Another free night which we hope will be uneventful.

We have ordered new radios to use on the boat and Johnnie and Elizabeth are bringing them to us tonight as we had them shipped to their house.  It’s Elizabeth’s birthday also.

September 24, 2012

We have a long day ahead so we left the dock as soon as the light came up.  Our destination is Logsdon Tug Service in Beardstown.  Peoria along the water is an industrial area.  So there really is not much to see except barges and tug boats and it’s pretty congested.  We had about a 6 of 7 mile run up to the Peoria Lock and Dam.  Then we sat.  And sat. And sat.  For nearly 2 hours we waited for commercial tugs and barges and finally a U. S. Coast Guard Rescue boat to lock through before we were called in.  Sure did mess up the day’s schedule, but we were able to make pretty good time for about the next couple of hours.

Then we hit something.  The boat just wanted to stop.  The more I gave it throttle, the less it wanted to go.  I figured I picked up some cast off deck line or a fish net or something.  Then Joy says “turn off the synchronizer”.  I did and the boat started to run better.  After about half an hour fiddling and the other boats waiting, I tell them to head out and we’ll see if we can keep up.  We were able to run ok without the synchro so we continued on.

It started to get late in the afternoon so we decided to stop at Tall Timbers Marina in Havana.  This is a very small marina and there was considerable concern that there was not enough depth to the entrance.  So we went in smallest to largest depth.  The first 2 boats, “Good Karma” and “Sareanna”, did not have any problem.  “One September”, the third boat, got into the mud pretty good and dredged the channel a little for us.  We got into the mud real good.  But did not hit anything hard.  But we werein the mud all the way in and basically sat in it for the night.

I had made arrangements for a diver to come and take a look at the running gear to make sure we were not dragging something.  He said everything looked ok.  Docktails.  Dinner onboard.

September 25, 201

Today will be a short day, only about 35 miles to Logsdon Tug Service.  It’s been raining pretty good since last night, but the river is not up at all.  I had marked the spud that the dock floated up and down on and it was right where it was when we came in.  So we sat for about an hour and waited for the rain to stop.

Left the dock about 8:30,churning up mud the whole way out.  Things immediately got pretty busy with tugs and barges.  We don’t have any locks today, just a short comfortable ride.  And lots of Tugs.

Got to Beardstown around noon and tied up to the barges.  Logsdon is a tug service and they have no service other than a place to tie up for the night.  For this we get the priveledge of paying them $1 per ft.  Location, location, location.  There is not another marina or stop on the river for about 60 miles.

Beardstown is another dying town on the river that does have one claim to fame.  Abe Lincoln still is an active attorney in the Beardstown Court house.  We had lunch at the “CafĂ© from Yesterday” (good), walked to the Save-a-lot food store, then Ice Cream at Dairy Queen, and then the Courthouse Museum where we were given our own special tour by the lady running the museum.  Beardstown does have an interesting past but, does not seem to have much of a future.

September 26, 2012

Left Beardstown at 7:00 and headed south.  Our destination is Mel’s Riverdock Restaurant about 80 miles down river.  It’s gonna be a long day.  We run for about 5 hours and things are going pretty well.  We have a barge coming around a bend, under a bridge and he asks us to wait before we pass him on the 2’s.  So 1 September  moves to the port towards the red bouy’s and comes to an abrupt stop.  He has hit something very hard.  Bummer.  He calls the tug to tell him he is floating in the middle of the river and will get out as soon as he can.  The tug slows and everyone avoids each other but, the Viking has a new and significant vibration.  He is able to proceed at our speed, it’s just a lot rougher.

We have reservations at Alton Marina for Thursday and Friday and have scheduled some maintenance from Port Charles to come look at all the boats.  It turns out that Port Charles is a full service marina just up the Mississippi River from Grafton.  Late in the day we make the decision to go on to Grafton for the night.  Port Charles says they can pull 1 September at 8 on Thursday morning.  We need to get the boats fixed.  A real LONG day, 11 ½ hours, and it’s nearly dark when we get to Grafton.  Real nice marina with covered slips, restaurant, own wine brand.  Nice evening.

September 27, 2012

Foggy morning on the Illinois River.  It’s about ½ mile to the Mississippi.  We call Alton and they can’t take us until 11:00 and it’s only 16 miles.  We call Port Charles and they say to come to them, it’s only 5 miles.  We head to Port Charles and enter the Mississippi.  Very foggy.  1 September left before us and calls and tells to watch the route and take a long way around as there are dead heads in the short route.  Sareanna has to go to Alton as his electronics guy will not drive to Port Charles.  We lead Good Karma up the river and get to Port Charles with no difficulty.

The marina is very shallow and thankfully soft as we churn our way in.  This is a very active and well  run facility.  They already have 1 September out of the water and the news is not good.  Port prop is very bent.  Mike calls home and his son ships him his spare set, overnight. $$$$$$!!!!!!

Then they jump on my boat.  Synchro has broken tach cable end.  GPS has a bad antenna.  Black water tank is leaking.  3 guys on the boat and everything is diagnosed in an hour.  New tach cable end and new tank on order and will be here tomorrow.  I’ll fix the GPS later.  What a GREAT operation here.  Old tank is out of the boat by noon and the area cleaned up.  Only downer of the day, I pull my back out getting the house batteries out of the boat to get the tank replaced.  I’m hurting.  Oh well, I’ll call Dr. Hechtkopf.

September 28, 2012

Joy and the girls went into town.  Kermit drove them.  Michael and I stayed at the boats.  Waiting for the big brown truck.  And also for my pills to kick in.  Both happened a little before 10.  1 September was out of the water, ready and waiting.  A very short time later she is back in the water heading out for a test run.  Boat runs fine, A/C still does not work.

About 1:00, here comes Paul up the dock with a new tank.  He is followed by the guy working on the synchro.  Shortly both are installed.  The GPS will wait till later.

The local Harbor Host took us over to the Duck Club Yacht Club Restaurant after docktails at their boat which is a 5488 Bayliner.  Nice boat.  Discussed the trip south and had a great time.

September 29, 2012

We’re off this morning to Hoppies on the Mighty Missip.  About 65 miles and 2 locks down from Port Charles.  Hoppies is a must stop for all loopers.  It is the last place to get fuel before Green Turtle Bay in Kentucky AND you get to hear Fern tell us where to go on this leg of the trip.  VERY, VERY, VERY important.  It is not much of a stop.  The marina is a few barges tied together.  Not very pretty to look at.  The only restaurant in town closes at 5:00.  It IS a nice restaurant and draws a big crowd.  I’m not sure where they all come from, but they do come.  The rest of town is just a few shops in small houses.  Touristy low style.

Fern’s briefing was very good.  STAY in the channel.  Don’t pass tugs in the bends of the rivers.  Where to anchor, etc.  Very helpful.  Tomorrow will be an easy day.

September 30, 2012

Or so we thought.  The trip was only about 65 miles with the current which is about 2 to 3 mph.  We normally do about 9 and we’re getting close to 12 mph.  The Mississippi is a really busy river.  Tows are everywhere, coming and going, and it’s often difficult to keep up.  We now have 5 boats with the addition of Seaquel, Joe and Eddie, and they all have AIS except Jim’s Joy.  AIS gives you the information on a distant boat giving name, location, speed and direction of travel.  Without it you have to guess who it is and know the general location and hope that he answers the radio.  With AIS you can call them by name.  Very nice and I think I need to get it as soon as I can.

 We went to the location that Fern told us and had some serious discussions on whether we should go in.  Finally, Joe on Sequel did and the rest of us followed him in.  We made it and spent a nice night on the hook.  We did have a good laugh when Kermit took Rusty for a dog walk on the sand bar.  Rusty is about 80 lbs. of big boned black Labrador.  The dingy is only a 9’ whaler.