Eddyville , Kentucky - October 8, 2007
" 5 th Quarter and TwoCan, we have a five-by-three coming at us and watch out for the deadhead on my port side on my mark..Mark"
"Tow at mile 51, this is south-bound PC (pleasure craft) . What's your preference?" "Go two whistles on me." "Copy, two whistle."
" 5 th Quarter , TwoCan we have a two whistles coming" "Roger that!" (TwoCan) "Copy that!" ( 5 th Quarter )
"Mystic Bond back to One Three, Sixteen, One Four and Six Nine."
The river system has introduced us to another unique culture. Its watermen have a language all of their own, the barges and tows are a sight to behold, and (so far) carry the most polite and pleasant crew we have met. The barges are humongous! The tugs alone are 150 feet long, carry day and night crews, full kitchens and berths. They push anywhere from a single barge (200' x 40') to as many as 15 tied together in a 5 x 3 configuration that is 1200' long by 120' wide. Definitely not something you want to run into! They run 24 hours a day up and down the rivers carrying coal, sand, grain, oil and various processed petroleum products as well as other cargoes.
For the past two week or so, we have been traveling in the company of several fellow "Loopers" (other members of the AGCLA - America's Great Loop Cruisers Association). The crews of m/v 5 th Quarter and m/v TwoCan have been great companions and we alternate responsibilities for taking point or exploring the depth of anchorages as we go along.
In our last update, we mentioned staying at the free dock at Ottawa (Illinois, not Ontario!). Well, on our last night there, we decided to declare "Mango Madness Night". 5 th Quarter prepared Mango Martinis, TwoCan whipped up frozen Mango Margaritas and Mystic Bond served Pineapple-Mango Mimosas. It was a terrific evening! We even had the pleasure of Capt'n Mo, the Ottawa cruiser ambassador who regaled us with lots of stories and facts about the area.
After Ottawa, we spent a couple of nights in different anchorages and then tied up at the town docks at the city of Peoria, where they happened to be celebrating Oktoberfest along the waterfront. Since there was lots of music, good German beer and bratwurst sausages available, we didn't quibble about the fact that it was still September, not October. The anchorages were interesting. At Quiver Island , we anchored in front of a Coal Plant and from midnight 'til three in the morning, one of the monster tugs maneuvered big barges around our boat, coming to within 50 feet or so. Lots of noise and bright lights, but we were well secured and they did not seem to mind dodging us. Another day, we tried anchoring at a place called the Gravel Pit; no gravel there, just lots of mud. We imbedded the boat in mud and had a hard time getting out. Olga managed to dig us out by turning the boat around on its axis and we finally made our way back through a very narrow opening while our buddy boats stood off in deeper water watching the mud fly.
The Illinois River is a contrast of very heavy industries and barge docks and beautiful nature with lots of wild life from eagles, blue herons, egrets to the giant Asian Carp that has become an invasive species in the inland waterways. It is quite a sound and a sight as they jump out of the water. One morning, TwoCan was taking their dog to shore when a 30 pound carp jumped into their dinghy. It was so heavy, they broke a paddle trying to get it out. Approaching an aid to navigation the next day, we hit another one of these carp with the propeller. It sounded like we had hit a tree stump! Two Can was following us and saw a four foot carp flopping on the surface after our passage. Coming into the anchorage at Willow Island later that day, our hull was hit left, right and centre by many more of these fish that we had disturbed. It's too bad they're no good to eat 'cause they sure are plentiful!
There is no doubt that we are in the Industrial Heartland of America. The tug traffic is constant and the plants are all humming away. There are very few towns or villages along the river. We still see the result of the major floods they had in August. In some places, the mud line on the trees along the shore is well above 15 or 20 feet. It must have been quite an event and is likely the reason there is little shoreline development except big plants on the high ground.
On Sept. 27th, we completed our run down the Illinois River and entered the Mighty Mississippi at St. Louis, Missouri . There is not much to see of St. Louis as there is no place to stop. But you do get the best view of the famous Arch that marks the Gateway to the West.
We continued on to Hoppies Marina further down the Mississippi . There are very few places to stop on this river because of the very strong current (4-5 miles per hour) but Hoppies has been there forever. It is a collection of old barges tied together and, while the place has very little amenities, it does have Fern, the harbourmistress who is well into her late 70's. She can tie a line and bark orders like few can. Every day at 4:00pm she gives a briefing to recent arrivals on what to expect of the mighty Mississippi and the rivers further down. She has an amazing memory and great seamanship knowledge. She recently delivered a 50 footer up to Michigan just for the fun of it and because she enjoys being on the water. Hoppies could be construed as the twin brother (facility) of the Hop-a-Nose Marina in the Catskills on the Hudson River. Some people might call them derelicts but they certainly do have character.
We left Hoppies with 5 th Quarter and TwoCan after a nice breakfast at the famous Blue Owl in Kimmswick, Missouri (where Hoppies is located). We got there at opening time and there was a major line up with parking lots full. The town has probably a population of 100 and the restaurant will seat 300. It has a far and wide reputation for their pastries and cakes.
Bellies full, we got underway again and that night we tied to the Kaskaskia Lock where we had a quiet evening even though it was tricky getting into the side channel off the main river. The next night we dodged the current again to get into Little Diversion Channel. This is essentially a hole in the wall that you have to find and aim to enter with a 4 knot cross-current. Lots of fun, but once in you are well protected from the Mississippi and the incessant barge traffic. The next day we started our journey up the Ohio River and spent the night at the construction site for the new Olmsted Dam and Lock. Very impressive endeavor that will take until 2013 to complete.
A few locks later, we entered the Cumberland River which has much less current and the shoreline is mostly a pleasant mix of bluffs and rolling hills and forests. After rising 53 feet through the Barkley Lock, we made our way (via a rather tortuous route to avoid the many shallows in Barkley Lake) to Eddyville, Kentucky where we have been staying for a few days. We needed the rest and the boat needed our tender loving care.she was just filthy from the river mud and lock walls.
On Monday we will enter the Tennessee River where we intend to spend some time visiting and anchoring many places including a possible side trip to Chattanooga. This is supposed to be one of the best cruising grounds in the river system.
Happy Columbus Day to our American Friends and hope all the Canucks have a great Thanksgiving.
Olga and Andre on board m/v Mystic Bond