Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween!

While resting below decks last evening we heard a dull thud up by the mast, followed by a low groan. When we went up top to investigate, we discovered this witch who had apparently flown right into our mast!

Happy Halloween from Kentucky Lake!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Some pics of the last few days

1)Sunrise on the Ohio.
2)Entering the Ohio River from the Mississippi.
3)Your skipper with Hoppy and Fern at Hoppies marina. After we left, we found out that Hoppy is still recovering from a very serious fall. "Get well soon Hoppy!"
4)The St. Louis Arch - we were not able to stop here as there are no marinas in St. Louis - not a boater-friendly town.
5)Looking from the marina toward the casino at Alton
6)The bridge at Alton
7)Your captain at Grafton IL

Sunday, October 29, 2006


If this trip is supposed to be an adventure, the last few days have proved it.
We finally made it to Kentucky Lake, but what a time getting here! We've not set foot on land since last Sunday. When we left Hoppies, we traveled to a spot called Kaskaskia, where we tied up to a lock wall. There were no services there, but at least we were protected.
Then we went 69 miles downriver to a spot called Little River Diversion channel and anchored again. We wanted to stop for gas at Kidd's River City Fuel, but they REFUSED to sell us any gas. The only gas station on the river and they refused to sell us any gas! I called them on the phone to make an appointment (recommended in the guide books) and the guy told me he had a 50 gallon minimum (we needed 7 gal.) and since he had no other boats scheduled that day he wasn't going to come down to the dock even if we wanted the 50 gallons. I asked what I should do for fuel and his answer was "I don't know what to tell you." SO...

All boaters doing the Loop - beware! Don't count on Kidds for fuel or dockage. Make sure you have all the fuel you need before leaving Hoppies. Scratch Kidds right off the page in the guide book. They are useless.

As it turned out, we made it to KY Lake with about 5 gallons of gas to spare. Cutting a bit close, but we made it.

After Little River we went down to the I57 bridge just north of Cairo. It was cold and wet and rainy, so we ended up staying there for 3 nights. We met some other boaters who also anchored in the same little cove. Two of the boats traveled with us up the Ohio, and one of them is now at the same marina as we are. We're waiting for another to meet us here.

The Ohio was a bear. The current was so strong we could barely make 3 to 4 miles per hour with the engine going full bore. The first day, we tried using the sails to help and were able to boost our speed to around 5, but by late afternoon the wind was so gusty and the waves so uncomfortable, we dropped the sails and continued on with just the engine. We weren't able to make the 46 miles to Paducah by nightfall, so we found a spot to anchor and spent the night.

This morning we got up early and set off just as the sun was rising. We were doing about 4 mph until we got to Lock 52. This is a "picket dam" which means that the whole dam can be retracted in high water so you can skip the lock. The dam was down when we arrive so we just motored right over it - until - we hit the current coming over the dam. Our speed dropped to 2 mph, then 1, then 0.9 and I started getting scared we would get sucked back in. I gunned the engine and turned at a 45 degree angle to the flow of the river and gradually our speed increased until we were able to pull away from the dam. It was one of the more "adventurous" parts of the trip.

After that we were soon at the entrance to the Tennessee River. Once we got into the Tenn, the current abated and we were able to make 6 mph rather easily. We arrived at the Kentucky lake lock about 1:00 this afternoon just as they were taking several other pleasure boats up. It was neat to see all the tows with their barges having to wait for us for a change.

Now we are safely tucked into our slip at Kentucky Lake Sails marina. Tonight we are going to Patti's for dinner (legendary 2" thick pork chops the specialty) and capping off the night with - what else - some Kan-tuck-ee bourbon I've been saving for the occasion.

Mississippi River

Update for 10/21/06

We set out from Alton in the morning and passed through both locks without any delays. In fact, at the second lock, the lockmaster held the lock open for about a half our waiting for us. Thanks to the lockmaster and to the crew of "Greenbean" for holding the lock for us.
Once clear of the locks and the "Chain of Rocks Canal" we roared past downtown St. Louis at an amazing 9+ mph. The current on the Mississippi at this point is so swift, I'm glad we were going downstream and not trying to buck the current upstream.
Passing St. Louis we got a good view of the Arch, but couldn't stop as there are no marinas and no city dock. The entire waterfront is dominated by commercial enterprises and there are huge barges everywhere.
Along this stretch we heard a radio call from a tow captain chewing out the skipper of a pleasure boat that got in his way. Later that evening at Hoppies, we met the crew of that boat and invited them over for a chat and some songs. "Hi," to the crew of Jacqueline II and best wishes for staying away from the tows.
The rest of the run down to Hoppies was uneventful. We just kind of rolled along with the current and stared in amazement at the speed numbers flashing by on the GPS.
We found out later, courtesy of Debbie at Hoppies, that certain parts of the river have little dams deep under the water that are supposed to help channel the water to prevent silting. What they do instead is create massive turbulence in the water. These turbulent areas make for very difficult steerage and our friends had gotten caught up in one of these areas when the tow chewed them out. The entire trip down from St. Louis I couldn't take my eyes off the river for a second. The eddys and cross currents would have driven us sideways into who knows what.
Thanks to Debbie, we now know how to read the chart to predict when these trouble spots will come up, and so we'll be able to relax a bit from here on down the river.

Update for 10/22/06

Today the forecast was for cool temperatures and wind gusts to 30 mph, so we decided to wait a day for warmer weather or less wind. We also wanted to wait because several boats were leaving Hoppies today and we would all be competing for the very limited anchorage space downriver.
"Hoppies" is a very interesting place. It is the last marina on the river and is run by two old time river-people, Hoppie and Fern, and their children. The marina itself is just a collection of old barges cobbled together to form a long floating dock along a steep embankment. The restroom facilities are, to put in mildly, miminal. (The bungee-cord door lock is legendary.) But this is more than made up for by the expert advice from Fern and daughter Debbie. They know the river pretty well and offer a seminar on places to anchor safely from here to Paducah.
We took advantage of the "day off" to explore the little town of Kimmswick. We're glad we did. The guidebooks don't mention this charming little town. That is a shame.
After a short walk up to the town, we stopped in at the Visitor's Center and were treated to a delightful salespitch by the resident "pitchwoman." She's a retired Flight Attendant and former mobile-home dweller who knows all the businesses in town and gleefully hawks all their specialties.
We stopped at "Mr. Ed's" and bought some wonderful wooden roses to brighten up our cozy little cabin. Then we went to Pameila's Gift shop where they specialize in pet-themed decorations. I got my sister a little gift - which I can't mention here as she reads the blog. We stopped at Kimmswick Korner to buy some licorice. They have all sorts of fudges and candies of the finest quality. Make sure you visit them if you're ever here.
We went to the museum and had a delightful chat with the lady who runs it. There is also an 1850's era log cabin that is fully furnished and on display, with another delightful Kimmswickian woman giving the tour.
We topped off our afternoon with a great dinner at "The Old House" restaurant. The Old House is in a restored log cabin. The waiter at the Old House was a very nice young fellow who had lived all over the US and has now returned to his roots in the St. Louis area. Having never made a "Painkiller" before he followed our instructions and made us some delicious drinks. Man, they go down easy! Good luck on your quest to get to Australia - maybe we'll see you there some day.
The other restaurant in town, The Blue Owl, specializes in breakfast, lunch and desert. Their pastries are rumored to be fabulous, but we just didn't have room after stuffing ourselves at the Old House.
Hoppies is at mile 158, meaning we have 158 more miles to go before we reach Cairo, our last stop on the Mississippi. The next 200 miles or so are going to be the most challenging so far. There is only one fuel stop, and no marinas between here and Kentucky Lake. The nights are predicted to be very cool - 20's and 30's and we won't have shore-power to run the electric heater. That means running the alcohol heater and putting up with the condensation it causes. Tuesday we will have a 65 mile trip with no anchorages available. At least it's all downstream at that point. Thursday, will also be a hard day as we will be making the upstream trek up the Ohio from Cairo to Paducah.
Things should start to get easier once we reach Kentucky Lake. There are loads of marinas, and from there on our course is ever southward.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Chuck Berry!

Yesterday when we were at the casino we saw a poster hawking a Chuck Berry show today. We asked if tickets were available and were told it was sold out. Today we went back and asked again and they suddenly had tickets. We bought two tickets and went to the show.
It was great to finally get to see the man who invented Rock & Roll. It also happened to be his 80th birthday!
The show was in a small room, about 400 seats. We sat about 25 feet away from the stage.
One member of his band is his son, Chuck Junior. He did all the hit songs. It was a bit disturbing to see this legend have trouble remembering the words to his own songs, and his fingers are not as nimble on the frets as they once were. But even so, he still plays guitar "twice as better than I will."
Bottom line is we had fun, and isn't that what this trip is all about?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Sailing the Mississippi

Today we had a slight break in the weather, so we decided to head for Alton, 16 miles down river from Grafton. It was cold - mid 40's - but not raining and we had a light wind in our favor so we hung our canvas and did some sailing. The wind was light most of the way so we were only making 1 or 2 mph through the water, but since there is a 3 mph current on the river, we ended up averaging about 4.5 mph or so for the whole trip. A few times we caught a nice puff that boosted us to 8 mph.
Here in Alton there is a grocery store that will pick us up at the marina and drive us back so we're going to do some provisioning. There are very few stops over the next 250 miles, so we really need to stock up.
We didn't use much gas today, so that won't be a problem.
There is also a casino walking distance from the marina, so when we get ourselves thawed out we going to go and make a donation to the owner's retirement fund. (LOL)
Today on the Jim Morris mailing list I got a note with a really neat quote regarding one of my favorite mythical places - Margaritaville:

"Margaritaville is unique. It requires no passport;
there are no port fees; no customs agent will search your luggage or question
your purpose in visiting there; Homeland Security cannot bar your entry; and
there are no illegal aliens. Anyone may tie up their ship of dreams, or fly in on
the wings of their imagination."

Cool, huh? Well that's where we're headed!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Poop! You can't handle the Poop!

(Apologies to Jack Nicholson.)
Our trip down the Illinois from Havana was quite an adventure. There are NO marinas for 120 miles from Havana to Grafton, on the Mississippi. So we stopped at a place called Sugar Creek and dropped the anchor. It was a nice, secluded and sheltered spot. We had a very quiet evening.
The next morning we went another 46 miles to McEver's Island and again dropped the anchor. It was a very similar spot and we would have had another quiet night - EXCEPT - the toilet stopped working! Here we are, in the center of the bulls eye in the middle of nowhere and we've got no toilet. Yikes!
SO....your trusty captain just happened to have stocked an extra set of valves for the toilet. Several hours, many expletives and rubber gloves later, the toilet was back in working order - or is that odor? So much for a quiet night at anchor.
The next morning we woke up to find it pouring rain. The idea of spending the whole day in rain gear, fighting with the rain and wind just didn't set too well with us. We decided to stay put and make stew. And a good stew it was. The pressure cooker really helps conserve fuel. Total cooking time for the pot of stew - 9 minutes. It took longer to cut the veggies than it did to cook the stew.
The one drawback was the creation of a lot of steam. Just what we needed - more humidity. By the time we crawled into the bedroom to watch a DVD, the ceiling was dripping from the condensation. Yuck.
Today, the rain stopped and although it was overcast, it was also warmer. We motored 48 miles to Grafton. At about 2:00 PM we entered the Mississippi River! Wow! Another milestone accomplished. We are now 327 miles from Chicago, and a total of 1900 miles into the trip. Not bad for a homemade boat, eh?
At Grafton the one and only marina is very nice. They pumped out the head, filled our fuel tanks and got us checked in with no fuss. We were even able to restock our supply of rum at their ship's store. We gave the boat a bath (badly needed after 3 nights at anchor) and now we're off to do laundry. Haven't had clean clothes in many days now, and so that will actually be a treat.
Tomorrow we are going to put the masts back up and make the short trip down to Alton. Bev wants to see if they have penny slots at the casino.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Havana Daydreamin', Oh, he's just dreamin' his life away...

Well, we made it to Havana, IL today, but Oh! What a trip. The wind was howling at about 30 mph, and the temperature was about 28 F when we headed out at 7:00 AM. With the wind from the west, and the river current running from the east most of the day, we hit a really serious chop that sent ice cold water spraying all over the boat and crew. We had to put on rain gear with down jackets underneath. Even with that we had to spell each other on deck; one on deck steering, the other below thawing.
We made it here around 3 and ran into the folks we had met a few days ago in Joliet.
Our second day in Peoria was interesting. We took a bus downtown to find an internet cafe. The folks at the Adams Street Cafe were wonderful. Free refills on coffee, great carrot cake and no pressure to leave as closing time approached. Thanks!
For dinner we went to Alexander's Steak House, right next to the marina. It was a very unusual place. While you could get almost anything, their specialty was steak. All kinds of steak from filet to NY strip, to sirloin, whatever. After munching on a really great salad bar, we went to the cooler to pick our own steaks. We took them over to the huge charcoal grill in the center of the restaurant, seasoned them to our taste and cooked them ourselves. It made for a really different dining experience. The steaks were great, and we had a good time. For any boaters traveling through the area, we would recommend spending a night at the Wharf Harbor Marina, and walking over to Alexander's for dinner. (They will cook your steak for you if you don't want to do it yourself.)
From here to the Mississippi, there are no marinas - 120 miles. We are stocking up on fuel and groceries here in Havana for the trip down to Grafton, our first stop on the Mississippi. We will have to anchor out 2 or 3 nights in a row. That means no electricity except what we get from our solar panels. If it's cold at night, we'll have to run the alcohol heater. It works great and throws a lot of heat, but in the process it generates a lot of water vapor which then condenses on any cool surface - like the ceiling. It is supposed to be warmer the next few days, so we hope we won't have to use it.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

"Marching to Peoria"

Oh, sorry, that was Pretoria. Well anyway, we're in Peoria, IL. We left Chicago last Friday and have been making good progress down the river. We are now at river mile 165, which is about half way to the Mississppi.
Since we got to Chicago we have only been to one marina that had Wi-Fi, and there are none listed from here to Kentucky so our next update may be quite some time coming. Today we took a bus from the marina to downtown Peoria to find a cafe with access.
The trip down from Chicago has been pretty uneventful. Most of the marinas are still open, but there aren't many boats traveling. We have run into a couple of boat that are just starting the loop from this area, one a sailboat from Wisconsin and a trawler from Illinois.
Today the weather is very cold. A big front came down from Canada last night, bringing lots of rain over night and dropping temperatures into the 20's. We managed to stay warm by running the heaters on the boat, but the alcohol heater causes the humidity in the boat to rise and this causes condensation which sometimes drips from the ceiling. Yuck! Tomorrow is supposed to be warmer again, and we should be able to make it to the Mississippi by Tuesday, Wednesday at the latests. 218 miles on the Mississippi and we'll be on our way to Kentucky and points south.
We're now south of 41 degrees north latitude. It seems amazing that a few weeks ago we were north of 46 degrees.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

One more picture

I just received an email from our friend Carl. We met Carl in DeTour where we saw his home made boat "Fifty Plus." He shot this pic of us as we were sailing out of DeTour toward Mackinac Island. The water is Lake Huron.


Sorry it's been so long since I updated. Believe it or not, internet connections are hard to get in Chicago - unless you want to lug the laptop all over town looking for a Starbuck's.
Chicago was a blast! We spent one whole day at the Field Museum and the King Tut exhibit. The King Tut thing was a little disappointing as the king himself wasn't there. It was just a bunch of stuff about King Tut and his family. The real stuff must still be in Egypt. The rest of the museum was cool, including Sue, the largest and most complete T. Rex ever found.
Tuesday we went to the Sears Tower, and then had dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. Our waiter was a guy named Walter and he was a total character. Another waiter came over and talked with us. He was a real rocker, and looked the part. He says his band has a CD out. His real goal is to be a paleontologist! He's actually working on a degree.
Wednesday we went to the aquarium and the planetarium. At the aquarium we came face to face with a live Komodo Dragon. We also got to see the real "Nemo" from "Finding Nemo."
Thursday, we lowered the masts as the waterway is loaded with low bridges. Thursday night, our last night in Chicago we took a walk downtown. We must have walked 5 miles in search of real Chicago style deep-dish pizza. We found some at an English pub called The Exchequer and it was excellent.
Friday morning we left the marina at 7:00 AM. We went through the Chicago lock which was really wierd. The lock is huge (200 ft x 600 ft?) but very shallow. Once we got in the lock and got hold of the ropes, the lock cycled in about 10 seconds. It must have dropped us all of 6 inches.
After that we cruised right through downtown Chicago, the skyscrapers towering over us. Then we made some good time, traveling down the river at 7 mph until we hit an area filled with barges coming and going. It took about an hour to get one mile down the river. Then we came to a lock which had half a raft of barges just going in. The tow had taken the other half through just before we got there. The lock tender asked the tow captain if we could tag along and he said OK. We entered the lock behind the tow and tied up to one of his barges. After the lock cycled, he towed us out of the lock along with his barges. An awesome trip, but it took over and hour to transit the lock. The result was that we couldn't make it all the way to our intended destination for the night, Harborside Marina. We had to stop in Joliet at the Bicentenial Park.
Finally, this morning we set out for Harborside. We got to the Brandon Road lock and the lock tender let us cycle through before the big tow that was waiting. If he didn't, it would have been a 2 1/2 hour wait for the tow to cycle through. We made it here to Harborside about noon and decided to take showers and relax. They have Wi-Fi here and cable TV, so it's a good place to update the blog and then just chill. We did over 60 miles in the last 2 days, so that's pretty good.
We're finally on our way South!

1)The Sears Tower from the Chicago River.
2)Canyons of concrete and steel.
3)Low bridge! Everybody down!
4)The skyline from the water as we were leaving.
5)The night time skyline from our dock at the marina.
6)Up close and personal with a dragon who just wouldn't hold still to have his picture taken.
7)The dolphin show at the aquarium
8)At the Hard Rock
9)At the Hard Rock
20)Bev and I at the top of Sears tower. Just past my right arm you can see the marina we stayed in.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


We did it! We got to Chicago Sunday afternoon. It was an adventure.
We started out about 6:00 AM. By sunrise the wind had picked up enough to do some sailing, so we hauled up the sails. Of course the wind was blowing the wrong way, so we had to tack. About mid day, the wind had shifted a little and picked up. As we started to take a more direct heading to Chicago. Bev looked up at the boom and noticed that the outhaul had broken. We had to tie a reef in the sail to bypass the outhaul, and that slowed us down. The wind died off and we ended up motoring across.
When we arrived, we found that the marina (Burnham Harbor) is right next to the Museums and Soldier Field. The Bears were due to play in the evening so the docks were one big tailgate party.
It was warm so we put on shorts, made some painkillers, relaxed and watched the game. When the game went into halftime, the city put on a really big fireworks display - just to mark our arrival in Chicago! We thought that was really nice of the city to do that just for us.
Monday we spent the whole day at the Field Museum. For dinner, we went to Buddy Guy's Legends for some great cajun food and some good, hard rocking blues.
Today we're going to do some shopping - there's no place to stop for provisions for many miles down the Illinois Waterway so we have to stock up here. We'll also take down the mast and get the boat ready for canal cruising. If there's time, we'll go to the Sears Tower.