August 27, 2010
When leaving Chicago and headed towards the Illinois River, a boater must decide which route to take: (1) Chicago Sanitary & Ship Canal with 17-foot bridge clearance restriction, or (2) Calumet Sag Channel with a 19-foot bridge clearance restriction. With our radar and radio antennas down and knowing that the water levels were lower than normal, we decided to take the Chicago Sanitary & Ship Canal route through downtown Chicago. We were up early and off. We had just under 1 mile of Lake Michigan to travel on before heading into our first lock and into the canal. Lake Michigan had to show us one more time that she was in control - it was a bit rough travelling to the canal but okay. Once through the lock we made our way through downtown. What a wonderful experience winding our way through the canal with Chicago's tall buildings all around us. Once again there were beautiful parks and gardens all along the way. At this early hour there was very little boat traffic, just a couple of water taxis. In the first 4 miles we went under 24 bridges, with many more to go.
At 7:45 a.m. we arrived at an Amtrak railway bridge that was closed (with only a 10-ft vertical clearance). We read in the guidebook that it would not open during rush hour in the morning or afternoon so after trying to reach the bridge master with no success we assumed this was in fact the case and we pulled over to the wall and tied up. At 9:05 we started calling the bridge master but could not get an answer on any of the VHF stations. We tried phoning a couple of agencies who were of no help. We finally phoned the lockmaster at the first lock we went through to see if he could help us. He gave us the telephone number for the marine police. We called them and they said it was ridiculous that we had waited that long. They made one quick phone call to the bridge master and immediately the bridge was opened. The bridge master claimed he did not hear anyone try to contact him. The marine police asked us to radio them, and reported that they could hear us just fine and they were much further away.
As we moved away from the city, we started to enter a more industrial section with more barge traffic. In one 10-mile section (M308 to M298) we went through a narrow section that was a large towboat and barge parking area. A couple of times we had to carefully pass by a tow that was well into the channel. We were delayed at Brandon Lock as we had to wait for a tow boat and his barges to go through. The lockmaster told us we could tie up to the wall and wait until the barge went through. We had to wait about 2 hours. Two locks and approximately 60 bridges later, we arrived at the City Dock at Joliet, IL. We were the only boat there, which surprised us as we thought being a Friday it might be busy. About 2 hours later, a northbound boat arrived and tied up. This was a secluded area but a good tie up area for the night as it was quiet and electricity was available. All of this was free. What else could we want.
Saturday, August 28,
We departed a bit later as we saw a large tow pushing 9 huge barges go by and we knew he would have preference at the locks and we would have to wait anyway. We continued to see more industry along the waterway. There was a lot of pleasure boat traffic today. Some pleasure boats were just motoring up and down the waterway while most were either anchored or pulled up to the beaches enjoying a beautiful, hot day on the water. It was nice to see so many people enjoying their weekend on the water. We passed through the Brandon Lock and Dresden Lock with very little delay. However, when we got to the Marseilles Lock we had to wait 1 hour while a tow finished locking through. When we arrived at our marina we were nervous about going in as we were told that with the low water levels this year that it might only be 5-1/2 feet at some places coming into the marina. We have a 5-foot draft so we need more than 5 feet of water. We held our breath going through. The lowest depth we saw was 6.1 ft. Whew! We made it!
Sunday, August 29, 2010
We decided to stay an extra day. We borrowed the courtesy car which was the nicest one we have had on the journey so far. It was an almost new 2010 Dodge Caravan. We went to Walmart to restock our food supply. Upon our return to the marina we updated our website and tried to catch up on other communications. This marina is only about 3 years old and we would highly recommend it to other loopers. The personnel go out of their way to make your stay a pleasant one. Weather permitting, we plan to move on tomorrow on down the Illinois River. The Peoria Lock is closed every day, except Sunday, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. We are hoping that on Wednesday we can get through about 6 a.m. The next 300 miles or so will be challenging as there are few places to stop along the way and delays at locks can further complicate the situation.
Monday, August 30, 2010
It was such a non event that we forgot to mention the our experience regarding the Asian carp fish barrier south of Chicago. As you approach the barrier there is a digital sign (like you see along highways) telling you that you are approaching the area and to call the coast guard. Then you are instructed to announce when you enter and exit the barrier zone and that's it. There was a fair amount of barge traffic on the river today. When we arrived at Starved Rock Lock we were delayed for 3-1/2 hours waiting for one tow and its barges to be locked down and then another to be locked up. Another boat named Nomad who is also doing the loop arrived and we finally locked through together. We now know why this area is dubbed the industrial heartland as there is industry all along the way. Our destination marina, Hamm's, was very rustic but very suitable for an overnight stay. The harbor at 3 large old derelict casino river boats moored here.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
The high winds created some white caps and it was a bit lumpy on the water today. We saw the occasional Asian carp leaping out of the water for the first time today. Near Peoria we saw a boat that was deliberately stirring up the water to make the carp jump, which they did, like crazy, with some leaping into their boat. Apparently, contests are held to see which boat can get the most carp to jump into their particular boat. When we arrived at the city dock, another looper boat by the name of Trinity was already there and they helped us secure our lines. They left at 4 p.m. to lock through the Peoria Lock when it opened at 5 p.m. This lock is locked for maintenance everyday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sometimes the lockmaster will lock pleasure boats at 6 a.m. in the morning and again at 5 p.m. We have chosen to lock through at 6 a.m. as there is nowhere to anchor for another 3 hours after you lock through and if we go through at 5 p.m. we might be in a situation where we would have to travel in the dark, something we choose not to do especially in unfamiliar water. The city docks are located on the side of Peoria that is more business oriented with banks, offices, etc. so there is not much to do. We did walk into the business district for a bit and then along the river front which has a nice walkway with a park, library, and a couple of restaurants. We ate a pizza at Old Chicago.
We were up at 4:30 so that we could depart at 5:30 and get through the lock at 6 a.m. We called just to confirm that we would be able to this and found out that today was not possible as a tow was just coming out of the lock and there would not be time. However, the lockmaster said that we could be the first one in line to lock through at 5 p.m. Now, what to do? Very shortly, Nomad arrived. Scott and Marlene, aboard Nomad, are from Cornwall, Ontario. Later in the day, Dan & Ann (aboard Borrowed Horse) arrived. We all decided to lock through at 5 p.m. We described our situation to the lockmaster, and he agreed to let us anchor below the lock towards the right descending bank. We all locked through and Nomad and Tellico Lady anchored below the lock while Borrowed Horse decided to keep going. Our anchorage turned out to be quite pleasant and we were not bothered by the many tows and barges passing by and locking through.
Thursday, September 2,
Again we saw industries all along the waterway, such as Cargill and ADM. Much of today's travel was a more narrow and winding Illinois River. The water levels also tended to be quite low. In fact, the Coast Guard announced that the river was closed at mile 87 for dredging as tows had grounded. We were headed for mile 88 just prior to the closing area so we were not affected but could get through as it was closed mostly to tows. The numbers on the river decrease as you head to the mouth of the Illinois River. Because of the closing we passed a large number of tows with their barges moored along the way waiting for the river to re-open. Tellico Lady and Nomad stopped at Logsdon Tug Service for the night while Borrowed Horse pushed on. Our tie-up tonight was a first for us. We were tied to a working barge with no power or water and no way to get to shore unless we launched our dinghy. However, we were secure and it was quite fine for an overnight stay.
Friday, September 3,
One hour after we were underway we came to our final lock on the Illinois River. Of course, there was a tow just locking up so we were delayed for 1-1/2 hours. Our lock through this time was a new experience for us as the lockmaster told Nomad and Tellico Lady not to tie up in the lock but just hover in the middle as it was only an 11-foot drop. For the last 2 days we have been pestered by house flies; not sure why. We saw a flock of pelicans today that were flying in formation like geese, something we have not seen before. We were also surprised to see pelicans this far north. When we arrived at our marina they put us in a slip that only had about 5 feet of water. This made us nervous in case they dropped the water during the night and we would be sitting on the bottom. We moved our boat to a different location at the end of a T-dock where we felt more comfortable. The marina has been very accommodating.
Saturday, September 4,
We walked into town which consists of one main street with restaurants, wineries, a gift shop and a farmer's market. We returned to the boat and did some chores. We said goodbye to Scott & Marlene (Nomad) who travelled on to Alton, IL. Tonight we had a very nice dinner at a restaurant called the Mississippi Half Step. The downtown was very busy with vehicles, pedestrians, and motorcycles. The marina and adjacent waterway have been very busy all day with people enjoying the long weekend.
Sunday, September 5,
While Ken changed oil, Brenda washed the outside of the boat. Then we took the shuttle up to Aeries Winery for lunch. This is located high on a bluff with a spectacular view of the end portion of the Illinois River and the beginning of the Mississippi River and the surrounding countryside. Three looper boats arrived here this afternoon: Silver Moon from Knoxville, Steve & Carolyn (Here & Now) and also from TN, and Shepikah. Once again we have a TN flotilla. The marina and adjacent waterway has been a beehive of activity today with everyone out enjoying the gorgeous weather and long weekend. We are not sure how this happened but right near our boat an older couple fell off their sea-doo and had to be rescued from the water. Our arrival here at Grafton marks the end of our journey on the Illinois River and on Tuesday we will begin our travel on the Mississippi River. We plan to stay at this marina for one more day instead of going to Alton as originally planned.
Monday, September 6,
Brenda & Carolyn (Here & Now) used the courtesy truck to go to Walmart to restock our pantries. The marina was a beehive of activity today as the locals were out in full force enjoying this sunny holiday Labor Day. Loopers, Pete & Jane (Somerset) arrived today so we had 3 looper boats here from Tennessee. Happy hour was aboard Tellico Lady. Today is our last day on the Illinois River.
Copyright(c) 2008 Ken Bloomfield, All rights reserved.