CHAPTER 28    mid SEPT 2010 to early NOV 2010     



We passed through eight locks on the IL Waterway. The waterway is very busy with commercial tugs & barges (tows) as well as southbound pleasure craft (PC). On the IL Waterways tugs can push as many as 15 barges up to 1200 feet long! We saw lots of eagles, American coots (when they take off from the water, they patter their feet for a considerable distance), herons, egrets, and big flocks of migrating white pelicans (see pics). Most riverside homes are built on stilts due to frequent flooding of the river. Dredges (see pic) are constantly at work to keep the channel open. Weather was mostly sunny and in the 70’s.
After leaving CHICAGO via the "Chicago Harbor Lock", and passing under many low bridges, we arrived at the free town dock in JOLIET, IL. That evening we were delighted when Dale and Brenda, Harbor Hosts for the area, stopped by. They brought us to the PO the next day, and we enjoyed their company during happy hour and dinner with Phil and Barbara on "Lagniappe".
Next stop was SENECA, IL at "Spring Brook Marina", where we again enjoyed the company of Dale & Brenda.
The following day at "Henry Marina" in HENRY, IL we landed at the old lock wall, and they tied us up to trees and rocks (see pic). It floods a lot here, so they improvise and do whatever works! Had dinner at the marina’s restaurant which appears to be the local biker bar decorated with bras hanging from the rafters!
Next, we visited PEORIA HEIGHTS, IL stopping at "IL Valley Yacht Club" (aka IVY), a first class facility.
In HAVANA, IL "Tall Timbers Marina" was next (see pic). In this area, we saw lots of Asian carp (local nuisance fish) jumping. Many boaters had carp jump into their cockpits (engine noise startles them), making a slimy, bloody mess! Local fishermen have found a way to profit from these nuisance fish – they herd and net the fish for 25¢ apiece. The carp are then processed into fish oil and feed, similar to Menhaden fish in the Chesapeake Bay.
The following night we stopped at "Buckhorn Island" anchorage, and the next day arrived in GRAFTON, IL at the "Grafton Harbor Marina". Had dinner with Mark and Sylvia on "Heavenly Ours"; haven’t seen them since Charlevoix in Lake Michigan. Bought some diesel here for $3.09 a gallon.

Three locks on the Mississippi River. Missouri is to starboard, and Illinois is on the port side of the river. Lots of big tree stumps and debris floating down the river, and 4 knots of current boosted our speed to 11 knots! Tall cliffs along the river in Missouri are mined (see pic). Passed by ST LOUIS MO; it’s a shame they don’t have any docks for boats to stop and visit. Stopped in KIMMSWICK, MO at "Hoppies Marina" (see pic). Walked into town, browsed in lots of cute shops, and had lunch at the locally famous "Blue Owl". Back to the marina in time for Fern’s daily info seminar on what to expect in the upcoming waterways. Fern & Hoppie have been running the marina for 37 years!
Next, we anchored at "Little Diversion Channel" in MO, had to use two anchors due to the narrow channel.
The following day we anchored at "Boston Bar Island" in IL.

OHIO RIVER (1 day, early OCT)
Two locks on the Ohio River. Illinois is on port side, and Kentucky is on starboard side of the river. Had to wait 3 hours at "Lock 52" (tows have priority over pleasure craft), then arrived just before dark in PADUCAH, KY at the free town dock.

We only had to do one lock, the "Barkley Lock" on this river. Then one more mile to GRAND RIVERS, KY where we spent a week at "Green Turtle Bay Marina". The marina has a good deal; stay 7 days, but only pay for 5 at $1.25 a foot. We enjoyed "Patti’s Restaurant" (see pic), locally famous for two inch thick pork chops, and browsed the shops in the charming town. One afternoon we rented a golf cart and had a blast exploring the surrounding area. Another day we took the courtesy car to nearby PADUCAH for major provisioning. Saturday was the yearly "Hunters Moon Festival". It was great fun with lots of crafts, live music, a parade (see pic) and delicious food. A giant fried turkey leg was the local favorite! We were highly entertained at the "Story Telling Festival" that night in the local theater. The tree leaves are really starting to color, adding to the beauty of the gently rolling hills. We’re in America’s "heartland" and just loving it!

Soft fall colors on the river are just beautiful (see pic). We stayed in "Cypress Creek" anchorage our first night.
Next day we arrived at "Pebble Isle Marina" in NEW JOHNSONVILLE, TN. Had fun at happy hour on the dock (see pic), and met up with old friends Chuck and Barbara on "Gold Watch" for dinner.
"Swallow Bluff Island" was our next anchorage. We saw white pelicans group fishing by herding the fish, and lots of bald eagles and American Coots (see pic).
The next lock was "Pickwick Lock"; we were lifted 55 feet tied to a floating bollard. That afternoon we stopped for a couple of days at "Grand Harbor Marina" in COUNCE TN. Met up with lots of loopers here for happy hour and dinner.

was built between 1972 & 1984 in Mississippi and Alabama, at a cost of $2B. More earth was moved than in the construction of the Panama Canal. The TTW is divided into three sections, and is over 234 miles with 10 locks all 600 feet long and 110 feet wide. On the TTW the average 8 barge tow can move as much freight as 120 rail cars or 480 tractor trailer trucks! The leading commodities being transported are wood products, coal, rock, chemicals, steel, fuel, cement & logs (see pics). We saw lots of eagles, turtles, coots, vultures, deer, and ferrets running along the river banks. The trees look lovely in fall colors.
In the first section of the TTW, the "DIVIDE CUT", we passed through "Whitten Lock" (see pics) using a mid ship tie to a floating bollard for an 85 foot drop. Anchored just before "Montgomery Lock" for the night.
The next day on the second section of the TTW, the "CANAL SECTION", we passed through "Montgomery Lock" and "Rankin Lock", and stopped at "Midway Marina" in FULTON, MS. Bought some diesel here for $2.79 a gallon. Lots of loopers here. We had fun visiting Elvis’s birthplace (see pics) in nearby TUPELO by car. The northeast hills of Mississippi are just beautiful!
The following day we passed through "Fulton Lock, Wilkins Lock, Armory Lock, and Aberdeen Lock", and then anchored for the night. Now we’re in the third section of the TTW, the "RIVER SECTION". Starting to hear lots of trainer jets (T6A Texans) from nearby "Columbus Air Force Base".
Next, we spent 8 days in COLUMBUS, MS - a favorite stop of ours. Lots of loopers here to share happy hour and dinners. We had fun exploring in the dinghy. Some days we biked, and some days we took the courtesy car to get to excellent shopping and fun restaurants. We especially liked "Proffitt’s Porch" for real southern cooking! Bought some diesel here for $2.67 a gallon. There are alligators here, but it’s been too cold for them to be out. It’s only in the 70’s & low 80’s.
Next, we passed through "Stennis Lock", then entered ALABAMA and stopped at "Pirates Marina Cove" in PICKENSVILLE. We walked over to the visitor center at the Belvill Lock. The visitor center is a reproduction of a circa 1830 Greek Revival home, typical to the area at the time. Also saw the circa 1926 "US Snagboat Montgomery", which was retired in1982. Currently, this sternwheeler steamboat is a National Historic landmark. That night we squeezed 7 of us loopers in the courtesy van and went out to dinner.
The following day we passed through "Bevill Lock" before arriving at "Sumter Recreation Area", a lovely anchorage with an RV park, boat launch, and camping.
When flooding occurs on the waterways, it takes big bites from the riverbanks. Many people can’t afford the high costs to fight erosion, and some homes eventually tumble into the water (see pic).
Next day passed through the "Heflin Lock", then passed by the dramatic white cliffs (see pic) in EPES, AL before arriving in DEMOPOLIS, AL for a few days. Loads of loopers here! Boats had to raft 2 and 3 deep on the fuel dock while waiting for a slip to open up. Finally, Demopolis Marina imposed a "one day only stay" because so many boats are trying to stop here. Lots of tugs also stop here to get fuel, change crews, and load truckloads of food aboard. DEMOPOLIS is the last place to provision before starting the 230 miles of the remote Black Warrior River.

BLACK WARRIOR RIVER (BWR) - Demopolis to Mobile (early Nov)
in ALABAMA is 230 miles of twists, bends and hairpin turns. Lots of tugs and tows in the BWR, so it’s very important to make "security" calls on the VHF to announce your location so the tows know where you are. If a pleasure craft (PC) wants to pass a tow (see pic), the PC hails the tow on the VHF and asks how to proceed. The tow captain is fully aware of other traffic in the area, wind and current, where the tight spots are, etc. You do what the tow captain tells you to do. Some tows are very long, and when making a tight turn their bow is on one shore, and their stern on the other shore. PC’s do not want to get trapped there! The area surrounding the BWR is very remote, just a few fishing camps and houses, but the natural beauty is unbelievable. Saw palmetto and Spanish moss started to appear. Alabama’s only population of black bears live here, along with lots of alligators (but it’s too cold for them to be out), herons, egrets, and eagles. In the last 10 miles just before MOBILE, we also started to see seagulls and brown pelicans – a sure sign of salt water ahead!
As we start down the BWR, we came upon the first of two locks, "Demopolis Lock". We anchored that night in "Bashi Creek" with two other boats.
Next day was the last lock, "Coffeeville Lock"; a 34 foot drop that brought us to four feet above sea level. We anchored that night at "Three Rivers Lake".
Our third and final day on the BWR, we anchored at "Tensaw River Cutoff" with three other boats. We all met on "Sea Sea" for happy hour. Back on our boat just before dark, we heard a bullet rick shay off our boat very near to where we were sitting! There were hunters all around us in the woods, but imagine being so careless as to shoot a boat! Turned the clocks back one hour that night, now it’s getting dark by 5pm which shortens our cruising day. We’re still in Central Time Zone until Port St Joe on Florida’s panhandle, where we enter Eastern Standard Zone, and gain the hour of daylight back!

The following day, we completed the last few miles of the BWR, passed through the busy port of MOBILE, headed out in MOBILE BAY, and arrived at "Dog River Marina" for a few days. We topped off our diesel at $2.98 a gallon, which entitled us to a free night’s dockage. The second day, after paying $1/foot ($36), the marina gave us a $50 certificate to be used at the local West Marine – not a bad deal! We took the courtesy car to Walmart and to the "Boiling Pot" for the best overstuffed shrimp po-boy – a gigantic grinder loaded with shrimp (see pic). During our stay here, Ray ordered some parts for the boat, changed the oil, and did some other boat maintenance chores.

So far, we’ve travelled 17,358 miles aboard SUMMERTIME.

We look forward to hearing from friends and family – please keep the calls and emails coming!