Port Charles Harbor has a well-deserved reputation among boaters for its expertise and efficiency. They had Carina out of the water and the rope untangled from her prop in no time, although at no small expense.
There was a group of Loopers there who all had varying problems with their boats which the boatyard staff were in the process of sorting out. We quickly realised that others were in a much worse position than we were. That’s not meant in a schadenfreude sort of way, it’s meant in a be-thankful-for-small-mercies-and-always-count-your-blessings sort of way.
The atmosphere was a bit like an old-fashioned doctor’s waiting room, where people actually talked to each other, comparing symptoms.
‘What are you in for?’
‘Got towed in Tuesday. Some logs hit the prop.’
Another boat’s engine had got clogged up with mud, the result of following a second boat into a shallow marina. The second boat had run aground and churned up the silt while doing so.
We didn’t get to meet the owners of the boat that had managed to slice the top off its roof, passing under a low bridge.
This is the first time while we’ve been boating that we’ve been able to join in the camaraderie of the Great Loop. On our other trips, we’ve always been in the wrong place at the wrong time, but finally we’ve caught up with some of the rest of them. Jim and Susan, who rescued us from LaGrange, were also going to Port Charles to get work done on their boat, and helped us tie up on the dock. Shortly after arriving Jeanne appeared and invited us to docktails on the porch of the marina that evening.
Docktails is a Looper tradition which I’d read about in other people’s blogs, but never actually experienced. It was great to sit in the evening sun with a beer in our hands and exchange stories with Jim and Susan, Jeanne, Art, Sandy, Kevin, Rhonda, Rick, Ruth and Ed, who like me was a retired dentist.
The marina had a courtesy car and the next day we were able to stock up at Aldi, which proved a far less time consuming, frustrating and expensive exercise than going to one of the larger supermarkets. And the Captain could no longer postpone a visit to Bed Bath and Beyond, that haven for all things domestic, to buy some curtain rails.
When we bought Carina, all the windows had been fitted with narrow, white Venetian blinds. I’ve always been of the opinion that Venetian blinds should never have left Venice, being awkward to clean and, dare I say it, not adding anything to the aesthetics of a room. That’s just my personal opinion, of course. The ones on Carina had obviously been in use for some time when we bought her, and became progressively more discoloured with each trip. No amount of cleaning, which involved difficult Pilates-type stretches and contortions, seemed to make any difference to their sad and by now rather grimy appearance.
I had already replaced the bedroom blinds with curtains and these had improved the cosiness of the bedroom. Last time we were at home, I had bought more of the same fabric and made curtains and roller blinds for the cabin and galley.
Far from being impressed by my industry and creativity, the Captain appeared almost to resent the extra burden that fitting the curtain rods and blinds would place on his heavy schedule of Things to Fix. The curtains and blinds were a low priority, and were continually being displaced further downwards, as newer, more urgent problems, as well as routine maintenance, vied for his attention. The air conditioner suddenly stopped working, just as the ambient temperature peaked in the high nineties. (This sorted itself out, and was probably the result of the boat being lifted out of the water to have the rope removed from the prop). Then the shower pump wasn’t working, and diagnosing and treating this was a tedious process involving getting the dinghy out and paddling round to the drain hole to poke a piece of wire up it to try to dislodge whatever was blocking the pipe.
But there was no escape from B B & B and after some drama, the curtains were hung. A few days later, the blinds were installed. Result! Being able to see properly out of the windows has made the cabin feel much more spacious and airy.
In the evening, the Loopers, who by this time had dubbed themselves ‘The Broken Boaters’ Club’ all went to the Yacht Club next door to the marina for dinner. The food was very good and the company even better.
We decided to stay another day. The marina had organised a Fall party on the grassy area next to the river, with food and music, and amidst the country music and the rock’n’roll, the DJ inserted ‘In the Mood’, to which we managed a quickstep on the rough grass, in our sandals.
Sunday was glorious and we said goodbye to Susan and Jim, hoping to meet them again further down the Loop.
The river widened out and we passed St Louis, its famous Gateway Arch glittering in the sunlight. There’s nowhere to anchor and no marinas in St Louis, so we’ve had to pass on the sightseeing for now.
We anchored 20 miles downriver at Oakville. There wasn’t a problem getting the anchor to bite, but the wakes from the passing barges, and the loud bangs when floating logs hit Carina were quite disconcerting.There’s nothing like cooking dinner in a boat which is rocking about, and then having to have a lie-down because you feel too queasy to eat anything. Dinner wasn’t very appetising anyway, a concoction of pasta and leftover pork and half a tin of tomatoes, with a few carrots, onions and courgettes thrown in, and the cheap bottle of Chenin Blanc in the fridge had obviously been an aberration. It was repurposed the following night as a substitute for rice wine in a Chinese-style stir-fry.
But I did get a nice photo.
The next day it was raining and misty, but not enough to deter the Captain’s impulse to move. He decided that we would call in at Hoppie’s, a few miles further down the river. Hoppie’s is a marina which consists of a few barges tied together where you can moor for the night and get fuel.
The Captain thought we should get more fuel. Fog had descended on the river too, which was another good reason to stop. There was very little space in which to manoeuvre the boat, and a tricky eddy round the dock made it even more difficult. Even with the help of five other Loopers who magically appeared from their boats, Carina sustained a bump on her port side, fortunately not a serious one.
It seemed that we might be at Hoppie’s for a while, as the fog closed in. But we’d seen pictures on Facebook of enormous apple pies that could be procured from a nearby establishment, so this was a possible opportunity, rather than a snag in our plans. Gene, one of the Loopers, assured us that the nearby community was within walking distance, if we wanted to get off the boat and have a look around. He then said but unfortunately, everything would be closed.
I wondered if it was a public holiday.
‘No, it’s Monday.’
Eventually the fog lifted, and the boat sitting on the fuel dock decided it was safe to go, so we got some fuel and set off again, down Ol’ Man River, Illinois to our left and Missouri to our right. We haven’t seen any bridges, road or rail, since St Louis, 30 miles to the north.
Our next stop was on a wall at Kaskaskia Lock, close to where the Kaskaskia River joins the Mississippi. There are no facilities, and you’re not allowed to trespass on the US Army Corps of Engineers property. As we arrived, the Loopers who had helped us dock at Hoppie’s were there to take our lines. They already had a table and chairs set up on the dock, so we got our chairs and a couple of beers and joined them. We were only slightly trespassing on US Army property.
The weather forecast for Tuesday wasn’t good. Severe thunderstorms with hailstones were a possibility. We decided rather than tempt fate once more, we would stay put another night on the lock, although all the other Loopers set off.
Although there were threatening clouds on the horizon everywhere we looked, apart from a short burst of heavy rain in the late morning, we spent the day doing little jobs on the boat under the baking sun.
Later in the day, more boats arrived so we had company in the evening. It’s interesting and sometimes awe-inspiring to hear about other people’s experiences, especially when they are intrepid boaters like Tom and Dorothy, who had sailed across the Atlantic, the west coast of Ireland and Scotland, into Scandinavia as well as the coast of Chile.
As we were going to bed, the rain started and we slept to the sounds of the rain hammering down on Carina’s roof and windows.