Kaskaskia Lock to Paducah

Kaskaskia Lock to Paducah

We woke up early the next morning to cool, grey skies.

008 (2)Heading out of Kaskaskia

Heading out of Kaskaskia

It was my birthday. In the face of radio silence from the Captain, I decided to maintain a dignified silence of my own, while continuing to remain affable and exchange the usual pleasantries over breakfast.

Thanks to T-mobile’s patchy coverage, we had had no internet for a few days.

So I was feeling kind of lonesome. Magically, as soon as we got back on the Mississippi, the internet reappeared and I went on Facebook to find lots of lovely messages and emails from my friends and family. These included a couple of birthday videos which I couldn’t resist playing and of course the accompanying tune was unmistakable.

The Captain turned round.

‘What day is it?’

‘Wednesday.’

‘Yes, but what date?’

‘26th September.’

‘Oh b****r.’

He looked a bit contrite. I’ve taken a rain check on the meal in the expensive restaurant and something small and sparkly, or perhaps a better lens for my camera. Or both.

The sun did come out after a while, and by 2.30 we were safely anchored in Little Diversion, a small inlet off the main channel.

010 (2)Mile 100 looking upstream towards Chester

Looking upstream towards Chester

019 (2)Soulshine

Soulshine about to pass us on the two

025 (2)Outcrops at Mile 67

Outcrops at Mile 67

Anchored at Little Diversion

Birthday Prosecco

The Mississippi is very different from the other parts of the Loop that we’ve experienced so far. Unlike the Intracoastal Waterway, depth has so far not proved a problem. Although we’ve had to be wary of the tows with their big barges, which can’t stop or change their course within a quarter of a mile, and treat them with due respect, the wakes they generate pass within minutes and it’s not like crossing Lake Ontario or venturing out down Lake Michigan.

But the current is something else. Luckily we’re going in the right direction. It means Carina is managing 9.5 knots instead of her usual 6. But it also means you have to take that into account when anchoring or docking.

The River has a kind of turbulence with whirlpools and eddies everywhere. ‘Pretty, and menacing at the same time’ is the Captain’s verdict.

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Whirlpools behind us on the Mississippi

The banks are mainly enclosed by woodlands, so it’s hard to get a feel of the surrounding countryside. Just occasionally there’ll be a break in the woodland and we’ll be afforded a glimpse of what lies beyond the banks.

_MG_0005 (2)Gap int he woodland

Gap in the Woodland

Anchorages are few and far between, and marinas even less so, so the days have to be quite carefully planned. After leaving Port Charles on Sunday, we will have had 6 or possibly 7 nights at anchor, or on a wall with no access to any facilities. We won’t starve, but we might run out of milk or teabags. That might not qualify for disaster status, but it’s still a dismal prospect.

Turning into Boston Bar, our last anchorage on the Mississippi

On Friday morning we were fog-bound at Boston Bar, a few miles upstream from the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. The plan was to go up the Ohio River to an anchorage 27 miles upriver, with the aim of reaching civilisation at Paducah, Kentucky the following night.

But the timing was critical. Because we’d be going upstream against the current on the Ohio, we would only be making 3 knots. To get to the anchorage before dark, we needed to be away by 10.

There were two other boats moored a few yards away from us. At 8 o’clock we could barely make out their ghostly forms. By 10, visibility was better but not good enough to go. The last thing we wanted was to be suddenly confronted with an enormous barge bearing down on us out of the mist.

At 10.15 we decided to go, and the other two boats left shortly afterwards. Everyone has Paducah in their sights. There was a conversation on the radio about what people were running out of.

‘I gotta get to Paducah, I ran out of wine.’

‘I ran out of water, bread, coffee but I still got wine.’

‘Then I’ll be on your boat tonight.’

As we turned east into the Ohio River, the sky started to clear. The sun caught the boats and the river turned a swirling yellow. We still had Illinois to our left, but now it was Kentucky on our right.

Turning off the Mississippi

The Ohio seemed even busier than the Mississippi. There were tows and barges everywhere, lining both banks.

Barges on the Ohio River

A large vessel seemed to be making straight for us. It was American Queen, which we had seen tied up at St Louis. But we kept out of her way and passed her ‘on the one’.

American Queen on the Ohio River

The Ohio River is running  16’ above normal. We would normally have had to go through two Locks, Olmsted Lock and Lock 52. The water was so high that the locks weren’t operating – we just passed by the side of them, but there was a lot of turbulence as we did so. Olmsted Lock is in the process of being rebuilt.


Olmsted Lock and Happy Destiny passing us on the two

By 3 o’clock we had 9.5 miles to go. We had left the industry behind and the river had widened out so it was more like a lake, with attitude. We could see how high the river was – the trees in the Bank were partly submerged.

Trees partly submerged on the Ohio River

The Illinois Bank of the Ohio River

Near Paducah

So far we haven’t met any other Brits doing the Loop. But suddenly, a rather cultured English voice appeared on the radio, conversing with a tow and some of the other boats. We anchored 300 yards behind them at Bean Branch Creek, and Steve and Diane obligingly got into their RIB and joined us on Carina for a drink. Ian thought that getting into a small dinghy on the river was a bit hazardous, given the currents and eddies, but it turned out that Steve and Diane were experienced boaters, Steve having sailed across the Atlantic a few years ago, so the river probably seemed nothing to them.

The first people we met in Paducah were David and Wanda who we’d met at Kaskaskia Lock and who had overtaken us on Soulshine, with their Peace flag flying, a couple of days before. There was a party going on – the Paducah Barbecue Festival, a 3-day event, and we were lucky to get there for the last day. The Riverfront was lined with hundreds of gazebos selling street food as well as clothing and knicknacks. Loud music played and a boy was having a go on the Bucking Bronco to the sounds of Love Shack and the enjoyment of onlookers. For what seemed like a fairly small town, the crowds were enormous. John, the dockmaster, told us people come from all over West Kentucky and Southern Illinois.

 

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Riverfront BBQ Festival

Sweatshirt stall

Tupperware stall

There were quite a few charity stalls as well, and we stopped to look at a temporary aquarium which housed some of the many species of fish found in the Ohio River. The young man in charge explained that they had caught the fish the previous day by luring them into a trap with an electronic device which emitted waves at a soothing frequency. The next day they would release the fish back into the river. He pointed out the long-nosed gar, what he described as a living fossil, unchanged for 30 million years.

Long-nosed Gar

We had a wander round the town too.

Main St Paducah

Checking out the department store, Paducah

A door in Paducah

In the evening we had drinks with John and Janice from Toronto and it was interesting to hear Canadians’ view of their country.

 

John the dockmaster recommended the Gold Rush Cafe on Broadway for breakfast the next day, and as we had actually run out milk and couldn’t go shopping till the afternoon, this sounded a sensible plan. We had to wait half an hour for a table, but the breakfast was a real treat.

Ian was vacillating over whether to have the sausage patties or the link sausages. Our elderly waitress wasn’t slow to advise.

‘Ya know what? I know link sausages have the flavour, but, I don’t know….. I just don’t like that, ya know….. that casing.’

I knew just what she meant. He had the patties.

We wandered back to the boat. Paducah has had catastrophic flooding at various times and there is now a flood wall along the river front. On the side facing the town, murals have been painted depicting the town’s history from when it was first settled in 1821, to its role as a distribution hub, to the present day, and including a portrait of its most famous son, Alben Barkley, who was Vice-President to Harry S Truman.

Wall Painting in Paducah

Wall painting commemorating Paducah’s role as a hub for telecommunications in the region until switchboards were replaced by electronic computer switching system in 1979

 

As we wandered back to the boat, we came upon the Church on the River, and sat down some distance away. We spoke in whispers, even though we couldn’t possibly have been heard. The preacher was using ‘Somewhere’ from West Side Story as the text for his sermon.

The Church on the River

His sincerity shone through, but he was followed by another man who spoke in a rather accusing tone and whose words seemed banal, and we moved on.

Fishing on the Ohio River

We went to the National Quilt Museum near the Riverfront. It was opened in 1991 to celebrate the work of modern quilters. The quilts were very varied in design, ranging from patterns based on historical designs, to very modern ones. The amount of thought that had gone into the design, the effort made to find just the right colours for the fabrics, and the skill involved in sewing the quilts were all awe-inspiring.

National Quilt Museum, Paducah

Cityscape by Lucretia Romey
Based on the Toronto skyline

Aletsch by Michael James: ‘a synthesis of sensory responses to a particular space: the vast mountainous basin in the Swiss Alps that enclosed the Aletsch Glacier’

Escapade by Libby Lehman

Adventure Awaits by Susan McCarty
Based on the Hobbit

Detail from Adventure Awaits

Later, John drove us to the Mall 7 miles away to stock up. He had been working all weekend and said he would take us after he finished at 2.30. While we were out, he was messaged to say other boats were coming in. He was still on the dock as the sun was going down, helping latecomers to dock their boats.

John on the Dock, Paducah

Carina at Paducah

6.30am, Paducah

We had an early start the next morning. The Captain was worried about getting away from the dock. We were sandwiched between two other boats, and the current would tend to push us back into the dock. As ever, other boaters came to our aid and gave us a good push in our bow to help us get away.

3 hours later we left the Ohio and turned into the lovely Cumberland River. The leaves are just beginning to show a tinge of yellow, and that, along with the cool mornings, gives a hint of Fall.

 

 

 

 

 

Port Charles Harbor to Kaskaskia Lock – tomorrow’s another day

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.

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Carina’s new blinds

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.

The Broken Boaters Club – L to R, Ian, Jane, Ed, Ruth, Rhonda, Rick, Jeanne, Art, Jim, Susan, Sandy, Kevin

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.

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Loopers at the party – Ian, Jim, Susan and Sherry

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Drinks in the evening sun

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Playing on the swing, Port Charles Harbor

Sunday was glorious and we said goodbye to Susan and Jim, hoping to meet them again further down the Loop.

_MG_0015 (2)leaving Port Charles Harbor

Leaving Port Charles Harbor

_MG_0016 (2)Upper Mississippi at Port Charles

Upper Mississippi River at Port Charles Harbor

_MG_0017 (2)Limestone outcrops near Portage des Sioux

Limestone outcrops near Portage des Sioux

_MG_0022 (2)Pelicans at 208.5 mile

Pelicans at Mile 208.5

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.

_MG_0024 (2)New Clark Highway fixed bridge

New Clark Highway Fixed Bridge, St Louis

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Gateway Arch, St Louis

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American Queen moored at St Louis

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.

Moon River

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.

002 (2)Kaskaskia Lock

Arriving at Kaskaskia Lock with thunderclouds above us

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.

002 (2)At Kaskaskia

Moored on the wall at Kaskaskia Lock

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Don’t mess with us

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.