We have conquered the worst part of the trip! Tonight we are guests of Green Turtle Marina on Barkley Lake, out of the current, debris and high water of the upper rivers.
We left our marina on a hot, sunny morning and headed into downtown Chicago on the river. It is truly amazing to watch high rises pass by beside you when you are on the deck of your boat.
The architecture of Chicago is worth the trip to this fabulous city. Most of the buildings are simply amazing, big old buildings, built when decorations on them was all the rage. The new ones compete with each other for “most impressive”. After downtown, the river abruptly becomes commercial and dirty. It is called the Sanitary Canal for a reason…they empty all their treated waste into the river and ship it down to New Orleans! It is smelly and very dirty. The industries are side by side and it is easy to see why Illinois is the acid rain capital of North America. Smoke stacks and smoke blot out the sun. Here too is where the tows start and the canal becomes crowded with parked barges. In some cases we had to squeeze and wiggle through to get past the mess.
It can be intimidating but having our Automatic Identification System on Adamant 1 has made our journey so much more relaxing as we can see what is ahead of us, what is moving and what direction they are moving in. If we need to we can call them and make arrangements to pass them. Our buddy boats, Folly and Sea Mist, followed closely on our heels.
Once we reached the Illinois River, the river widened making maneuvering much easier and our nerves relaxed a bit. We started to encounter debris but we were able to get around it if we could spot them soon enough. The amount of tow traffic was reduced and the scenery improved. The level of the river was up from normal pool, but not significantly, making only about a 2 knot current going with us.
We were in Ottawa Illinois on 9/11 and the Americans make a big deal out of marking the anniversary. We were treated to parachute jumpers holding massive American flags and a flyby of military planes…not jets, but really neat prop planes. We had some lovely anchorages in the river, but the current made getting into tight spots tricky. Any homes that are built close to or on the river have to be elevated on stilts in case of flooding. Most are 18 to 20′ in the air. I wouldn’t want to have to carry my groceries up those stairs!
We were happy to be off the Illinois and onto the Mississippi River, but that joy lasted only a few minutes. The Mississippi River was running at 4 knots of current and that was in the wide areas. Where the river narrowed down it sped up to 6.5 knots. For the first time I saw our log read over 11.5 knots! And the debris was so bad we didn’t know where to put the bow of the boat. I spent most of our 4 days on the Mississippi on the bow pointing to a safe spot to pass. In some cases, we had to slow down, avoid the logs and hit the small stuff…no choice. We saw everything from sticks to logs and even telephone poles. Railroad ties and tires rounded out the debris. It is sad, really, to see such a mess. The visibility of the water was less than an inch and it was the colour of milky coffee. This is really too bad as the river is wide and very pretty, lovely homes high on the hills, huge quarries and lots of tows, but it was impossible to focus on that.
We spent 2 nights anchored on the river and 2 nights in creeks out of the debris. On day five, we hit the river running and within an hour we had turned up the Ohio River….a very wide, calm, clean, debris free river. We celebrated with Irish Cream in our coffee even though it wasn’t yet 8 am! It was a beautiful, clear, hot and sunny day and we were so grateful to be off the Mississippi River. The Ohio River is lovely and we had plenty of opportunity to take pictures and relax. The new Olmstead Lock and Dam is built but not completed, so we were assigned a tug boat to escort us through. What a thrill to have an escort!
Two days later we went up the 30-mile-long Cumberland River and after we cleared the lock at mile 30.6, we were in Barkley Lake. Finally, we are in the “cottage country” of the rivers and are able to slow down and take it all in.
We are staying at the Green Turtle Marina and have been treated like royalty. Very few sailboats, and even fewer Canadians, show up here and the owner dropped by to see us and offer his help. It is a huge complex, tons of boats, two restaurants, which have fantastic food by the way…we sampled! We were even given a courtesy vehicle to drive into Paducah for supplies. I sent Pat shopping with the others and I visited the National Quilt Museum which was absolutely amazing! They also have golf carts available for trips into Grand River. If you are ever down this way, even by car, you must come in to visit. They have condos to rent and a pool and spa on site. It is truly a magnificent haven after all we went through on the upper rivers.
So now we will rest for a few days then head out to explore the Kentucky Lakes.
Until next time……