Thursday, July 21, 2016

On to Home Waters

Let me go back to the south side of Lock 19. Just before we were to enter the lock another boat approached from the south apparently running on only 1 of 2 engines. Since they were in a spot of bother we let  but them maintain their momentum and enter the lock ahead of us. For a twin engine boat supposedly running on one engine they entered the lock with ease. Once through and tied up at the Yacht Club I found out that they were only using one engine to conserve fuel because they couldn't transfer fuel from one tank to another.
There is no diesel at KYC but arrangements can be made to have a truck deliver right to the boats. However they want to make it worth their while to come and so we were solicited to join in on the fuel truck request.

Needless to say the truck didn't show until around 10 a.m. Long after Pam & I would have normally departed. The other boat was fueled first and then shot off up the river. We were finally done and departed around 11 a.m. The fuel was cheap but we really didn't need it. We were just helping out a fellow boater who I'm not sure really appreciated it.

Anyway we pulled out into Lake Keokuk and continued our trek towards home.

We passed the restored Mormon settlement at Nauvoo, Illinois.

Some of their cows heading west to Salt Lake City.

At the top of Lake Keokuk the river narrows to go through Ft. Madison, Iowa.

A replica of the Ft. Madison fort along the downtown riverfront.

The swing bridge at Ft. Madison. It's a double decker bridge with RR below and auto above.

Moving along into the countryside this grain terminal sits in the middle of nowhere.

The low farm lands turned into bluffs as we neared Burlington, Iowa where we found that the 100 plus year old train bridge had finally been replaced.

Burlington RR Bridge.

Our revised goal for the day was to get above Lock 17 which was scheduled to be closed for repairs the very next day. We had a minimal wait at Lock 18 above Burlington and cruised on passing Oquaka, Illinois where the predicted rains finally caught up to us.

Trying to outrun the rain. We lost!

The rain came down in sheets for roughly a half hour and then moved away before we arrived at Lock 17.

Construction equipment in place at Lock 17.

While in the lock I checked with the attendant about the off channel water depth above the lock. He claimed that he fished those waters frequently and we should have no problem if we chose to anchor there.

He was right. We travelled about a mile and a half and pulled off channel towards the shores of Turkey Island across from Bay Island Light mm.438.7.

The view upriver from our anchorage.

If you look at this location on the river chart you may think we were crazy anchoring that close to the channel. Looks are deceiving. We were close to the island in 13' of water and well off the sailing line. For good measure I checked with a down bound tow to make sure we wouldn't be in their way.

We had some rain during the night but the brunt of the storm stayed south of us making for a good nights sleep.

Once morning came we had 20 miles until our next lock at Muscatine, Iowa. Pam's high school stomping grounds.

A fisherman tending his nets. A common sight along the upper river.

We also spotted this eagle cooling his feet along the river bank.

The river between Muscatine and Davenport is largely used for industry with many barge fleeting areas along the route. Tourist paddled through with no trouble and soon approached the Crescent RR Bridge connecting Davenport, Iowa with Rock Island, Illinois.

Crescent Bridge opening for us.

Davenport skyline.

Just above the RR bridge is Lock 15 which used their auxiliary chamber to lock us up. A good thing although they failed to let us know in advance catching us a little off guard and causing me to lower the vhf antenna at the last minute in order to squeeze under the bridge right at the entrance to the lock.

Above the lock we met the river cleanup barge heading downstream loaded with trash that it and volunteers have cleaned from the river banks. This is an interesting story that started with a young man named Chad Pregracke who got tired of waiting for the government to clean up the rivers and took it upon himself to do it by starting Living Land and Waters. Check out this success story at;

Not a pretty sight at first glance but a welcome one when you know the story behind it.

10 miles above Lock 15 is Lock 14 at which we had a short wait before passing through. Another mile and we were going under I-80 which spans the U.S. from New York City to San Francisco.

Interstate 80.

Just above I-80 lies Port Byron, Illinois. As we passed we spotted this statue of a rider (Will B. Rolling) on an old time bicycle. It was put there to promote bicycling in the Port Byron area. There is also a similar statue (Bill Bikin) in Sparta, Wis. The two communities are hoping to get a bike ride between the two communities off the ground this fall.

Will B. Rolling statue in Port Byron, Ill.

With many homes and docks along the river we moved along at a slow speed until we ventured off the channel into a sand pit above Cordova, Ill.

The view from our sand pit anchorage.

We slept so well that we never noticed the tug pushing 2 sand barges slide past us and tie them off to the shore in front of us. I knew that that was a possibility and anchored so as not to impede their work.

Back on the channel we were in Clinton, Iowa in no time and waiting at another RR bridge. The delay was just long enough to cause us to arrive at Lock 13 as they were turning the chamber around to take a southbound tow in. Time for a 2 hour rest.

Clinton RR Bridge.

A busy Lock 13.

You can see the excursion boat near the lock wall. The pecking order on the river puts the excursion boat ahead of the towboat unless they arrive too late at the dance. That was the case for the Twilight in spite of his subtle pleas to let him get in before the barge.

Once the tow exited the lock it was our turn. We waited for the Twilight to enter and get secured before we followed. Up and out we went following the Twilight up the channel.

Our view until we reached Savanna, Ill.

There are a couple of islands in this stretch that have been completely stripped of vegetation by the birds.

It wasn't long until we were nearing Savanna, our planned stop for the night.

Savanna, Ill.

We anchored off channel across from the entrance to the small marina. We had made plans to meet family members Barb & Bill at our favorite pizza joint. Manny's! All we had to do was dinghy over.

All was going well until I tried starting the dinghy motor. Pull, pull, pull until my arm was ready to fall off. I was getting frustrated even though I had a hunch it wouldn't start on the first pull. After all it hadn't been run since Florida. While I was pondering what to do next Pam suggested I spray some of that "stuff" into the motor. Fortunately I have become fluent in the Pamanese language and knew immediately that she meant carburetor cleaner.

While floating in the dinghy I took the cover off being careful not to drop any screws and began spraying the "stuff" into the carburetors. I gave it a minute and began to pull. It took a few pulls but it eventually began to sputter and then run.  I took it for a test run leaving instructions with Pam to call the local tug on the vhf and ask if they could pick me up should the motor conk out. Fortunately all went well and we made it back and forth from town.

Not only did we get some of our favorite pizza, we kidnapped Barb and brought her back to the boat with us.

Again a pleasant nights sleep for me. The girls stayed up a little longer. Ok. A lot longer!

Just above our anchorage they are building a new bridge to replace the old narrow bridge that has a grated deck that you can see through when driving across it. It's about time.

Crane's in place for the construction.

Anchor up and underway I guided Tourist upstream while the girls carried on with their conversation from the night before. Before long we were in Bellevue, Iowa and approaching Lock 12, our last lock of the trip.

 Lock 12 at Bellevue, Ia.

Above Bellevue a few miles is Chestnut Mountain Resort. A year round facility visible from the river.

 Ski runs at Chestnut.

We travelled a few miles beyond and anchored in a favorite spot. In an effort for me to not be outnumbered I took the dinghy into the dock at Chestnut to pick up Bill who was waiting when I arrived.
We had a good night and breakfast before transferring our guests back to shore.

Water Taxi.

Later that day we were joined by Kim & Lu on Vagabond for the night. It was the first time we had rafted with another boat since the summer of 2009. Fortunately we still remembered how to do it.

Our last day of travel was a good one filled with the excitement of getting home and the wonderment of when we will travel again.

Home waters of the Mississippi.

Unfortunately for us Mid-Town Marina where we had previously kept Tourist didn't have a slip available so we ended up at Frentress Lake Marina. Our arrival was a CF for a number of reasons. While the marina got it's act together we took Tourist to Mid-Town for a few days where they had a temporarily vacant slip before returning to Frentress.

Tourist finally in her slip at Frentress Lake Marina.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Movin North from St. Charles

The weather was perfect as we broke away from Port Charles Harbor and headed north. It was obvious since our last trip through this area that the Corps of Engineers had been busy building wing dams and dredging the channel resulting in several nice sandbars.

One of the many sandbars in the St. Charles area.

Pam & I enjoyed the stillness of the river and the lack of traffic as we made our way to Lock 25, our first of the day.

Picturesque riverside home site.

No more bollards and only one rope to hold in 25.

We continued our trawler speed journey upstream past a riverside church and the town of Louisiana, Missouri before pulling into 2 Rivers Marina to top off our fuel tanks.

Church on the riverbank.

Louisiana, Mo.

Pam at the ready as we pull in to 2 Rivers Marina.

Although we didn't need fuel we decided to top off the tanks since diesel is scarce on the next stretch of river. Not non-existent. Just not convenient.

It was still early enough in the day that we could put some miles behind us so we continued on to anchor behind Gilbert Island (mm 294.2) for the night.

Evening sky looking north from our anchorage.

A few fishing boats blew by us while we were anchored but by 9 p.m. all was quiet leaving us to enjoy a good nights sleep.

Only a few miles below Lock 22 it didn't take us long to be waiting at it's gates the next morning.

Waiting for a southbound tow to complete it's lockage at 22.

Just above Lock 22 we left the St. Louis Corps of Engineers District and entered the Rock Island District. About that same time our chart plotter quit showing the detailed chart of the river.

What! Just stay in the white?

Break out the paper charts.

While this problem won't keep us from continuing our homeward trip it thoroughly ticked me off since I had purchased an Inland Rivers download chip 2 years ago when we came up to Green Turtle Bay for the summer. That evening I researched the options from Garmin and found that I had ordered and received the product that covered the Upper Mississippi all the way to the Twin Cities. Hmmm! Must be defective.
As it turned out I proved to myself once again that I am technologically challenged. During the night I had the bright idea to get the chip out and insert it once again. Next morning I did and presto! Charts appeared on the screen!

Our travel today took us past Hannibal, Missouri. Probably one of the most widely known towns along the Mississippi but unfortunately one of the least accessible by water.

Hannibal, Mo.

Years ago Pam & I visited Hannibal in our 35' Sundancer which was stretching the capabilities of the marina at the time. In passing it looks like not much has changed. The town however was a worthwhile stop. We still remember taking the Twainland Tours tour around the area.

Upstream we continued, passing a tow nosed into the shore just below Lock 21 at Quincy, Illinois. Of course he was waiting for his turn at the lock. He wasn't alone. There was also a downbound tow waiting above the lock and one in the chamber. Fortunately we were next in line once the chamber cleared.

Approaching Lock 21.

Once through we had a heck of a time passing the Show Me State, the towboat that had just left the lock. He was pushing 16 empty barges and had it gassed. (If Tourist passes too fast we have a tendency to put water over the side of the tow boat because of it's low freeboard.)

Finally we got around and continued to Lock 20 where we had a short wait while a barge loaded with farm machinery locked down.

Pam waiting patiently at her post.

Not sure what island they're farming?

Our weather was good if not downright hot while we journeyed north. There were signs along the river banks that it's not always like the near perfect conditions we enjoyed at the moment.

Just one of several riverside cottages that have been ravaged by flood waters along our route.

Just below Keokuk we met the Titletown USA, one of my favorite towboats on the river. Notice the Green Bay Packer flag just below the American flag! Go Pack!

Not much longer and Keokuk came into view.

Just as we eased into Keokuk I heard the lock talking to a towboat that had been switching barges around below the lock. Sounds like we'll have to wait for him to lock through before we get to go. We only have about 2 miles to go before we stop for the night but on the river you win some and you lose some.

Lock 19 at Keokuk, Iowa. You can see the towboat in the lock.

The good news is that Lock 19 has a 1500 foot chamber and can handle the whole tow in one lockage. It's also the last bollard lock we'll encounter for awhile.

Once through 19 we only had a mile to go before we pulled into the Keokuk Yacht Club for the night.

Keokuk Yacht Club.

Our welcoming committee!

Actually KYC is a fun stop mainly because of the members who are friendly and want to help if needed. And the bar stays open late enough to have a drink and get a pizza. If you want more you have to get a ride back to town.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Holy Crap!!

An hour or so after Lady KK pulled out we cast off the lines and headed to St. Charles, about 20 miles north of us. Immediately after passing Alton Marina it is quite evident where the original Lock & Dam 26 was located. I remember my Dad telling of waiting for hours in his houseboat that he had just purchased in Arkansas and then getting lucky by locking through with a towboat. Delays at 26 could stretch into days at that time because of only one 600' chamber and all the tow traffic. The new Mel Price lock has a 1500' chamber as well as a 600' chamber which helps eliminate most of the wait.

Part of the old lock 26 wall.

Across the river a little part of the dam that was left in place.

Above Alton the bluffs rise up on the Illinois side of the river and run up to Grafton where the Illinois joins the Mississippi.

Scenic bluffs above Alton.

The channel takes you past Our Lady of the Rivers monument.

Beyond the sandbar lies the Illinois River and Grafton Marina. (mm 218 umr)

A couple of miles up the Mississippi we turned into Dardenne Slough and into Port Charles Harbor Marina where Tourist had a date with the local Cummins mechanic for a valve adjustment. Little did I know that this would become the crappiest stop of our journey.

The side by side entrances of Polestar (right) and Port Charles Harbor (left).

Back in Green Turtle Bay I had purchased new duckbill valves to rectify a problem with the master head. The pump was running intermittently on it's own without being triggered by flushing and the bowl was still holding water. Since the pump and valves are located just in front of the starboard engine my plan was to let the motor cool and wait until after the Cummins guy had completed his job. Certainly didn't want him gagging in the engine room!

Well once the engine work was done and the mechanic had gone it was my turn to go to work.  I flushed fresh water though the lines and pump and put on my rubber gloves before I dove into the bilge. There are 4 of these valves per head that need replacing. 2 are easy and 2 not so easy due to location.

What a new duckbill valve looks like. I'll spare you a picture of a used valve!

Well as I was saying I went into the bilge to replace the valves. Once I wrapped myself around the front of the engine I saw that I had another problem. The top of the pump bellows was wet. Crap! That means that there is a hole in it and that it was probably the problem. Why didn't I see this earlier? GTB had 2 of the bellows on the shelves in the ships store but did I buy one??? NO!

Out of the bilge I come and up to the parts department at Port Charles Harbor. Of course they didn't have one in stock. Next I called the local West Marine. Nope! So back to the boat and the internet where I found as many as I needed and ordered one to be delivered in 2 days. The forecast was for storms anyway for the next couple of days so sitting idle wasn't an issue.

New bellows which I ordered from Seacoast Services.

Since I was mentally prepared to tackle this crappy job I decided to remove the whole pump assembly and bring it out on the dock where I could take it apart. Clean it. Install the new duckbill valves and be ready to install the bellows when it arrived. I plugged the hoses and climbed out of the engine room.
Everything was proceeding very well until I failed to notice an o-ring on the top half of the pump assembly. I saw it fly off when I hit it with the pressure from the water hose and of course it landed right in the river! (insert cuss words!) After a short break I finished the cleaning, Installed the new valves and went to the internet.

The disassembled pump with the new bellows just waiting for an o-ring!

Of course by this time it was too late to get it in the same shipment as the bellows so we added another day to our stay at PCH.

The saving grace to the whole day was after I got cleaned up Pam and I walked next door to the Duck Club Yacht Club for dinner. We sat at the bar and following a few libations I had one of the best steaks I've ever had outside of Gene & Georgetti's in Chicago.

Friendly Place next to PCH.

Our view of Tourist as we walked back.

Since we had some time to kill we decided the next day to use the courtesy van and drive into St. Charles for lunch and supplies. Downtown St. Charles along the Missouri River has been restored in grand fashion with shops and restaurants galore.

Part of the restored downtown St. Charles including the brick streets.

Finally all the parts arrived and the pump went back together. Now to get back in the bilge and connect the hoses. When I opened the hatch I knew we had trouble. Pew! I took a deep breath and went in. I wasn't prepared for what I found. The bilge under the prop shaft was full of brown, crappy water and more. So was the trough that runs along the outboard side of the engine as was the center sump area in the front of the compartment. Oh shit! All the while that I'm in the thick of it Pam's in the cockpit making gagging sounds but being a trooper and not leaving me to suffocate!

Apparently even though the master head was out of service the guest head was not and must have created enough pressure when it was used to force the crap out of the hose for the master. Now what?

Fortunately we carry a small shop vac on Tourist and it was soon put in service. After the vac filled I would dump it into a larger bucket and when that was filled it was Pam's job to dispose of it! Quite funny actually. Slowly we got the crap sucked up and the area rinsed with fresh water and bleach.
The pump went back in place and worked just like it was supposed to. The only casualty was my nose. I still have faint whiffs of crap!

 Time to get out of Dodge. The view from Tourist as we finally left Port Charles Harbor.