September 23 – 24
We again made a careful departure in very shallow water on the first day of Autumn, which arrived at 5:47 this morning, September 23. Besides being the first day of Autumn, this would also be the last full day of our journey. I think all those Pelicans perched on the breakwater were waiting for us; they followed us again today. We cruised through town and locked through the Peoria Lock & Dam. There were so many barges again today, and we got stuck behind one while going under a bridge and had to follow it for a while because of the narrow channel we were in. They only travel about 6 mph, but we were in no hurry on this beautiful 75 degree, not-a-cloud-in-the-sky day. Since there are no marinas in this stretch, we planned to anchor out behind Bar Island near Beardstown, an anchorage frequently used by boaters. It was a great spot, and we were all alone here for our last Loop dinner of leftover Italian food from last night’s restaurant, fresh salad and garlic bread and wine, which we ate by candlelight on our aft deck. We watched a wonderful sunset, and then caught a great sunrise the next morning, the last day of our adventure. We weighed anchor and left our anchorage at 7:00 the next morning. We had cleaned our three lock fenders, those big, white, round ones, while we were at Eastport Marina, for probably the tenth time; they get dirty and grimy when they scrape along those slimy lock walls. We had our last two locks to lock through today and didn’t want to get them dirty again, so First Mate put trash bags over them for these two locks. We had seen others do this to avoid the cleaning job. As it turned out, she needn’t have bothered because the water levels were such that we were able to float through both locks without tying on. In this area there are wicket dams; those stick-like things are the wickets that can be raised and lowered depending on water levels. In really low water the wickets are raised to dam the water, and vessels must lock through, but in high water the wickets are lowered and vessels can pass right over them instead of locking. It’s strange to cruise right by a lock knowing that sometimes the area you’re in is a dam. We were soon in familiar waters, spotting a green buoy that signaled the approach to the end of our trip. We then rounded the bend at the junction of the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. At 1:25 pm on September 24, 2003, our journey had come to an end. Our odyssey had taken eleven months and nine days. Heading to our destination, Port Charles Marina, we passed Duck Club Yacht Club, where we had prepared for this trip. During this last day we had taken turns at the helm as usual, but with very mixed feelings; we were immensely satisfied with our accomplishment, but a little sad that it was over. Upon arrival at Port Charles Marina, we got hooked up and tied on and then enjoyed a champagne toast to us to celebrate our feat and the closing of our Great Loop.