September 18-23
The next morning when paying for our slip, the marina owner, who knew of our plight from conversations the day before, pointed to one of their rescue boats equipped with a crane. He said that if we had contacted him first, he could have gotten us off in a flash by lifting us with the crane, and he didn’t know why the Coast Guard hadn’t recommended him. He determined that it was after hours and he was probably closed; said he should give them his cell number. We finally had our first experience locking through tied to a barge; we had only heard about it until now. It was really easy because the barge hands did all the work tying us up to them, and then we left the lock first with the barges behind. There is still much barge traffic, along with many pleasure boats of all sizes. We arrived a Springbrook Marina in Seneca, IL, to have a haul out to check the damage done by our hard grounding. The night before we borrowed the courtesy van and drove for dinner at a local restaurant called Boondocks and were very surprised to find that it had a tropical theme that reminded us of a restaurant of the same name in the Florida Keys, where we had eaten many times. Upon mentioning this to the bartender, she informed us that this one was patterned after the one we knew because the owners were friends and the owner here loved the one down there. She’s also familiar with the other one and loves it down there, too. Small world. Back at the marina, there was heavy barge traffic all night long. Next morning we were hauled out and happy to learn that our props were pretty badly damaged, but the only other damage was some scraping on the bottom of the keel. They determined that it was fine to wait until we got to Port Charles Marina in St. Charles, for repair; we planned to be pulled out there, anyway, so they could check the bottom work they did last year, 6 units worth. Back on the water after leaving Seneca with still four locks to go, we saw these big mooring rounds at the entrances to the locks. Upon inquiring with the lockmaster at one, we were told they were for pleasure craft as well as barges, so we decided to try to tie on outside one lock where we had to wait. It was good once we were tied on; the captain could sit and relax instead of sitting at the helm controls keeping us out of danger. But the process of tying on was another story since tying to something big, concrete, and round was a new experience. We only saw one other pleasure craft use them, and the barges were always anchored near the shoreline while waiting for their tugs. Again the barge traffic on the Illinois River was extremely heavy. Now we know why pleasure boats use the Tenn-Tom Waterway instead of the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico; all this commercial traffic continues on down Ol’ Miss. We really needed both of us on the bridge at all times today, one to pilot and one to navigate through all the commercial vessels. In addition, the location of many of the actual markers was very different from the chart locations. On top of that, the sun was shining brightly in our eyes and glaring off the markers, which made spotting them and determining whether they were red or green very difficult. Add to that the rough water; there were actually white caps in the Illinois River! The water calmed down during the day and we successfully arrived at our next marina, Henry Harbor Landing in Henry, IL. Our next marina “slip” was one of the most interesting of all. The real slips only accommodate smaller boats, so we were along an old lock wall, which had been built in 1872, the first one of its kind on this entire river. It went out of commission in 1927 and is now used by the bigger vessels. Tying on was really innovative; a piece of metal pipe sticking out of some rocks on the ground, a tree branch, and a tree trunk were our cleats and pilings. There were other boats already tied up and some friendly, helpful people with suggestions and extra hands. The power system was just as bad, old electrical boxes with some connections working, some not. We were told to just “check around, there should be 50 amp service someplace down there.” We did find a poor but working source. That night there were all these beautiful white ducks in the water nearby; we just hoped they would stay off our swim platform since the thought of a cleaning job in the morning didn’t appeal to either of us. Been there, done that, too many times. They complied. Carefully pulled out in shallow water the next morning, heading for Peoria. These birds the locals called pelicans followed us for miles; must have mistaken us for a shrimp boat. We were lucky to get a slip at Eastport Marina; the boaters yesterday told us they couldn’t get slips here. Maybe mentioning membership in AGLCA helped; the group is getting big enough that many marinas cater to us. We had a good dinner easily within walking distance and then listened to a really good band and danced a little. Our kind of evening! Decided to stay here for a few days and sample the food at other nearby restaurants, and made a $200.00+ Wal-Mart run using a courtesy vehicle that belonged to the owner of the marina. Loopers really rely on Super Wal-Mart stores all along the route and report on those close to marinas along the way.