Well, we moved back onto the boat. Our fall schedule is crazy. We knew we’d only be on the boat for 4-6 weeks before having to go home for a month for work, Thanksgiving, and orthodontia. Our goal was to get the boat moved down to the Gulf in that time. There were so many obstacles. Ben, Molly and I were all scheduled to speak at the AGLCA Fall Rendezvous in Rogersville, AL October 15-18th. Before Ben left for FL the IL river was too shallow for us to get to many of the places we needed to go so we were already leaving later than we liked. So, we’d ruled out getting the boat down to the rendezvous and settled on getting the boat to Green Turtle Bay. By the time we finally left the river level was up and we had enough days with a couple of wiggle room days. In addition to a tight schedule, the Mississippi River was now flooding and both the IL and Mississippi Rivers were full of debris and raging currents.
After dumping all of our stuff on the boat and spending the afternoon unpacking we got to bed and set out the next morning for Joliet, IL.
Seeing as we were starting in Dolton, IL, not Chicago, we had a short day. We made it through our first lock, dealt with a lot of barge traffic, and got to the Joliet wall all by ourselves by about 1 PM. We were the only boat there all night. The girls made a dash for the park. They remembered it from two years ago and couldn’t wait to get to the zip line. It had rained quite a bit and everything was wet. The girls had a blast going down wet slides sitting on their life vests and then just soaking their clothes.
The next morning we set out for Ottawa, IL. This was only 50 miles away but we had 3 locks that were known to hold boaters up. We had trouble two years ago with one of these locks and this trip would not prove any different. Our 50 mile day took 12 hours. Seven of those hours were wasted waiting on locks. Ben was very stressed out about arriving in the dark because we barely had enough water to get into the channel to the marina. He needed to be able to see. At our last lock, after deciding to turn around and go find somewhere to tie up, the lock master called the tow behind us and asked if he could lock us through first so we could get in before dark. The Miss Doris was in front of us and she was a double tow that took absolutely ages to get through. The tow behind us, the Honeycutt, said sure go ahead. So so nice! Even so, we watched darkness starting to set in and Ben got more nervous. FINALLY the Miss Doris got out of the way and we were able to get in the chamber. The lock master tried everything. We were too long to fit or he would have locked us through with the second run of the tow. He worked with us and did what he could.
While we were waiting we asked the girls to make a couple of thank you cards. When we pulled in the lock we handed off a thank you card to the lock master with a couple of candy bars. And we passed off a bag with a thank you card, some candy and a 6-pack of beer for the tow operators behind us on the Honeycutt. We asked the lock master to pass it off. The lock master came out while we were in the lock and said the girls’ card was the nicest card he’d ever gotten. We got out of the lock and into the shallow channel with no issues and tied up for the night. Exhausted.
We just kept on moving. The next morning we started early again and got through the Starved Rock lock and on down to Peoria. The wind was brutal. It was so bad there were 1 ft waves on the river with white caps. We stopped at the Peoria Town Docks since Ivy Club was too shallow for us this year. It was a great stop! Free and easy to dock and plenty deep. There was one other Looper there too which made us feel a little better. We’d heard some reports about safety on the docks but had no issues.
We spent the afternoon walking around. Our first stop was the Caterpillar Museum….but they wouldn’t let us in because they stop selling tickets about 20 minutes before we arrived. So we went to the gift shop and pretended like we’d gone to the museum. Next up we walked through the Holocaust button exhibit. Truly moving. Each button represented a life lost.
We had to make a run to the post office to mail Yacht Devices packages. Then we walked up a huge hill and found the baseball stadium. Maddy found a foul ball outside and picked it up. So then we pretended we had gone to the Caterpillar museum followed by a baseball game! Next up we found a GIANT statue of Abraham Lincoln. A public art exhibit depicting Abraham Lincoln delivering the Gettysburg Address to the common man.
We continued walking and found some huge props followed by a park!!! The girls were thrilled to have a playground and as they were playing we watched tows going by. Ironically they were the two tows that we passed the day before! We followed this up with a gorgeous sunset and dinner on the boat.
After our night in Peoria we left and headed to the Peoria lock and got in pretty quickly. The next lock was open so we were able to go right through and we headed on down to Logsdon Tug Service. It was my birthday. But we were on a mission to get south so it was also just Tuesday. We got to Logsdon. They let boaters pay to tie up to their barges. It was quite an experience. There is an incredibly scary staircase over the water to climb to get off the barge. Ben went up to register and came back carrying flowers! The Wilsons (Wendy) managed to get flowers delivered for me there. So sweet. Seeing as I wanted to get out for dinner and ice cream I pushed back my fears and climbed the staircase. Ben had to hold on to me after he got the kids up safely. I have an incredible fear of heights. We had a great dinner at a local Mexican place and found a Dairy Queen for Blizzards. But then we had to climb the scary staircase back down. We safely made it back onto the boat and headed to bed.
Day 5 it was time to head to Grafton, IL and the END of the Illinois River. The river was somewhat debris filled and Ben was exhausted. Grafton marks Mile 0 of the IL river but also would be our start of the Mississippi River. The further south we got the worse the current became. Close to Grafton the current was pretty strong. Ben called the fuel dock and they asked if we had thrusters. Ben said yes. They said the other guy on the fuel dock didn’t and it was apparently pretty ugly getting him tied up. But Ben landed us on the dock just fine. We got fuel and got to our slip with not too much stress. There were entire trees flowing past our boat out in the channel. We just watched and watched. The Herbons were in Grafton and we were excited to have someone to travel with going forward. For the afternoon though I got the girls off the boat. We ran a package to the post office and walked up and down the one street.
We quickly determined there was not a single thing to do there and it was freezing so we headed back to the boat for the night, ready to tackle the Mississippi River the next morning.