We were happy to meet back up with the Wilson family in Grafton, IL after the Fall Rendezvous. We were also very anxious to tackle the Mighty Mississippi and get moving on south. But alas, we would need to wait one more day. The winds for the following day were predicted to be in the 20s and that’s just not feasible for getting through locks safely and dealing with an already raging river.
Wendy and I took the girls to a fall festival close to the marina. There were people camped out in tents staying the very cold weekend outside doing all sorts of reenactments. There were leather workers, jewelry makers, and many other craftsmen. The girls watched a demonstration on how to make a belt – starting with the animal hide. And just to keep the kids entertained there was shopping (Maddy got a beaded necklace), ax throwing (we did not take part) and a candy cannon! It was a great way to pass the time but after awhile the girls and I couldn’t take the wind anymore and got cold so we headed back to the boat.
The next morning we finally left Grafton, IL and set out down the Mississippi River once again. The current was still flowing strong but we made it through the locks with no problem and were on our way to the Kaskaskia Lock wall. We passed through St. Louis and got to see the Arch from the water again.
St. Louis proved challenging. There was barge traffic everywhere and with the crazy currents the barges were literally everywhere: tied up on the side of the river, perpendicular to us coming across the river, etc. Our boat has AIS which means the barges can see our boat name and position. But there were about 5 of us in a row and we were in the back. One barge kept calling Ben giving him passing instructions but we couldn’t figure out which barge was calling us. Ben finally figured out the barge was calling the boat at the front of our group. We made it through and kept heading south. The Kaskaskia lock wall was a welcome sight for the night. We tucked up into the Kaskaskia River and enjoyed a reprieve from the current for a few hours. The Wilsons had to stop for fuel along the way but joined up with us a few hours later just as the sun was setting.
We got started bright and early again the next morning. Ben was hopeful that we could get off of the Mississippi that day but it was going to be a long run. We awoke to Wendy saying she had stepped out of bed into water. We took Bobby’s wet clothes and tossed them in the dryer. They ran a pump and got the water out and we headed out. Ben said this was the worst day for him. The debris was terrible. We took a few huge hits off the bottom of the boat. We spent the day playing the game of choosing what we would hit. It just wasn’t possible to avoid it! We got lucky and had no major damage from any of the trees bouncing off of us!
We got to the Olmsted Lock and Dam and called it quits for the day. We thought we could push ahead a few more miles to an anchorage just at the end of the Mississippi but there was a slow construction zone for a few miles and we didn’t want to be anchoring at dark. The Wilsons were still taking on some water as well so we decided to anchor right before the lock and have them tie up to us. Ben and Bobby spent the rest of the night working on pumping water out and chasing down every system on their boat to try to figure out where it was coming from. We had everyone on our boat while they worked just to hang out, try to occupy the kids, and stay out of their way. Ben was able to use a spare bilge pump he had for our dinghy and rig a pump for them to keep the water out overnight. We kept Ella and AnnaMay on our boat overnight in case an emergency rescue was needed! We figured the girls were happy and that was two fewer people to worry about.
We all made it through the night. We left at sunrise again and planned to get to Green Turtle Bay by the end of the day. An oasis at the end of this section of the rivers! We kept the girls on our boat for the day. All the girls did some school work and entertained each other nicely during a long 9 or so hour day underway. We made it off the Mississippi and were thrilled to make the turn onto the Ohio river….where we were then going against the current. Our fast speed was gone but we were all breathing a sigh of relief to be off the Mississippi. Wilsons stopped in Paducah for fuel and we circled and waited for them before happily heading into the Cumberland River the rest of the way to Green Turtle Bay. It’s a beautiful narrow stretch that is calm and relaxing yet I didn’t take any pictures!
We all made it to Green Turtle Bay (in daylight this time!). We got settled in our slips and the kids jumped off the boat and made a beeline for the playground. It was too late in the day to swim so we ordered some pizzas and hung out. We spent a couple of days taking pictures of the deer, enjoying the pool and relaxing! Unfortunately it was time to say “see you soon” to the Wilsons again. They headed to Nashville as we headed south on the next section of the rivers. Ben had some work travel coming up and we planned to make it to Iuka, MS before he had to fly out. Goodbyes are always hard. See you laters are hard too, but maybe a little better….