Saturday, September 28, 2019

Back on the Mississippi

We are under way southbound on the Mississippi River, headed for the Melvin Price Lock and Dam. The river is high, just below flood stage, and fast. We have 2.5-3 knots behind us. In river parlance, we are actually on the Upper Mississippi River; the mile numbers count down to zero at the confluence of the Ohio, where the Lower Mississippi River begins.

Approaching the suspension bridge at Alton.

We had a nice stay at Mel's Riverdock in Hardin. Only one other boat showed up that night, a sailboat with its mast gone (sailors doing the Loop often have their masts unstepped in Chicago and shipped by truck to Mobile). I made a quick run to the grocery store, the dollar store, and the mini-mart for a few items, and we had a decent dinner at the restaurant. I did have to kick an Asian carp off the steel dock after it committed suicide right in front of me. The town is quaint but dying, no small thanks to inundation earlier this year.

Vector at Mel's Riverdock.

In keeping with the theme of surfing the gap, we were the last off the dock Tuesday morning, and we had a very pleasant solo cruise down the remaining 20 miles of the Illinois River. The Illinois here is a lot like the Mississippi, surrounded by flood control levees almost everywhere. We saw a touch of fall color and the river was serene.

This enormous group of pelicans (many off-camera) were feeding at this outlet from a pond.

With the current behind us we were in Grafton by noon, and power-slid into the marina. We headed immediately to the "fuel" dock (they haven't sold fuel since the last flood) to pump out, and were in our berth (map), tied alongside a 44' dock, by 1pm. As is often the case when we have power and water, Louise immediately caught up on laundry.

We had a productive stay in Grafton on the 4-for-3 deal, but the town itself lacks any real services. We ate at all four of the decently rated restaurants, which all have identical pub-grub menus. There is no grocery store, no hardware store, no chandlery, and no interesting diversions. Well, there's a "chondola" installed just this season, a zip line, and a water park, but all are closed for the season.

In the men's room at the bar...

Also in the men's room, right below the above sign. Cognitive dissonance.

The marina has a courtesy car available for $15 for a three-hour stint (payable in gasoline), but the nearest grocery store or other services are in Jerseyville, more than a half hour away. We needed just a few items to get us through the next few days, and we made do with what we found at the gas station mini-mart rather than tag along with someone for three hours to go to a real store.

Passing Our Lady of the Rivers, Portage Des Sioux, Missouri.

Not long after we got settled, we heard a familiar calliope, and realized the our old friend the Spirit of Peoria had beat us downriver, no doubt passing us in the night, and were tied up at The Loading Dock, a casual restaurant and music venue just a little downriver. They ran day trips from here for three days before heading back upriver to Peoria.

Locking down at Mel Price. They only raise the upstream gate until it breaks the surface.

I knocked out a few projects while we were here, including adding a rack to the e-Bike and making yet another power adapter in case we run into any more 30a/240v outlets like we did in Joliet. More importantly we tracked down the source of a water leak that made its way into the center bilge; an obstruction in a weep hole in a Portugese locker backed enough water up into the locker to overtop the metal spigot that protected a vent pipe. We had to pull the headliner down in the forward stateroom and dry out the overhead.

Canal left; rapids and dam, right.

As I wrap up typing we are in the Chain of Rocks Canal, on our way to Lock 27. This canal and lock bypass the eponymous section of rapids; an enormous sign reminds traffic to take the canal and not the main river. Just upstream is the confluence of the Missouri River; visually unremarkable, but our tail current increased from 2.5 knots to 4 knots and we got pushed around a bit on our way into the canal.

The Mississippi is swollen and full of debris. Yesterday we saw an entire tree float past the marina, from the root ball all the way to the leaves, maybe 80' or so. I generally don't dodge logs, but I would have dodged this one -- 2' diameter and 20'+ long.

My next post will be under way from Hoppie's "Marina," really just a barge on the riverbank, where we will meet up with good friends and fellow nomads Cherie and Chris, aka Technomadia.

We passed this fake paddlewheeler in the Chain of Rocks Canal.

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