Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Final night on the Mississippi

We are anchored off the tip of the Angelo Towhead, at mile 1 of the Upper Mississippi River (map). Tomorrow morning, just a mile from here, we will "cross our wake" and close the loop. That will make us "Gold Loopers" and we will have completed the Great Loop, but in reality we will be on the loop route and in and out of the company of other loopers all the way to Mobile, and perhaps beyond.

Last night's anchorage view: Cape Girardeau behind the Bill Emerson Bridge.

We had a quiet night Monday on the floating guide wall of the Kaskaskia Lock. The lockmaster had told us we could stretch our legs, just don't climb the ladders off the wall, and we took a stroll after dark, when the temperature had dropped a little. And by "a little" I mean it was in the low 80s, rather than 90. We had a quiet night on the wall.

Vector on the floating guide wall at Kaskaskia Lock. The wall rides up and down on rails; one of the support piers is astern of us.

In my last post I mused that we'd have to time our departure so as not to end up in a pack of boats. That turned out to be a non-issue: when we staggered upstairs around 7:30 the next morning for coffee, we were alone on the wall. The other boats were so far downriver, I could no longer see them on AIS. I think many loopers detest this river so much that they just want to get past it in as few days as possible. By contrast, I rather enjoy it and prefer to take my time.

Sunset over the CoE campground from our deck.

We had a very pleasant cruise downriver yesterday. The river is wide and deep, and other than the handful of times we had to pass a towboat and its giant wake, or the handful of times we passed through one of the eddies on the outside of the sharper bends, Otto was able to drive most of the day. I did have to dodge a few large logs and one compressed gas cylinder that was floating mid-channel.

One of our more serene moments, looking downriver.

We arrived at Cape Girardeau, known locally as CG or just "Cape," around 2 o'clock, and tucked in between a pair of wing dams across from the riverboat landing. The river is so high and swift right now, however, that the wing dams are well submerged and not helping much with the surface current, and scouring had the river 40' deep almost all the way to shore.

Main Street, Cape Girardeau.

We gave up and headed downriver below the Bill Emerson Bridge, where the combination of the bridge piers and another pair of wing dams, one of them significantly taller, creates a counter-current eddy close to shore. We had to tuck in so far that the plotter showed us driving on what is often dry land before it shallowed out and we could drop the hook (map). We had just enough current to hold us parallel to the shore.

Painting murals on floodwalls seems to be a thing along these rivers. CG has them on both sides.

The lower current made it easy to launch the tender, and I headed the mile up to the landing to scout a way to get ashore. The riverboat landing was mostly underwater, but after a bit of head scratching I was able to nose the dinghy up to an enormous bollard and get a line around it, then step gingerly from there to the ramp without getting wet. I returned to Vector after a quick breeze down Main Street to make sure there were a couple of restaurants open.

These year markings on the floodwall opening to the landing show the high water marks from various floods.

We returned ashore together at dinner time and walked to Bella Italia in the riverfront area for dinner. Afterward we strolled the area around Main Street and Spanish Street before clambering back into the dinghy and heading home. The heat has been relentless and we had to run the A/C and the genny to cool the boat down when we got back.

CG fancies itself a riveboat city, as evidenced by the design of their bike racks. Just don't ride on the sidewalk.

This morning, in the relative cool of the morning, I headed back ashore stag to take a bit of a longer walk around. My landing spot was gone, as the enormous riverboat America was at the landing. No matter, because the river came up 8" or so overnight, and the dry spot near the bollard had also disappeared. That, however, meant there was now enough depth alongside a riverwalk overlook that I was able to tie to a stanchion and step right out.

Flux tied up at an overlook, in a counter-current. Rip-rap is just a few inches under her keel. Bollard I had used is where America's starboard hawser is tied.

I walked up the tall steps leading to the old courthouse and then strolled along the town's other main drag, Broadway, all the way out to the SMSU campus. Along the way I passed an eclectic mix of historic building and 70's-era architecture. The old grand dame of the city, the 1928 Marquette Hotel, has been restored into an office building, the Marquette Tower, with a rooftop bar called the Top of the Marq.

The lobby of the Marquette Tower.

I returned to Vector by 10 or so, and we decked the tender and made ready to get under way. We had the anchor up by 10:30 for a 3pm arrival; we are opting to travel in the hottest part of the day so we can get almost-free air conditioning while the midwest suffers through this unseasonal heat wave.

America at the CG landing. I snapped this from Flux on my way out.

With all of this hot weather, it's tempting to think that we should have just stayed in the Great Lakes a while longer and waited out the lock closures. Good thing, however, that we did not: the flooding has already delayed the opening of one of the locks from the scheduled 10/5 to a projected 10/10. The other lock is more of an issue and they are hoping by mid-month. The folks behind us will be struggling to find facilities still open if it goes much past that.

Passing Queen of the Mississippi on one whistle. A two whistle pass would have been better lighting. Her fake stack is folded down for bridge clearance.

Shortly after we left Cape Girardeau, we passed the Queen of the Mississippi, another one of American's riverboats, headed upriver. We watched on AIS as they slowed past the America, we assume for photo ops for the passengers of both boats. We were surprised to see America following us downriver some time later; apparently the port stop in CG was just a half day. I saw few of their passengers in town; most boarded tour buses for points elsewhere.

Looking toward the confluence of the Ohio from our anchorage. America is just headed under the Cairo highway bridge, the one I walked on when it was closed on our very first visit here.

We've been enjoying having a four-knot push downriver, but we only have another five minutes of that. Once we make the turn into the Ohio, we'll have 1-2 knots against us. It's a long slog upriver to Paducah, where they've built a dock since our last visit, and we have a reservation for tomorrow night.

1 comment:

  1. If possible, when we depart Alton, like you, I would like to take my time on the Mississippi! I see you wrangled an anchor around Bill Emerson Bridge, any other spots you can share?


Share your comments on this post! We currently allow anyone to comment without registering. If you choose to use the "anonymous" option, please add your name or nickname to the bottom of your comment, within the main comment box. Getting feedback signed simply "anonymous" is kind of like having strangers shout things at us on the street: a bit disconcerting. Thanks!