RumpShaker Adventure 9/24-9/25

09/26/2012 10:33


Monday, 9/24

Said goodbye to luxurious Alton Marina, a true five Anchor Marina!  Destination, Hoppies where we will learn how to navigate the most difficult 250 miles of the trip. 

The wind has really picked up and we’re happy to not have to wait long at LD26.  We lock through and travel 15.3 miles to LD27. 

But first…the “Chain of Rocks Canal.”  All mariners must use this canal to bypass a rock dam across the old main channel which has a 4’ drop about 300’ below a castle or rook-like water intake for the city of St. Louis.  It’s a narrow channel and we were relieved we didn’t meet a north bound tow. 

We locked through LD27 with a Ferry Paddlewheel boat.  We got to “float” through and did not have any “wait” time.  Coming out of the lock was a bit different than what we’ve experienced in that only half the door would open at first and once out, the water was very turbulent and difficult to navigate.

Around the corner is St Louis!  How many trips south did I wonder as driving over the Mississippi if we’d ever actually be traveling ON the Mississippi heading south and – here we are!  It was pretty cool to see the “Arch” from the river!

Unfortunately, we couldn’t “gawk” for too long because the river traffic is the busiest we’ve ever seen.  This whole stretch is full of tows – some with just a few barges, most with 15 or more.   So we navigate this stretch carefully – staying in contact with the tow captains and keeping clear of the “parked” barges that are everywhere!

We are happy to finally be south of St. Louis and all of the mayhem!   We are navigating through “confused seas” with the current flowing to the south and the wind blowing north.  We are hoping to make Hoppies before the forecasted rain.  This leg of the trip  has been different in that it’s been so industrial.  In spite of the wind, the current is helping us along – much faster – and in no time we have traveled the 27 miles from LD27 and have arrived at Hoppie’s!

Wow…they are full – everything from a kayak, to houseboats to a 60 foot brand new Carver Motor yacht - but they’ve saved a spot for us and we dock up.  After we tie down, we take the dogs for a walk on the beach where they run and jump crazily – happy to be free for the moment!

Then we go meet the famous “Fern Hopkins.”  She knows everything there is to know about navigating this next 250 mile stretch and has 100% success rate of getting everyone through for the past 39 years.  I didn’t want to tell her that the Swanson’s are here and that record may change – LOL!

We also found “Kayak Dude” aka Paul!  It was fun to see him again and he thanked me for the muffins and brownies we left him in Burlington. 

I made noodles with garlic, onion, and crushed reds with Kielbasa – YUMMY!  Time for some R&R.  I’m a little nervous about this part of the journey….stay tuned!!

Tuesday, 9/25

Weather forecast is for rain.  Oh well, we’ve done rain before so no big deal, right?  We take the dogs for their morning walk and hear from other boaters that we are in for 60MPH wind and hail.  Oh.  Now that is something we haven’t done before and on this leg of the trip, we will be “on the hook” instead of snug in a marina.  We may stay another day.

Kayak Dude, aka Paul comes over and visits for a bit and Ben phones. 

Ben is in a LOT of pain with the peritoneal dialysis. He describes it like having a vacuum hose inside your stomach and every once in a while, the hose sucks up the stomach wall causing excruciating pain.  He’s been sick in the morning and because of the pain is not sleeping well at night.  Some good news is that he’s finally getting that molar pulled.  I know that will be such a relief for him.  One more week of peritoneal training and he will only have to make the trip down the mountain once a month for checkups.

The weather forecast is not good and we hope that Fern will have room for us one more night.  She does and so we decide to walk the mile or so to Kimmswick, a small town of little shops that open at 9:00AM and close between 3-5PM.  They have a restaurant called “The Blue Owl” that is famous for their pies.  Kayak Dude, aka Paul comes with us and we have lunch together.  Then he heads back to the marina while I force Rob to check out some of the little shops. 

There was a “stamping” shop where I was able to buy some cardstock so now I can make some proper cards to exchange with other Loopers.  We also bought some pretzel bread to use for sandwiches since there isn’t a grocery store in the  town.

Once back at Hoppie’s, we joined the other boaters that are here for Fern’s briefing of how to navigate the next 270 miles.  We took copious notes and now have the best places to anchor out, instructions on the best way to approach tows on the windy river portions and to broadcast our position when we anchor at night so the tow captains know where we are.  We know where we can tie up to walk and get more gas which we WILL need. 

Once through the Ohio river portion of the trip, we are going to motor on to the Cumberland River rather than take a right on to the Tennessee River right away.  This will mean less barge traffic for us and it’s only an additional 20 miles added to the trip with plenty of marinas and gas docks along the way. 

Here’s some of Fern’s advice:

1.        Stay in the channel.  Water levels are so low that it is unwise not to.

2.       MMs 130, 84, and 4 are very turbulent, so be aware and motor accordingly.

3.       When you meet or pass a tow on a turn, ALWAYS take the inside.  Otherwise, we may get pushed up to shore by their wake.

4.       When we get close to Kaskaskia River, phone the lockmaster – CHANNEL 13 – and ask if it’s okay to tie up on the Federal Lock wall.  This is a safe place to tie up with permission.

5.       We can try to phone ahead to “Kid River City Fuel” at MM 52 and we may be able to have some gas delivered or at least get permission to tie up the boat while we walk up and fill our gas containers.

6.       DO NOT anchor at Little River entrance because it’s not safe.

7.       Can maybe get gas at MM1, “Angelo’s Towhead”.  We can also anchor there.  Go under the bridge, LDB and stay on the tip to avoid deadheads and sandbar.

8.       On the Ohio River, and behind the yet to be completed Ohmstead LD, there is a deep hole to anchor.  Do NOT tie up to white mooring cells unless it’s an emergency.  The Corp will ask you to move, even if in the middle of the night.

9.       When at anchor at Ohmstead, phone LD53 before pulling anchor.  LD53 is not a Federal Dam and does not have to follow their rules, so you may wait a long time to lock through if the lockmaster has decided to wait for a northbound tow – even if that tow is 10 miles away.  One couple reported having to wait 24 hours – so best to call.

10.   All LDs on Ohio use channel 13

11.   Once through LD53, look for 50’ dock on LDB.  This is Paducah and we should be able to walk and get gas there.

12.   Next go up the Ohio 20 miles to the Cumberland River.  On the LDB are 2 safe anchoring choices.  The 1st choice is Cumberland Tow Head Island and the 2nd choice is Cumberland River.

13.   The next stretch is 30 miles and ONLY should be done in the daylight.

14.   After Barclay LD, it is only 1 mile to Green Turtle Bay and paradise – the 270 mile stretch from hell is over!

Great advice and much appreciated.  Still  nervous, but more confident.

It’s 7PM and the promised storm rolls in.  We are SO glad we decided to stay.  We are getting tossed pretty good and can only imagine how much water PITA is taking on.  We are surprised we have TV reception, because we have to phone service or internet (not really surprised about that) and so we pop some corn and watch Dancing With The Stars.

Kayak Dude, aka Paul is planning to head out early in the morning – maybe he’ll catch up with the two cute Kayak girls that are about 1-2 days ahead of him – LOL!