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Our anchorage last night at Little Diversion Canal by Cape Girardeau was beautiful. Next to no current, quiet and relaxing after being on the Mississippi all day. We ended up sharing the canal anchorage with two other boats. Tom watched a little Gopher football, yup, Sam, he was "rowing the boat", we figured out our float plan for today, had a little dinner and wine and headed to bed. We were both pretty tired out after 110 miles, but happy to have made it to the anchorage. Amazing how far you can make it without locks holding you up!
This morning we set out after wiping down dewy windows and isen glass for Paducah. We only had 50 more miles on the the Mississippi and then 47 on the Ohio. Of course there were a ton of tows (barges/tugs) on the Mississippi and we knew from other Loopers that there would be a lot at the confluence of the Ohio. A lot doesn't describe the number of tows at Cairo, IL. TONS, would be a better description!
After slowly, I mean slowly making our way thru Cairo - our speed dropped to about 6 mph when we turned on to the Ohio and its current. Even though we had the strong current we didn't have debris, and soon the tows were few and far between, so after a few miles we got up on plane, 25-30 mph. We had two locks on the Ohio, both under construction, so really all we did was a "drive thru". We arrived in Paducah around 3:45pm and Tom was able to watch the Vikes game. ( I don't know why he tortures himself)
More from Paducah tomorrow~
We arrived at Hoppies Marina, Kimmswick, MO at about 4pm yesterday. After the river opened up we had a wild ride thru St. Louis. The river is crazy turbulent with barge wakes or WAVES. There were barges everywhere doing their thing. Below is tug pushing 6 across. We don't see that up in Minnesota on the river!
Hoppies is an iconic Looper stop. It’s quite the place. Three barges tied together and you dock on the outside of the barge right on the river. Fern Hopkins, 81 yrs. old, of Hoppies Marina, gives a Looper briefing each night at 5:30pm on what to expect next on the Mississippi and the Ohio Rivers. Unfortunately Fern was under the weather, but her daughter, Debbie, filled in for her and did a great job talking about the tugs/barges, turbulence, safe anchorages, etc. The other reason most Loopers stop at Hoppies is because it is the last stop for most of us needing fuel for the next 200 plus miles.
There were three boats on Hoppies dock/barge last night. One other Looper boat from Marathon, Keys and the other a little house boat newly purchased by a gentleman named Michael and his dog Zuk. Michael, sold everything he had and purchased this house boat in Sabula, Iowa. He plans to take it down the river and live on it in the Keys. In my family, Michael would be described as a “whipper”. He was quite the character. When he pulled into Hoppies, the entire front of his houseboat was full of mud. He had purchased a 4 x 4 plastic planter to grow grass and as he boated thru St. Louis, he got tossed around, like the rest of us and the planter, well, you know. We weren't sure if the grass he was growing was for Zuk to relieve himself while underway or if it was "grass" for Michael..... A big part of the Loop is meeting the people along the way. We’ll definitely remember Michael and Zuk and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see them again down the river.
We departed this morning at 7:30am and to a beautiful sunrise. We are traveling 100 plus miles today to reach a safe anchorage called the Little Diversion Canal. It will be our first anchor out over night on this trip. We are going to travel approx. 15 mph, so it will probably take us about 7 hours to get there. It's about 50 miles from Cairo, IL and the Ohio River. We'll travel another 100 miles plus tomorrow with 2 locks on the Ohio River to make it to Paducah, KY.
We heard this morning that a dear woman, Harriet Roth, passed away and we want to give Bill, Carol and the boys our condolences. You al are in our thoughts. She was such a sweet, kind lady.
All for now~
Alton Marina was super nice, shallow but nice, and within eyeshot of Lock 26, the Mel Price Lock. When making reservations the marina said they weren’t taking any vessels with a draft over 4 feet because even though the water is high on the river the marina gets silted in. Go figure. Luckily, we draft about 3 ½ feet so were able to slip there.
Our game plan was to spend the night and then head to Hoppies in Kimmswick, MO Friday. We were told in Grafton that there were issues with Lock 27 – The Chain of Rocks Lock and that they were only locking thru from 9am – 2pm until Oct. 9. We also noticed about six barges staged to go down river and when talking to the harbor master at Alton he confirmed that Lock 26 was busy and to definitely call before we left the marina to try and lock thru. Keep in mind that recreational vessels take a backseat to the barges and commercial traffic, so you can be stuck at a lock for a very long time waiting if they have barges to push thru. Average barge takes about 2 ½ hours.
As it turned out, we called the lock master at 26 and he said “bring her on down, I’ll lock you thru in the small chamber”. So we were able to lock thru both 26 & 27 (YEAH, OUR LAST MISSISSIPPI LOCKS!!!) by 11am yesterday. All the staged barges on either side were stopped because 3 miles below Lock 27, they were shutting down the river, not the lock, so they could put an underground line across the river in St. Louis. Barges weren’t locking thru because they needed safe staging areas, but you can believe right at 2pm when they opened the river it was business as usual for the barges.
Below is photo of the Chain of Locks Canal that takes you to Lock 27. It’s about 9 miles long and runs parallel to the Mississippi. All river traffic has to go this way. It was a quiet canal and we enjoyed the ride down before we locked thru 27. On the other side of 27 we dropped anchor for 3 hours waiting for the river to open back up. We could see the St. Louis Arch, just barely and we couldn’t wait to float by.
In our last three locks we were the only boat. They were bollard locks, but the Lock Master told us to float in the middle. So we did ;)
It was definitely worth the wait! Now on to Hoppies Marina!
We've arrived in Looper Land! Up until Grafton we pretty much had the river to ourselves, other than the barges/tugs but that was the past! There were four Looper boats on our dock and many others in the Grafton Marina. All but one had come down the Illinois River. We had the opportunity to meet many of the other loopers in the marina, albeit in the laundry room! There were two washers and two dryers and they were getting a workout from all the Loopers. Below is a photo of our dock to give you an example of the different types of Looper boats. One couple started last March from Fort Myers. Another just a month ago from Lake Erie.
The Grafton Marina is beautiful and sits right downtown. All kinds of shops, restaurants, bars, & BREWERIES :) Tom and I snapped some shots of both the marina and town on our hill walking workout (not my idea). The Winery was straight up hill about a 1/3 of a mile. We walked it a few times......
We are headed to Alton Marina today. Short float down about 18 miles and no locks.
All for now~
Sunday we traveled from Quincy to Louisana, MO. Two locks and forty some miles. Locks were quick and the weather was starting to warm up. We stayed two nights at Two Rivers Marina. Fueled up, pumped out, got provisions in town with the help of a courtesy van provided by the marina and gave the boat a bath! We were in a covered slip, which is really nice except for the spiders! Lots of spiders! They like the covered slips too!
The map above shows all the lock and damns on the Mississippi. There are 29. Upper and Lower St. Anthony Locks aren’t numbered. Lock 5 has an additional lock – 5A and there isn’t a Lock 23. We started at Lock 4 in Alma, WI and as of yesterday, we’re thru Lock 25, which means we’ve locked thru 22.
Yesterday our float plan was to get Grafton, IL. It’s about a mile up the Illinois River off the Mississippi. Grafton is at the confluence of the Illinois and the Mississippi and is where we actually start The Loop. So really the last couple of weeks and 22 locks traveling down the Mississippi have been the pre-game 😊.
We arrived at Grafton Harbor and saw many Looper burgees flying. Looking forward to meeting some Loopers here. We’re gonna hit the town today and have more on Grafton later. All for now~
Tom & Sue Slightam
Read along as we circumnavigate the eastern half of the United States and southern Canada on the Great Loop on our boat BELLA, a Cruiser 460 Express.