Day 3 – Ottawa, IL

Today we traveled from Joliet to Ottawa.  We left Joliet around 8:15 this morning with two other boats.  We traveled with Tim and Carol on Liquid Assets and Mike and Leann on Rowe Boat.  We had Mike Rowe and Ben Stein travelling together.  Sadly neither of us as famous as our names.

We had about 50 miles to cover and three locks to transit.  We left to calls on 16 from the Coast Guard advising of flooding in the areas we would be transiting and warning about floating debris and strong currents.

We had to wait about 15 minutes for a bridge to be lifted that had a rush-hour curfew until 8:30am.  Once we made it past that bridge we arrived at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam.  This Lock lowers boats 36 feet down to the next pool.  We had a very short wait to get in the chamber and then we went on down.  The bridge immediately after the lock was being worked on and though it was a tight fit we made it under.

Once we cleared through the first lock we had about a 10 mile cruise to the second lock, Dresden Lock and Dam.  Here we encountered our first substantial wait for a lock of the trip.   We waited about an hour and a half before the pleasure craft (PCs) were called into the chamber.  At Dresden we also met up with 5 other looper boats who left before us.  The earliest of them left about 6:45 and waited an additional hour and a half.  This seems to be how things go with the locks. While waiting we started boat school.  It went reasonably well until Molly began rolling on the ground in frustration.  Nothing new here.


There were only two working floating bollards in this lock so we had to raft off three across.  This worked just fine though we had to do some adjusting as we moved down.   As we left Dresden the flooding on the Illinois river was more apparent.  Everything that floats was way up at an unusual angle and anything not floating along the banks was under water.

Next up would be the Marseilles Lock and Dam.  Marseilles is a little different from the other locks we’ve encountered in that the dam is 2.2 miles upstream from the lock.  The lock is down a long narrow canal with limited room for passing vessels.  We had difficulty raising the lock master both on VHF and by phone.  Once we were able to raise them they weren’t particularly helpful.  They told us the wait would be over an hour but told us little else.  When we asked where we could wait they would only tell us where we couldn’t be…  you can’t tie up there, you can’t anchor here, etc.  After about 20 minutes of all of us trying to figure out what we were supposed to be doing a very nice tow operator came through with a load of four barges.  He called the lock master, asked what the PCs were supposed to be doing then suggested to the lock master that he lock us down before the tow.  The tow has priority over us so his suggesting we go first saved us a huge amount of time and cost him time.  Turns out he’s done the loop on his own boat and was sympathetic to our plight.  It was also a good reminder of the way things work.  The lock master wouldn’t answer any questions we asked with anything but the bare minimum response.  When the tow boat captain called the lock master suddenly he’s Mr. conversation.

After the help of the tow boat captain we made our way through the lock and out.  We had about a two mile run into Heritage Harbor in Ottawa.  We ended up meeting up both with Jeff, a friend from Burnham, and Gary, Lana, Marshall, Price, Tara and Aubrey.  The Peterlins are Laura’s sister’s in-laws.  They took us for a great pizza dinner in Ottawa.

Tomorrow we are on to Peoria, 70ish miles down river and through one lock.  We’re hoping that with only one lock we will make it a little quicker.  Tomorrow night we meet up with Grandma Cathy her friend Pam and hopefully Libby, Grace, Hannah and Caroline.

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