It’s been a few days since I last posted. We’ve been busy since we left Alton, IL. The run from Alton to Green Turtle Bay on Lake Barkley has very few places to stay. The traditional run has you going from Alton to Hoppies. Hoppies is a couple of 100 foot barges tied to the banks of the Mississippi about 45 miles down river from Alton. The trouble is that there’s no protection from the passing tows and that 45 miles downriver isn’t all that helpful. It’s about 290 miles from Alton to Green Turtle Bay. After Hoppies there’s nowhere to stop with power and only one place to stop that’s not at anchor.
Shortly after we left Alton we cruised through St. Louis. Oddly for a river town St. Louis has no marinas and no where to even stop along the river for pleasure craft. So we took a few pictures and cruised right on through.
One of the best things about Hoppies is that Fern, Hoppie’s wife gives a daily briefing on the river conditions below their location. She gives suggestions about the best places to anchor, she tells you about what the river is expected to do and she gives tips for navigating the locks. Fortunately for us Mike and Leann Rowe on Rowe Boat went a day before us down river and stopped at Hoppies. We got the briefing from them and based on distance felt comfortable with the decision to bypass Hoppies and instead get further down the river to the Kaskaskia river, a run of about 85 miles. There’s a lock there that will let you tie up on the wall. That allowed us a safe place to stay but no power. So, in a first for us, we ran the generator all night for power. We got up the next morning and left to get as far down the river as we could. We were hoping to get to an anchorage on the Ohio river a few miles before lock 52.
As we turned off the Mississippi onto the Ohio we entered the first upriver section of the trip. We would traverse a total of about 60 miles of upstream river. This meant that we went from our Mississippi speed of about 12 knots to a speed of about 8 knots without adjusting the throttles at all. Incidentally, after hitting the bottom in Alton, IL this was as fast as we were able to travel without the shake from the bent starboard prop being an issue.
There’s a project underway to replace two locks on the Ohio River, locks 52 and 53. The new lock is named the Olmsted Lock and Dam. The project was started in 1995 and is scheduled to be completed in 2020. As a result of the construction the information published says that some anchorages are closed. As we approached the construction site expecting to need to be escorted through single file by an escort tug we heard another pleasure craft talking with the construction supervisor on the VHF. The supervisor was advising there was a storm on the way and suggesting that we all spend the night in the anchorage that was listed as closed. We were able to anchor behind two cells. Cells are giant concrete cylinders that barges are tied to while they wait. We dropped our anchor and our friends Tim and Carol on Liquid Assets tied up next to us as the storm hit. We were fortunate to have a large tow sitting on the cells. He blocked much of the wind and water from the storm. At that point it seemed obvious the best thing to do would be to spend the night right there. In the morning we would have about 20 miles to get to the next lock.
We’d called ahead and heard that lock 53 had the wickets down and we’d be able to pass through open river. Lock 52 was a different story. The same friends that went to Hoppies were in a group of 10 boats that had been waiting for lock 52 for many hours. As the storm hit lock 52 they allowed boats in. About half decided to wait for the morning and half went through. Both groups then anchored for the night on either side of the locks.
We left our anchorage about 8am this morning and headed towards lock 52. I’d been trying since 6:30 last night to get a hold of the lock operator to find out when would be the best time to get there. Finally about 8:30am I was able to get him on the phone. We heard that the crew that spent the night outside the lock had just made it through. So we headed that way expecting a wait to get through. We weren’t disappointed. We waited about 3.5 hours before being summoned into the chamber. Lock 52 is the first lock we’ve been through that didn’t have smooth walls. The walls are a series of very large circular plates that make it difficult to fender the boat off. Additionally this is the first lock since we left Chicago that didn’t have floating bollards to which we could loop our lines. Instead we hand our lines up to the attendants at the lock and they loop them around bollards. This was a very slow lock and it’s need for replacement was obvious.
Finally out of Lock 52 we had about 50 miles to Barkley lock. This took us from the Ohio River to the Cumberland River. Things got a lot narrower and a lot prettier.
We then made our way down to the Barkley lock. This lock is a 57′ lift. We entered as the sun was setting. We got tied to the floating bollard and Laura retreated back inside before the bugs flew off with her. We pulled out of Barkley as the last of the light left. We were fortunate to be in the chamber with a boat who’s home port is Green Turtle Bay. We followed them the mile from the lock to the marina. After lots of time with the spot light and help from other loopers we got into our slip and turned off the generator . The generator ran for about 60 straight hours.
Once here we went to Liquid Assets and celebrated the completion of their loop. The crossed their wake as they pulled into Green Turtle Bay. Congrats Tim and Carol!