Thursday, September 6, 2012

A “One Lock, Two Barges” Day

Days on cruise:  167

Distance traveled:  60.6 miles

Travel time:  5 hrs, 52 mins (9:33 counting lock time)

Total Trip Odometer:   3,406 statute miles

After a quiet night on the Ottawa Town Wall, we thought we’d do something smart and get an early start, hoping to get through the only lock of the day before a crowd of tows and barges held us up. Great idea, maybe, but it sure didn’t work!


We called ahead to Starved Rock Lock after we were underway at 7:15 and were told they were separating a string of barges into two sections to go through, so it would be awhile.


We tied up to one of the cells to wait (the round things you see in the above photo, on the left; tugs pushing barges use these like bumper cars to align their barge load with the gates into the lock). An hour later five other Looper boats appeared, as well as a second tow with 6 more barges. Groan! Commercial vessels always have priority over us “rec boats” (recreational vessels), so this didn’t bode well.


It looked like a party on the cell with us and one other boat rafted on one side, and 4 Looper boats rafted together on the other side while we all waited and compared notes.


After the first tow and barges finished going through, they began loading the second tow and barges. Finally the lockmaster called to say if all six of us wanted to enter the lock and tie on to the barge, not the lock wall, we could go through with him. Interesting! So that’s what we did, and it was smooth and easy.


Four hours after arriving at Starved Rock Lock, we finally emerged and got underway again. Whew! Quite the parade with six Looper boats leaving at once. We each quickly came up to our respective cruising speeds, sorted ourselves out and moved along.


Starved Rock State Park is immediately adjacent to the lock and is so-named because in the late 1800s three Native American tribes were feuding when one tribe fled to the top of the rock, the other two besieged the rock and waited until those on top starved to death. Nasty story for a pretty place.


So we continued on down the Illinois River 50 more miles, and finally 9.5 hours later pulled into Hamm’s Holiday Harbor.


This place is run by a guy named Hamm who doesn’t accept credit cards, only cash or checks. As you see in the photo above he also seems to collect river boats of various types.  Maybe we’ll hear the story of these crafts before we leave.

We topped off our fuel tank as his price, at $4.39, is better than anywhere else for quite a while. And we know other Loopers who bought fuel here in the past week, so we aren’t too worried that it’s old fuel gone bad.


Glad to be settled in at the end of a long day.

There are a number of marinas in this stretch that only have 3 or 4 feet of water at their entrances, so we stayed here, where Mr. Hamm uses a tow boat with 6 foot props to “dredge” his channel. We’d like to travel this stretch on the Illinois, Mississippi and Ohio Rivers as quickly as possible, as the water levels continue to drop, and marinas and anchorages fall off the list of useable places to spend the night. So we plan another long day tomorrow unless we have a weather “hold”. The current forecast is for 90% chance of rain and lots of thunderstorms, but we’ll see what it says in the morning.


No comments: