A River of Differing Emotions

The Illinois River provides many different experiences, issues, and emotions.  Granted, we are coming down in high water, shortly after flooding of record, and the river has just been opened in places due to it.
The commercial aspect of this river remains the same, whether flooded or not, and the large barges, 3 wide, 5 deep, coming both ways at the same time, and the amazing tow drivers who tell you to “meet them on the one whistle” (pass them on your port, or the “two whistle”, your starboard), and maintain control of these huge monstrosities in a fast current.  Not all of them do however; we heard on the VHF from the Coast Guard that the river was closed at mile marker 158 due to a tow accident.  We were given no details.

The current was fast, and helped us gain a few miles per day, however this led to problems of its own.  Debris would have to be the first, logs, deadheads (logs that lay under the surface, they are so waterlogged, and the current has lifted them off the bottom and on a direct course for our hull), sticks, refrigerators, stoves, and other unseen items that you don’t know until you hit them.  We anchored behind Mortland Island Saturday night, at the south end of the island, and the debris was hitting us all night.  Large logs would get hung up in the chain, and the logs would pound a symphony on the boat.  Occasionally, it would be a large bump and we would jump out of bed, go for a walk on deck, and release the log.  Coming in, our prop chopped up something, we never did see it, but it sounded awful.  No vibration or problems afterward, so we ignored it.

As with the rest of this trip, this week’s story must include the people we have met.  At Beardstown, we tied up for the night at an old Potato Barge, and when we went for a walk after tying up, we saw a bar that had a sign “Boaters, beer for $1”, so naturally, we had to walk in.  It was just a small neighborhood bar, with a pool table, and several locals inside playing pool and talking.  Two of them got up from their seats and gave them to us, then bought us a beer!  We had some fun conversation, then back to our boat for the night.

At Peoria there were town docks with parking meters, so we tied up behind a homemade raft, turns out four teenagers had built it from two by fours, and were going from Chicago to New Orleans.  When I stepped on their “vessel” to get a picture, water sloshed up from between the slats and got my foot wet.  I can’t imagine what its like with a towboat wake.  They sleep on hammocks (two of them, the other two on the floor on cushions), but are really nice kids out for a good time.  Good luck to them.

We have now reached the end of the Illinois River, and are at the junction of the Mississippi.  We will be going over 200 miles on the big River, then turning onto the Ohio River for 60 miles, then the Cumberland River for about 30 miles to the Tennessee River.  We are just beginning the real commercial area, with no marinas or anchorages.  There is a stop partway, that is a barge on the side of the Miss, the current is so strong we will need to turn and come back to the barge to tie up.  There is an old lady that runs it we are told, sits in a rocker and smokes a cigar.  Since it is the only stop, everyone stops there and has stories to tell.  Wonder what ours will be?

We will probably stay in Grafton for a couple days, catch up on our email, blog, washing, showers, and get provisions, liquor, and beer.  Sometime soon we hit a dry county, and we want to be stocked up before we get there.  Jim Beam has become my second best friend on this trip!!

Now, there is one thing that has me annoyed.  Asian Carp were supposed to be on the Illinois River like crazy.  Stories of fish jumping into boats, jumping up and hitting people, getting in the cockpit with their thin skins and getting blood all over were everywhere.  Movies on U-Tube of the Illinois people driving boats and shooting the jumping fish abounded.  Well, it’s all a hoax.  There are no Asian Carp.  There are no fish that jump into your boat.  I’m not sure what the Corps of Engineers are building near Chicago, but it’s not an electric fence to keep the Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes.  There are none.

Fooled once again.

Have fun everyone, I know we are.

Joe and MaryBeth Amelia
S/V “Pot ‘O’ Gold”
Currently in Grafton, Illinois, headed for Bluewater

One Response to “A River of Differing Emotions”

  1. Sally Says:

    Oh yes indeed there are Asian carp!!! Big, nasty, jumping carp. Be very glad if you don’t see any but if you anchor in Little Diversion, you will probably see them both going in and coming out.

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