Cruisin' The Loop Aboard Kibon
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Friday, August 23, 2002
It rained again overnight, and we awoke to a socked-in harbor.  It was difficult to see more than 100 yards.  We had breakfast, and watched the fog lift so we could see the entrance to the harbor and listen to an airplane take off next to us.  Then it descended again.  We had been promised a replacement panel for the air conditioner -- was to have arrived on Wednesday, but it was mistakenly sent  out ground UPS instead of air!!!  So it should arrive at Chicago Yacht Club today.  Since we had spent the last two months in cool Canada, we hadn't realized that the air conditioner in the staterooms didn't work.  Now that we are back in the warm and humid zones, it's nice to have some relief from the heat.  Since it was also time to leave Chicago, we decided to plot a course through the fog to Chicago Yacht Club -- 2 or 3 miles directly north along Lake Michigan.  Of course Pearce is an excellent navigator, Marilyn sat in the co-pilot's seat to give him encouragement, and Kay held down the lower stations.  Naturally we arrived exactly on the right buoy and pulled into the Yacht Club.  The package was due to arrive about 3 pm, so we had lunch in the Captains' Quarters.  The air conditioner part arrived at 2 pm, and we (regretfully) left Chicago at 2:15.  We are too tall to go through downtown on the Chicago river, so we went south on Lake Michigan about ten miles to the entrance of the Calumet River.  Since we left so late, we only traveled 10 miles down river and put into a place called Smuggler's Cove.  It was a beer joint with music and was across from a land fill.  Sounds awful, but the night was quiet. And, even better, the dock fee was only $20, about a third of the price at Chicago marinas!

Saturday, August 24, 2002
Today's run was very different.  We traveled down the Calumet-Saganashkee Slough (called the Cal-Sag Channel) a few miles where we joined the Chicago Sanitary Ship Canal.  This is the canal that travels under the many bridges of downtown Chicago (the route we could not take because we're too tall).  It used to empty into Lake Michigan until the lock was built in Chicago harbor and the river was reversed so the sewage of Chicago flowed down into the Illinois River and eventually into the Gulf of Mexico instead of into Lake Michigan.  There were many barges being made up or being transferred from the tall pushers (we would call them tug boats, but they don't pull, they push) to those that could lower their control stations to go under the 19 foot bridge.  (This was the bridge that would make or break our trip.  We had to get under it, too.  We did!)  Most of the tows were three barges wide and three, four, or five barges long.  This commercial traffic rules the river.  We have to let them tell us where to go and give us permission to pass.  We traveled behind a 12 barge configuration for several miles until we came to a wide spot where we could pass him (with his permission).  Later on we had to wait while two barges passed each other and the one in front of us prepared to enter a lock.  Fortunately there was room for us, too.  We went through three locks today and were not held up more than 20 minutes on any of them.  We pulled into a marina in Seneca, Illinois for the night.  As we were looking for a slip, we met Bob and Nancy Calkins whom we had moored alongside in Grand Haven.  This is their home port.  It was nice to see them again.

Sunday, August 25, 2002
We had arranged to go to Starved Rock Marina in Ottawa, Illinois, for some warranty work at the Silverton Dealer there.  Since that was only 20 miles downstream, we spent a lazy morning.  Bob offered his car so that Kay and Marilyn could get some groceries.  W e also found some home-grown tomatoes, but were disappointed to not find any fresh corn and vegetables.  We headed down the river and through a lock after lunch.  Suddenly, we are in pleasure boating country.  We have entered the Illinois River, there are wide places in the river and islands with alternate routes for those with local knowledge.  We passed many boats pulled up onto the shores where they spend the weekends.  Most of them were smaller boats, but we also passed some anchorages where larger boats were rafted.  Marilyn had spotted a town on the map where we thought we could pull into their dock and wander around the town.  As we neared the town, we could see boats anchored along the shores and people lining the docks on both sides of the river.  We were hailed by a police boat who asked us to go back up the river a few hundred yards.  The town of Ottawa was holding a performance boat heat, and we almost rode into the race course.  We anchored and watched for an hour.  Then everyone pulled up their anchors and took off.  We were reminded of the boats leaving the Fourth of July fireworks at Jones Beach.  The good news was that we were not the boat that was rocking!  We arrived at our destination five miles further down the river and were directed into a slip.  We met several of the people who regularly dock here and two of the Silverton salespeople.  We felt at home.

Monday, August 26, 2002
Pearce went up to the service office early, and by 7:30 Bob Mullar arrived on our boat to check out the various problems.  Rich Karrasch, The Q. A. Manager at Silverton's plant in New Jersey had contacted Starved Rock and had sent some parts for replacement.  While the Service Department was taking care of the problems, the service manager, Todd Fues, loaned us his truck so we could go into town to do laundry.  We also took the opportunity to have lunch out (didn't we say we were eating our way around the Loop?)  By the time we returned, Bob had diagnosed the air conditioner problem and had installed a new wire to the forward staterooms.  What we had thought all along to be a defective control board, turned out to be a broken, crimped or missing wire. Replacing it  sounds easy, but he had to run it from the aft air conditioner all the way through the bowels of the boat up to the controls under the forward stateroom bed.  Although the temperature was in the 80s, it was very warm and humid.  It was nice to have cool air when we returned.  The replacement DVD had arrived from Silverton and it was being installed.  Bob discovered that the unit was not properly connected to the TV; there were no cables from the video section of the DVD to the television  set,  so he will bring some new cables tomorrow.
Tuesday, August 27, 2002
Bob arrived just after seven-thirty with the new cables and began organizing the numerous strands of spaghetti behind the "entertainment center" as we finished breakfast. It was entertaining for a while watching Bob, but we soon decided that touring the local communities would be more fruitful and get out of his hair. Tom Novak, the marina owner, very kindly loaned us a company truck to wander around in and we headed out to see the sights. One of the major sights hereabouts is the famous Starved Rock itself, the focal point of Starved Rock State Park. It's a huge 125 foot high sandstone butte that sticks out of the river bank and is one of eighteen buttes and canyons that make up the four-mile-long park. The rock gets it name from a  Native American legend of injustice and retribution. In the 1760s, Pontiac, chief of the Ottawa tribe in this area, was slain by an Illiniwek native while attending a tribal council in southern Illinois. According to the legend, during one of the battles that subsequently occurred to avenge his killing, a band of Illiniweks were trapped atop the rock and eventually starved to death there. Hence the name: Starved Rock. Although the climb to the top is one that only a mountain goat would love, we puffed our way up to be treated to a really magnificent view of the Illinois River Valley and the Starved Rock Dam and Lock below.

We got back from our tour to find that Mike Subato had helped Bob find the right connections and the DVD now works! We watched a movie about the Civil War (Pearce insists on calling it "The War of Northern Aggression" even after more than sixty years living among Yankees). His Great, great Grandpa was a Confederate Captain; but to even everything up, Kay's Great, great wore the blue of an Ohio regiment. Hence, either stalemate or peaceful accord. The war is over!

As beautiful as this valley is, it pales in comparison to how well we are treated by the folks here at Starved Rock Marina. For the past two years Starved Rock has won Silverton's top award for service among all its dealers. An award that's very well deserved. We dropped in on them with a few glitches in  our boat and they jumped right in to help us. We want everyone who sees these pages to know how much we appreciate it. Thanks, Tom, a toast to you and all your great Starved Rock crew.

And, Loopers, put this in your book: Starved Rock is a great place to stop over... they treat you right!

Wednesday, August 28, 2002
The Illinois and Michigan Canal was completed in 1848 to connect Lake Michigan to the Illinois River at LaSalle.  In the early days Indians would travel from the Mississippi River to the Illinois and Des Plains Rivers.  They had to portage their canoes over a low ridge to the Chicago River.  In  1673 Marquette and Jolliet envisioned a short canal through this area.  Plans were made and construction was begun in 1836, but it was not until 1848 that the 96-mile canal was completed.  It had fifteen locks which raised or lowered the canal boats a total of 141 feet and connected the Illinois River to Lake Michigan.  Chicago became an important hub and its population increased 600% in ten years.  The towns along the canal prospered with the increase in commerce.  Although the canal was later replaced by wider canals that could transport huge barges pushed by steam powered boats, it had opened the Midwest to a shorter transportation route to the East Coast and had sparked the growth of Chicago and the surrounding area.  A National Heritage Corridor was established in 1984, and President Regan visited Utica to sign the law that preserves what is left of the canal.  We visited the museum, sections of the old canal, and one of the locks.  We stopped on the way back to the marina to watch several barges and their tow lock through on the "new" waterway, the one we had traveled this past week.  It was interesting to see the lock from the land side.  
Thursday, August 29, 2002  
Todd's service crew finished fixing all the glitches they could, engines and generator have been re-oiled, the Caterpillar crew arrived at eight am to adjust the big Cats (250 hour tune-up) and by noon we were ready to leave Starved Rock. We had stayed a little longer than we'd hoped for, but  enjoyed every minute! On to Peoria, next on the agenda.  We locked through the Starved Rock Lock with a Nordic Tug, Pocono II.  They had come from Waite Park, Minnesota and are headed south to winter in the Panhandle.  Pearce had called the folks at Uranich Coal & Oil in La Salle, a company mentioned by several fellow loopers as THE place to buy fuel in central Illinois. Uranich  arranged to meet us on a dock in Spring Valley and deliver us diesel at a very good price.  Barges lined the docks, but we were able lay in a corner formed by two barges.  The oil man arrived and parked his truck way up on the dock.  Pearce stepped out of our bridge and onto the top of an empty barge.  Between the two of them, the hose was lowered to Marilyn who was standing on our swim platform in the corner formed by the two barges.  Tom from the oil company was just finishing off our second tank when a barge appeared around the corner.  The tow boat was pushing it directly into the spot we were occupying.  Luckily, everyone saw each other, and we were able to finish our fueling.  The hose was transferred back up the barges, Pearce stepped aboard (leaving an oily footprint on the forward cushion), Kay & Marilyn cast off, and we met the oil man at the forward end of the barge area to transfer the invoice and money.  It was certainly a creative way to purchase fuel.

The Illinois River passes between small towns that were important during the growing years of our country.  There are grain elevators, sand and gravel depots, and other industries interspersed with miles of bucolic landscape.  Today we passed through areas of fish and wildlife refuge.  Large lakes lined the sides of the river, but the entrances appeared to be shallow.  There were no houses (conservation area) and few boats (school started this week).  Just before we reached Peoria, the river channel meandered for about 12 miles through lakes that were one to two miles wide.  It was carefully marked with buoys and permanent channel markers, and the book cautioned boaters to stay within the channel.  Even the shallow draft boats that we passed were within the markers.  We found the secondary buoys that marked the channel into Eastport Marina.  It was so shallow that we were disturbing the mud on the bottom.  We were directed to the "Party Dock" and were pleased to find ourselves next to Vivian and Bill Wood of "Driftwood."  They had been at Starved Rock Marina where we caught up on the news of their journey since Kagawong.  As we were heading out to dinner, we recognized John Selby who was walking his dog.  He and Kay had been a few miles behind us as we came down the Cal-Sag Waterway, but we hadn't had an opportunity to talk to them.  He said that they intended to leave early tomorrow to make the long run on "Forever" to the Mississippi.

The day ended with a great meal at Jonah's Seafood House, famous for their oysters.  Kay had fried oysters that were large and succulent.  Pearce enjoyed sea scallops and Marilyn tried the Mako.  All of their seafood is flown in daily.  The waitress said they don't make the menu up until the afternoon.

Friday, August 30, 2002
We crossed the river to Peoria and docked at their municipal marina.  This Riverfront complex was started in 1995 to revitalize the waterfront.  Prior to that time there was no access for boats and other waterfront activities.  Now there are parking spots for 40 boats (most of them less that 30 feet), a paddlewheel boat "The Spirit of Peoria," and a barge turned into a restaurant.  On the waterfront are a variety of restaurants, a gift shop, the Visitor's Center, a Recreation & Wellness Center, gardens, and a park.  The center of town with shops and more restaurants is within a walking distance.  We hopped on the Trolley for a tour of the area, returned to the waterfront, and settled on The Crab Shack for lunch.  We all had crab cake sandwiches.  After lunch we continued down river and through the Peoria Lock.  This is one of two wicket dams on the Illinois River.  When the water is high the wickets are lowered to the river bottom and traffic bypasses the lock and travels freely over the wicket dam.  This is not the regular dam.  When the water is low, the wickets are raised and traffic travels through the regular lock.

The river travels through more miles of wildlife refuge with an occasional town and many riverside loading (and unloading) docks for power, chemical, and grain plants.  We traveled more than sixty miles before we found a dock that was big enough, with deep enough water, to tie up to for the night.  We stopped at one called the Rivers Edge Boat Club to get 50 gallons of diesel.  When we had creatively purchased our fuel in Spring Valley, the meter was 100 yards up the hill, so we didn't realize that our tanks were not balanced until we were again underway.  Anyway, the "Boat Club" was under reconstruction, the docks were gone, and the gas/diesel pumps were on barges tied in a little cut.  The owner offered to let us tie up to the barge for the night, but the rusty barges, precarious planks to the shore, and the many insects in the marsh convinced us to travel on.  We went 10 miles further on to Beardstown where there was a green carpeted barge with a Welcome sign.  The Pocono II was tied up to one side, and after some creative maneuvering in shallow water, we tied up to the stern of the barge.  As were were docking,  we watched a long, noisy freight train go over the nineteen foot bridge we had just squeaked under.  It's a good thing we didn't have to have it lift for us.  It would have been a long wait. 

Saturday, August 31, 2002
We left early today because we planned to go to Alton which is one of only a few marinas close to St. Louis. The city still has no waterfront access for pleasure craft although we understand that some kind of development is in the planning stage. Good!  We went through the last lock on the Illinois River and stopped for lunch at the Riverdock Restaurant 60 miles down river.  When we came back to the dock, we met another Looper, Larry and Kathryn Byrd from the Slo M'Ocean.  They were waiting for a fuel truck to fill them up with diesel.  Since it was due to arrive within the half hour, we decided to see if we could also get a fill up.  One hour later, Pearce walked back to the restaurant and found that the truck driver was on vacation, a fact that no one bothered to communicate.  We headed downriver again for 20 miles, looked at a few too shallow places or ones no longer as advertised in the guide book.  We came to the intersection of the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers and headed downstream toward Alton.  We were finally on the Big Ole Miss, Pearce was driving, Kay was navigating, and Marilyn was enjoying the scenery when she caught a glance of a 29 foot Baja speed boat headed right toward our stern at 40 or 50 miles an hour.  It was barely 50 feet behind us.  Just as she yelled, he turned left and hit us on our port stern corner.  Fortunately he was able to turn.  We have speculated on what might have happened if he had gone straight into our cabin.  No one was injured, our boat is scarred but whole.  The other boat has a fifteen-foot long gash on his starboard side above the waterline (he was almost airborne).  Pearce called the Coast Guard who were several miles up river.  The Missouri Police heard the call, and two boats responded to the call.  They took all of the information, took pictures, and gave us an accident number and fi address where we can get the report for the insurance company.  The Police also made arrangements for us to dock at a marina just down the river.  Kay declared that she was too unnerved to continue on to Alton.  We docked at My River Home Harbor in Portage des Sioux, Missouri, calmed down with a vodka and tonic, and went out to dinner.  This is also the home port of the boat that hit us, Makin' It Happen.  Actually, the marina is composed of 8 covered floating docks that house over 150 of these speed boats.  This is also the home of the Baja dealer who claims to be the tenth largest Baja dealer in the country... maybe this is why there are so many of these high performance speedboats buzzing the rivers hereabouts.

Sunday, September 1, 2002

The office is closed here today... no one in sales or the  gas dock. Maybe it's the Labor Day weekend, but it does seem eerily silent for a marina on a still summery day even if late in the season. Marilyn and Pearce rode our bikes into the village... Marilyn to go to church, Pearce to scout around. Portage des Sioux has a population of 351 and not much else happening. The local market was just opening when Pearce met a young boy there who announced that today is his ninth birthday. Pearce wished him well then bought a loaf of bread. It was looking like today would be a winner, so far! Back at the boat the three of us decided we would wander over to the next-door marina and see if we could scout up a rental car. Did we ever fall into a lively and friendly group there!!! The pool was full of swimmers, several people were cooling themselves in the bar, and the boaters were busy launching their boats.  The guidebook had said the Palisades Yacht Club could arrange for the rental of a car, but it was wrong again.  We mentioned that we had been in a boat accident yesterday and had decided to stay here for a few days and travel to St. Louis by car.  The news of the accident had already spread, and Don Fretz, the manager offered his help to get us some transportation.  Pearce found a rental service that had a car available, and Don loaned us his truck to drive to the airport where the agency was.  Marilyn and Pearce went to St. Louis, and Kay went back to the boat to read -- she still didn't feel up to traveling.  Later that afternoon, when Pearce returned the truck, we met the owner of the Palisades, Dale Skrabacz, and they exchanged burgees.  When Dale heard about our Log and the website, he offered Pearce a hookup for our computer so we could send this installment out.  We enjoyed an early supper and returned to the boat to relax. It has been a rather exciting finish to our Illinois River run. The Mississippi is ahead and, we hope, kinder.
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