Cruisin' The Loop Aboard Kibon
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Tuesday, September 3, 2002
Sadly, we say goodbye to Marilyn... we've done the whole State of Illinois together and will miss her. She not only read all the guidebooks, but remembered every detail of where to go and what to do. No wonder the Amityville Historical Society keeps calling her back.
She's taken the car, headed to the airport and will be back in New York by the time we clock off just a few more miles downriver. Transportation has indeed changed a bit since the days of Huck and Tom.

Pearce washed the bugs off the boat -- the lights on the dock attract them and they make a shambles of our decks.  We untied the lines and made our way slowly toward the front of the Marina.  As we passed by the Baja boat that caused us so much distress, Kay began to have trepidations about venturing out on the Mississippi River.  Pearce assured her that all the crazy boaters had gone back to work, and sure enough we passed only tows with their barges and two pleasure craft who were cruising slowly up river.  We stopped at the Alton Marina for fuel and a sandwich.  As we were pulling out, Driftwood came in for a layover.  Bill and Vivian are going to his reunion in Oklahoma.  Continuing down river, we went through the Melvin Price Lock.  There are two locks here side by side.  One big one is for the commercial traffic, and a smaller one is used for pleasure boats.  The lockmaster directed us to the port lock, and we speedily locked through.  We have been very fortunate in all of our locks, especially here on the rivers where pleasure boats are at the bottom of the priority list.  A few miles later as we approached the Chain of Rocks Lock, there were two tows in front of us who were waiting for an upriver tow to clear the lock.  The lockmaster told us to come on through to the smaller of the two locks.  We were through before the upriver tow had fully cleared the area.

A few miles beyond Melvin Price we passed the mouth of the Missouri River.  The guide books said that during high water time the Missouri dumps more water into the Lower Mississippi than does the Upper Mississippi branch.  Luckily, the water is low and there was very little turbulence -- just some whirls and swirls.  Below the Chain of Rocks Canal we passed the St. Louis waterfront.  Although the area above and below St. Louis is full of barges with and without tows, underway or moored, this section of the river is devoid of any boats except the two casino and several sightseeing boats.  The Illinois side is sandy, and the Missouri side is a long concrete ramp.  We have read other people say that it is a shame that the officials of St. Louis don't develop the area for tourists from both land and water.  We agree.  There is plenty of room to create a marina for the boaters to visit and spend money.  There are many attractions in this old (original) part of St. Louis and a marina would be one more sight for the land visitors.  We had been fortunate to be able to visit St. Louis by car.  I'm sure not every boater has that luxury.  We slowed down to view the Arch and the waterfront from the river, and then continued down river.  We arrived at Hoppie's Marina which is a series of flat barges moored to the side of the river.  One of the boats already there was "The Chair" which we had moored with early on the Erie Canal when Margaret and Steve were with us.

Fern and Hoppie have fueled and docked boats here for many years, and they are very knowledgeable about the river.  Since there are no marinas for miles, they filled us in about safe anchorages.  Hoppie said that the river is dropping, already down several feet, as it dries up and the dams are closed to keep the pool up upstream.  Places that were safe earlier in the year are now too shallow.  He warned us to keep several feet under our keel when we do anchor, "You don't want to wake up in the morning to find yourself in the mud."  Hoppie's is also the last fuel dock for over 100 miles.

We walked into the community of Kimmswick for dinner.  All of the shops and many of the homes have been restored to the time of the town's founding in 1859.  It had been one of the vital river communities that depended upon the river and train traffic.  It now depends on tourists to visit during special festivals or just to shop the many gift and antique shops.  We had dinner in The Old House, an 18th century log cabin that has been moved and expanded in its present location.

Wednesday and Thursday, September 4 - 5, 2002
This river is alive... don't let anyone kid you about that. Old Indian lore tell tales about it, Mark Twain wrote stories and innumerable songs have been sung about this Ole Man River. It twists and turns and back flows whichever way it feels and when you are floating along with it, you go with his flow. It's like you have to say, "Okay, River, you're in charge. We're just along for the ride... and what a ride it is!" River's low right now and fairly gentle, but you can see his might along the inside of turns where the remains of whole trees by the hundreds are scattered some thirty feet up the embankments like pick-up-sticks. The current runs between three and four knots always. As Great South Bay boaters we were always aware of our strong onshore wind and used it in maneuvers such as docking. Here the current replaces the wind, but you use it the same way. Instead of an upwind approach to a dock, it's an up-current approach. Actually, it's even easier as the current stays pretty much the same all the time and the wind does shift, doesn't it?
Anyway, after doing some  housekeeping, we left Hoppie's just after noon and headed downriver. Pearce kept the RPMs at a slow cruise, but with the current's help the GPS reported a speed over the bottom of 19 knots. We had an appointment for fueling at Cape Girardeau on Thursday and expected to put on about two hundred gallons. When the time came, we could only stuff in 140 gallons. Hooray for current! (It won't be that easy going up the Ohio).
Wednesday night we spent, at Hoppie's suggestion, tied to the wall at the Kaskaskia River Lock. The Kaskaskia is a small, but important river that flows southwest from south-central Illinois and empties into the Mississippi 117 miles north of Cairo, Illinois, where the Ohio meets the Mississippi. Its lock and dam is only a quarter mile up from the intersection, out of the Ole Man's flow, and a calm overnighter. We called the lockmaster for permission to tie up, of course, and he picked the right spot. All of the locks and dams on the inland waterway systems are run by the US Army Corps of Engineers and what a great bunch they are! There's not a one who has not been most helpful and friendly... and do they love to talk! We exchange life histories at every lock and love it! And while we are speaking of helpful and friendly, let's put in a word for the tow-boat captains. It may be a bit difficult to understand them -- they have their own language, it seems, but are they ever helpful! We've finally learned that when he says, "Ah'll see you on the one," it means we should pass him on his port side. 
At 3:30 this afternoon (Thursday) we rounded the corner at Cairo and entered the Ohio River.  This section is all industrial and no place for a "pleasure boater" to stop. In fact, most of these rivers are for commerce. There is practically no so-called pleasure boating. Other than a few Jon Boats or bass boats fishing along the banks, we've seen no other cruisers or sailboats at all. Since there is no need, there are no marinas. The first one is forty-five miles up the Ohio. We tried for it, but it's apparently "a road too far." We breezed through Lock 53 at Grand Chain, Illinois, but came upon a lineup of eleven tows waiting at Lock 52 at Baybrook, Illinois. Since towboats have preference over pleasure boats, we sidled over to the Kentucky side and anchored in a quite little cove for the night. Kay cooked another of her gourmet meals and we watched a movie. After a 150-mile day, it's good to take a break. We'll tackle the lock tomorrow.

Friday, September 6, 2002
We'd spent the night a few hundred feet below the dam at Baybrook over on  the Kentucky side lulled through the night by the sound of the Ohio River sliding over the spillways. Around dawn local fishermen in Jon boats showed up to try their luck in the runoff. One friendly fellow came by to chat saying, "It's a good thaing they didn't open the gates las' naht or y'all would be up on that sand bahr over theyh." He told of helping to pull several crusin' folks like us off that sand bar... a real happy tale to hear before breakfast! We called over to the lockmaster to see where we stood in line and he said, "Come on ovah... you'll be next to go up." We rushed breakfast and sped the half-mile over to the lock to wait almost an hour while a complicated barge set was locked down. Then it was our turn and up we went... our last lock on the Ohio.

Just four miles on upriver is Paducah, Kentucky, and the Big E Marina where we had intended to spend last night. We pulled in and met the dockmaster, Tom Argo, a huge red-headed, red-bearded, ex Mississippi tow boat captain, ex Louisiana shrimper, teller of many tales about the rivers and river folks. Tom's dock is a set of barges at the bottom of a series of steel laddars, ramps and catwalks that climb up some fifty or sixty feet to the levee wall above. Behind the wall is the city of Paducah. Tom's offer of his truck to grocery shop and tour the city was enough for Kay to overcome her distaste for heights and start us up the climb. Imagine the ravine bridges and vine swings in the old Tarzan movies and you get the idea. 

Paducah!  Now here is a river city that is capitalizing on its waterfront to attract tourists.  The Mississippi Queen, a paddle wheeler that plies the Mississippi and the Ohio Rivers was reloading its passengers who had spent the morning visiting the shops and various attractions.  Kay's Mom had cruised the rivers on that boat several years ago.  There was also a very large, more conventional looking, tour boat that we have passed (and been passed by) since the junction of the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers.  We walked along the waterfront ramp which sloped from the dike wall down to the water's edge.  Buses, taxis, and private cars were bringing people down to the boats while other tourists sat at picnic tables under the trees to watch.  On the town side of the dike murals have been painted that depict Paducah's history from the establishment of the first fort by General William Clark, through the days of exploration by Rodgers and Clark (William's brother), right through to a tribute to famous son Albin Barkley.  Murals in another section of the dike are currently being completed to include the history of the area in the time of the Native Americans.  The main street's buildings have been renovated and are occupied by antique stores, gift shops, museums, and other tourist attractions.  One of the museums is that of the American Quilter's Society, and there are many stores devoted to this craft.  The Seventh Annual Arts in Action Festival is planned for October 11 and 12, where many artisans will be demonstrating their crafts and encouraging public participation.  Kay said she would love to attend, but that is more than a month away -- we can't slow down that much!

We shopped for groceries at a Super Wal-Mart and also picked up some other items.  Kay's herbs are showing a need for food.  Bright sunshine and tap water haven't been enough to keep them healthy, so we'll see if a little Miracle Gro will do the trick.  One of the guide books cautioned that the next 450 miles is through "dry counties."  So other necessary items were some bottles of Vodka and wine.  Pearce looked at all we were loading into the back of Tom's truck and wondered how we would carry it all down that series of ramps and catwalks.  Kay said, "No problem.  You'll just take our cart to the top of the hill and roll it back down."  She did carry a few bags down with her, but she had to leave "one hand for the rail."

We continued up the Ohio River for 12 more miles to the mouth of the Cumberland River.  This section of the Cumberland does a bit of curving, not as spectacular as the big S curve on the Mississippi, but we went from an east heading to north to east to south to east to south again.  We passed only a few tows and one gravel plant (a prominent commodity in this area.)  Few river captains bother to negotiate the narrow and twisting river, preferring the alternate Tennessee River just a few miles away.  After about 30 miles we approached Lake Barkley Lock and Dam.  There was another pleasure craft tied to the lower wall.  Pearce thought he could see a boat at the top of the lock.  The lockmaster never answered our hail, but half an hour later the gates opened and we entered behind the other boat.  The temperature was in the 90s, there was no breeze, and the crew on the other boat retreated to the air conditioned cabin after tieing up to the floating bollard.  Kay didn't feel comfortable doing that, but when the perspiration rolled into her eyes, and the boat hook became so slippery it almost went into the water, she regretted not giving the line to Pearce on the bridge and spending the lift time in the cool cabin.  Thank goodness it only took 12 minutes to go up the 57 feet.  We exited the lock and entered Green Turtle Bay Marina a mile further upriver.  After all those miles of little or no services, it is a luxury to have everything, even a swimming pool.

Saturday, September 7, 2002
Laundry was the first thing on the agenda, but after that was out of the way, Pearce unloaded the bicycles, and we rode into town.  There's a 30 foot incline out of the marina, but we didn't realize that there is another long incline into the town.  Since there were a few downs to the up, we managed to ride most of the way.  Town is a touristy group of buildings that look like an 1880 settlement.  Most of the stores are owned by Patti's family.  She and husband Bill started with a small restaurant that grew over 45 years to include two restaurants and shops of all variety.  While we were walking around, guests were arriving for a wedding.  We felt sorry for the men in the wedding party -- they were attired in formal black, and the wedding was being held outdoors under a rustic pavilion bowered with flowers.  Today was just as hot as yesterday.  We made reservations to return for Patti's famous 2-inch thick pork chops for dinner, rode around town, and headed back to the marina -- downhill.  We were later picked up by a car from the restaurant where we enjoyed a spinach salad, the pork chop, and grilled vegetables.  Another specialty is bread baked in a flower pot.  The pies are spectacular "mile high" meringues, but we had no room left.  It was dark when we came out.  We could hear the country music from the Saturday Night Street Dance down the street while we waited for our return ride.  The buildings were lit by tiny string lights and floods and people strolled casually by.  Pearce commented that several cars must have thought this was a scene from "American Graffiti" as they cruised back and forth.

Sunday, September 8, 2002
A restful day...  give Kibon a good washdown, swim in the pool, make a few 'phone calls, dinner at the yacht club... Green Turtle Bay is a great place to hang out. Received e-mail from Frank & Barb Weigand aboard Sea Venture who are just leaving Chicago along with several Kagawong Loopers. They all took the local down Lake Michigan while we sprinted to catch the calm weather. We're slowing down now hoping they'll catch up. Only one date on books ahead: meeting our daughter Caryl in Tallahassee on Sept 28th. But even that is subject to change. The farther south we get, the slower we seem to want to move. Waiting for the mail to arrive tomorrow morning, then decide the next act.

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