We left Sunset Marina at 6:00 am on August 16 and made our way out of the farthest southern border of Chicago. It was difficult to believe we were still in Chicago. It was very early in the day when we heard that the Marseilles and Starved Rock locks on the Illinois River would be unrestricted on the weekend. They have only been open at night for barges and had one pleasure craft passage at 5 am. There was such a backlog of barges that they had to run some 24-hour shifts to try to ease the wait time for these vessels.
While we didn't really know what we were going to get into based on this information, we decided to run the 80 miles to Marseilles. It was an 11-hour run on the CalSag, Chicago Sanitary Canal and Des Plaines River, including three locks and countless bridges, but we arrived and got tied up on a gas dock at Spring Brook Marina about 7 miles north of the Marseilles lock. We were exhausted and sleep came quickly. We called the lockmaster on Saturday morning, August 17, at 6 and he told us to come down and he would lock us through at 7:30 am. We were euphoric! We were nearly at the lock at 7:15 am and called again, only to be told that there was no way any pleasure craft would lock through until 5 pm that afternoon (likely shift change!).
Great...we now had to try to turn around and return to Marseilles and see if we could find a dock to wait it out. The channel to the lock is very narrow and if you meet a barge it becomes very, very narrow. We were good getting back to Marseilles and found a long dock at the Snug Harbor Bar and Grill. They said we could stay there until Noon since it was raining again. Linda was happy that she didn't have to do another lock in the rain. At Noon we proceeded down the river a bit to toss an anchor. It stayed for awhile and then loosened because of wind shift and current. Since the Captain got impatient playing the waiting game, he decided to go back down the channel to check out the lock again. Guess what...it was like barges and towboats everywhere. We did turn around and go back to the beginning of the channel to wait out the remaining 2 hours.
During our wait, we were hailed by "yes dear," another looper boat, and we both were finally locked through at around 5:30 pm. We proceeded another 9 miles toward the next "fun and games" lock, Starved Rock; however, we pulled off the Illinois River into the Starved Rock Marina which was only .5 miles from the lock to be ready for the 5 am pleasure craft lockage the next morning. We were met by 4 very friendly people who saw us coming in and came to the dock to give us a hand...Dave, Wanda, Lynn and Judie. (Thanks, Dave, for providing the picture of WaterMarks at rest in front of the Marina.) Wished we could have stayed longer to get to know them better. They were just what we needed to end this very long day.
When the alarm knocked us out of bed at 3:30 this (Monday) morning, August 19, we threw lines and proceeded out into the very dark river and to the lock for the 5 am lockage. It was the longest .5 mile we have ever boated. There were barges staging on the side of us, and a tow coming out of the lock heading north. Between the very bright lights from the lock, and the lights on the barge coming out of where we were waiting to go in, we could see nothing. We were joined by 3 additional looper boats...SeaGlass, Misadventure, and Hoot Owl. When we finally made it through this lock, we proceeded out the other side to a very beautiful part of the Illinois River. The sun was coming up just as we started down the river. We saw quite a bit of waterfowl and flying fish and many beautiful eagles in the trees.
The 3 other boats followed us all the way to Peoria, where they went into the city and we pulled off into the Illinois Valley Yacht Club. Later this afternoon 2 more looper boats joined us...Mary Lisa and Elaine May. We probably will stay in Peoria until Wednesday, and then proceed further south toward Beardstown, IL