This last week has seen a lot of changes in scenery as we have traversed Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, and now the Cumberland Rivers. We had, however, more barges and more locks, and much more debris in the water.
August 23-24 found us in Grafton, IL which is where we were supposed to fill the tanks up in order to make it to Paducah. Since we don't have a lot of history as far as cruising with WaterMarks, we weren't quite dialed-in on her fuel consumption. We pulled into the Grafton Marina and were told that they couldn't pump fuel. They lost power to their fuel dock during the Spring floods. We decided to stay anyway, since we were pretty sure that we could get fuel at the next marina at Alton, IL, about 20 miles downriver. Grafton and its marina were a great place to spend a couple days. The marina and the small town is busy with tourism. Good restaurants and at least 3 locations with live music could be heard from our slip. On Saturday afternoon we saw another Carver Californian pull in with a Looper flag on its bow. We were anxious to meet these people. Later in the afternoon we walked over to the dock where they pulled in and the dock was full of people around their boat. Come to find out they were within 6 miles of crossing their wake. All of their family was there to welcome them home. Marty and Deb promised to stop by and talk with us on Sunday morning. True to their word, they visited with us for over an hour the next morning and really gave us a lot of insight into how their boat performed and about the Loop in general. It was great to hear about their adventures.
From Grafton, which is where the Illinois, Missouri, and Mississippi converge, we left on Sunday and proceeded down the Mississippi to Alton, IL. It seems the water just keeps getting muddier as we went South. We spent 2 nights at Alton where we met (and are now traveling with) Hoot Owl (Mona and Nolan) from South Carolina, and Maggie Jo (Tom and Angie) from Iowa (boat kept in Sturgeon Bay). The group enjoyed some docktails on WaterMarks and the ladies were able to catch a cab and do a little shopping. Target and Walmart look huge after spending weeks on a boat! One of the recurring themes we keep finding in these river towns is the slow death of the town center. Boarded up buildings, no industry, etc. It's so sad. Around 8 on Tuesday evening as we were wrapping things up in prep for leaving in the morning, we found out that the City's water system had a main pipe rupture and that there was a boil water notice which had just been put into effect. Of course, we had just filled up our water system on the boat in preparation for the next two days on the hook. Not a happy camper. The marina gave us 3 gallons of bottled water at about 9 that evening.
We left Alton on Tuesday morning to the sounds of sirens, fire trucks, and red flashing lights everywhere. Linda thought it was the crews working on the water mains. In reality, a man had jumped off the high bridge right in front of the marina. Very unsettling as we continued our journey down river.
Tuesday night finds us on the lock water wall of the Kaskaskia River. This was a small river off the Mississippi which provided us with a secure and quiet wall for us to tie up to. Hoot Owl and Maggie Jo spent the night with us. Our first tie up with no power or water...but we had plenty of docktails to keep us going. First light brought us up to beautiful, serene scenery. We traveled the short way back to the Mississippi and continued our journey into the St. Louis area. The 3 boats dodged barges (and it was very busy) in order to each get a pic in front of the Arch. We have driven by that arch many times, but it was particularly beautiful from the water on this sunny day.
Wednesday evening finds us venturing into Boston Bar...a tiny outlet on the Mississippi, where we threw anchor for the first time. Maggie Jo stayed with us, Hoot Owl continued south. We had traveled 113 miles this day. (Most days have been 60-80 miles) All seemed to be going well until the anchor pulled loose. Conrad extended more chain and then the motor quit on the winch. It not only quit...it gave up all of its 30 years worth of ghosts. Just before bed Conrad informed Linda that she would need to drive the boat in the morning while he manually pulled up the chain and anchor. Needless to say, there was not much sleep for Linda that night. Morning brought a very beautiful, clear day and Linda at the helm with headsets on captaining the boat in a very narrow channel with a boat behind us. No stress here. Conrad was able to pull the anchor without having a heart attack and we proceeded out for our day's journey to Paducah.
It is Thursday, 8/29, and we found Paducah mid afternoon. WaterMarks and Maggie Jo were the only boats on this city dock. We tied up and then walked into town for a nice dinner. (Trying not to do this all the time, but some days you just feel like you deserve it!) Would like to have stayed in Paducah another night, but we were anxious to get to Green Turtle Bay with a full service department to see if we could get some winch guidance. Loved the quaintness of Paducah's downtown area. It reminded me of the French Quarter in New Orleans.
Friday, 8/30, we left Paducah and proceeded up the Ohio and then finally into the Cumberland. The scenery on the Cumberland was nice and the water all of the sudden began to get clearer. We still had one lock ahead of us before arriving into Green Turtle Bay and everyone had warned us that you could wait for hours at this one. We got close, hailed the lockmaster and he told us to come on in. This lock was an amazing 60' lift. When you pull in it feels like you are in a cavern. The lock doors are ominous looking. We were amazed at how quickly they locked us through. Coming out on the other side is beautiful Lake Barkley, and then on the opposite side is the Kentucky Lakes. Lake Barkley's length is 134 miles and it covers 90 sq. mi. Green Turtle Bay Resort sits just a short distance from the lock. It is a beautiful area and you need shuttle service (golf carts) to get around to the restaurants, spa, best ship store ever, and to the town of Grand River, KY. Never been in a town where everyone runs around in golf carts, even on the main drag! We caught back up with Hoot Owl and we are in slips very close to each other. We heard yesterday that another Looper boat came in, but we haven't met them as of yet. Linda was able to enjoy a well earned mani/pedi at the spa on Saturday afternoon.
It is now Sunday. We walked to the conference center and went to church in the most idyllic setting outside in the trees. Then a trip to the boat store. That"s about all we could take of the heat. We got back to the boat about 11 am and it was already in the mid 80's with oppressive humidity. We are waiting for our good friends, Ron and Marlene, to join us on the boat for a week's side trip up the Cumberland River to Nashville, leaving on Tuesday morning.