The Amazing Grace

Let Your Dreams Set Sail

Chicago to Paducah

After the emotional high of having 21 family members on the boat it was time to continue heading south.  Monday brought 2-4 foot waves from the south to southwest.  As usual, the direction we wanted to go.  So we stayed put another day.

Tuesday brought us a beautiful day.  We went out the harbour into 1 – 2 foot waves again from the south west.  About 45 minutes out into Lake Michigan, right after Cindy laid down for a nap, we both heard a funny sound from the engine compartment.  Upon investigation, it was just one whole layer had frayed off the alternator belt. Yes, Scott had a new one in his stores. 

That never happens, we are usually last. Later that evening, during Fern’s talk about what to expect for the next 260 miles, we got to know the 4 boats we will be spending this leg. Casey and his mom Judy on Endurance and Capt. Jamie & Capt. Bill on Twice as Nice who are both delivering boats to Miami. 

The last day of looking at the sand dunes of Lake Michigan.  The day continued to get better.  The waves decreased to glassy water and warming temperatures with the sun peeking out every once in a while.  We decided to take the southern entrance into the Chicago Waterway.  So this is as close as we got to Chicago. 

How do you like the look of this RR lift bridge?  A train started across right when I took the picture.  What Luck! 

♪♫ On a river again, are we glad to be in a river again?  ♫♪ Travelling on a river, canal, waterway, is very different than on open water.  The biggest difference is that we won’t be able to go around the clock but instead will stop every night.  Another difference is that you have to pay attention and drive with hands on the wheel, we don’t get to set Captain Ron (the auto pilot) as often.   As we were pulling away from the dock the next morning, two trawlers went by us.  Knot Tide Down yelled that they remembered us from North Carolina and we got to meet his dad, also Bill, on Red Boat Bill and ME.  It was nice to be travelling with someone else again, something we haven’t done since The Erie Canal. 

Onward we went towards the ELECTRICAL BARRIER in the Chicago Sanitary Canal.  We first learned about it on the Great Loopers website while we were in Scotland.  The Corps of Engineers had built the barrier to stop the Asian Carp from entering the Great Lakes.  It was unknown as to when it would be electrified, this week, next month, or next year.  Our luck again, about at the time we will travel through it.  We also learned that to get through the .7 of a mile you would have to pay, the only towing company sanctioned to provide the tow (Yes, this is in Chicago), $600. You had to stop your engine, disconnect the battery, put on a life jacket, leave your boat, go down below in tug, sit down, and enjoy the ride through.  Pay your $600 and get back on your boat.  For once the luck was with us, due to our delay in Scotland, by the time we travelled through the barrier we were able to drive our own boat right through.  Following KTD and RBB&M, one at a time we went right on through, with Coast Guard permission.   

We have since learned that many of the Loopers were not very happy.  A group of them even thought about storming the barrier in mass with the idea that they couldn’t stop them all.  Also we could imagine being the people who had to pay the $600 and the next day hearing that they got to travel through for free.  We have also learned that boaters may end up getting a refund/ partial refund upon request.  What a debacle. In Chicago, No Way! 

The added bonus of being in waterways is being able to tie up to city walls for free, with electricity many of the times.  After three weeks of thinking that we were the only ones completing the loop this late in the year, what a relief to be tied up with six other boats.  Alleluia!  It was nice standing on shore swapping loop stories.  Today was also a sunny day. Unfortunately it was the last one for the month of October. 

Also, being back in the waterway, we are back with having to go through locks. 

CHPA 7-8 We had our scariest locking.  We waited over two ours for a tow to push 6 barges into the lock and have them lowered and moved out of the lock.  Then we went in with the tug, KTD and RBB&M, and us tied on at the very back on the last floating bollard, as we were directed by the lock master.  Our first warning was when another lock operator shook his head and said, “That doesn’t look good.”  We know that at most locks there is a shelf of cement at the back by the doors and that they usually leak.  Scott had already told me that if there was a problem or if the dinghy started filling up with water, we would untie and move as quickly as possible.  As you can tell in the picture, once we retied a little further forward, we were okay, just a little to close for comfort. 

We are averaging just about 50 mile days on the waterway.  We have a current that is helping us move right along.  We also have to plan for an extra hour minimum at each lock.  Tonight we were the fourth boat to pull up to 110’ of free dockage.  No room for us at the dock.  Luckily, KTD, offered to let us raft up to them.  This was a first for us.  We were able to tie off and get off the next morning without a problem. 

Today as we were motoring on we both thought we heard a calliope.  Around the next turn we saw it, The Spirit of Peoria, paddleboat. 

It was taking on passengers.  Later on the radio a tugboat captain said that TSOP was running it’s usual mach 15.  We kept looking for her to catch up and pass us.  She caught us right when we were turning into the Henry Harbor Marina.  As we were pulling into the abandoned lock, Cindy was looking for something to tie up to.  Finally she saw rebar painted orange. 

So she picked the closest one and started to loop it through and the entire rock lifted up.  What are the chances of picking the only one that wasn’t stationary?  So Cindy threw the line back on the boat and Scott had to fight the current back around to try again.  The second time we got her tied up safely.  We walked into the quaint little town in the rain for a few provisions.  We came back to the boat for a hot shower and nap.  That night we caught up to our new found friends off RBB&M and KTD for dinner and drinks. 

The next six days were spent motoring on down the Illinois River.  It was cold and rainy every day and we anchored either on the side of the river or behind islands.  Two pictures are of duck/hunting blinds in the river. 

         As we were motoring on we few times we were hit by asian carp jumping out of the water and hitting the side of the boat.  Boy did it scare us the first time it happened.  Two even jumped high enough to end up on our deck.

Flamingos head south for the winter too? 

The worst part of all the rain is that there is a lot of debris in the water.  We wake up in the morning logs or even trees caught on our anchor chain.  The buoys catch the debris too. 

Anybody know what this is?

Our sailing day is done. 

Finally we made it out of the Illinois River onto the Mississippi.  Finally a picture of fall colours in the sun.  This is a B and B on top of the bluff where the Illinois meets the Mississippi and more sights on the Upper Mississippi (I just love typing that). 

Halloween week-end found us in Portage Des Sioux, Missouri.  The first thing we learned from the news is that it has broken all records since 1914 for rain in October.  The first two days we sat out rain storms.  Friday night we went out to dinner with John and Diana from Dragonet, friends from F Dock at Marina Del Sol in League City, Texas, who had been in the Caribbean for 5 years.  By the time we had gotten back from dinner,  the water was up over the road and cars were being towed out of the marina, so we had to wad back to the boat.

The next day, as we were watching the water rise, a dinghy ventured forth to meet us from the neighbouring marina. 

This is Gary Lucy and Petie.  Gary is a historical river artist and you can see his work at and you can read his Captain’s Log that we are now a part off. As we sat there, this water plane landed and took off.  What a sight.  We decided to move back inside the marina to get a little more out of the mighty river and tie up to the fuel dock.  Two days earlier it was too shallow for us to get to the fuel dock.  What a difference 5 feet of flooding waters makes.  There we waited for more family members to visit, flooding and all. 

My brother Ed, his daughter, Michelle, and her son Blake drove down from Michigan for one more week-end on the boat.  Scott had to play ferry boat and dinghy everyone through the flooded waters to our boat. 

Blake spent the afternoon fishing.

During the trick or treat hours my cousin Jan, her daughters Lynn and Laura, and Laura’s daughter Audrey made it to the dry side of the marina.  We went over and took part in the festivities at the local saloon.  What luck, we even got to eat pork from a pig roast.  Scott and I enjoyed having Laura, Audrey, and Blake spend the night on the boat with us.   The next morning we met for breakfast.  Between the Fall Back and the hour difference for central time we only had to kill an hour before the restaurant opened, since they opened at 9 instead of 8.  Again, we had a wonderful visit and were a little sad to see the family leave.

The rest of Sunday we were chauffeured around by John and Diana to provision the boat for the next leg of our journey.  We also asked them, the experts, many questions about cruising the Caribbean.  Diana also surprised us with all the meat from a cooked turkey...delicious!!!! It must be November - Turkey Month.  

We waited to leave until Tuesday, once the river had crested. We got up and called the nearest lock to check make sure they were open and locking pleasure boats through.  They said to come on.  First we passed the Our Lady of the Rivers Shrine.  This 50’ shrine was built after the disastrous flood of 1951 as gratitude for the water stopping just short of flooding Portage Des Sioux.  It had new meaning for us after the 5 days we just spent so near the shrine. 

  As we were locking through I checked again if there were any closures down the river. “None that I know of,” was the response.  So on we went.  We radioed ahead to ask for permission to lock through the next lock and we were told that the Coast Guard had closed the Mississippi River for the next 5 miles until the river was back to normal stage which should be Sunday or Monday.  We enjoyed our turkey:  sandwiches, complete turkey dinner (forgot cranberries), fajitas, and finally, my favorite, sloppy Toms. 

The sun is out and it is gloriously beautiful so we decided not to fight back up river to stay in a Marina but instead to anchor out:

first night – Chain of Rocks Canal – good until the wind changed direction

second night:  Mississippi River – strong current and debris on anchor rode

third night:  Missouri River – very good until logs criss-crossed on rode

Alleluia… on Friday the Coast Guard opened the river to pleasure craft early.

 ♫♪ Motorin’ on the River Again… ♪♫  Two hours later we were rushing by St. Louis. 

Since we anchored out we were the first to get to the next marina. 

Next we continued south, up the Cumberland River, one of the few rivers that seem to run in the wrong direction.  

We made it to Green Turtle Bay Marina in Grand Rivers, KY.  We are taking a couple of days to catch up the website, do laundry, and provision for the next leg.  Next we are down the Tennessee River (215 Miles) and into the TomBigbee Waterway or the Tenn-Tom (450 miles) to Mobile.

We even met someone with ties to Clear Lake, Haughns on Haugtussa who lost his first sailboat at Watergate during Hurricane Ike and Jerry, who bought an Ike boat at Clear Lake Marina, on Francois.  This was the only time we were leading the way as we entered the up river run on the Ohio River. We stayed 17 miles from where ♫♪ I’m Popeye the Sailor Man.. ♪♫ was born and ♫♪ It’s a bird…it’s a plane… It’s Superman ♪♫, nope, didn’t see him in Metropolis, IL.  The river was flowing fast with lots of debris, barges and diving, misplaced, and missing buoys.  Some of the many sights we saw on the rivers. 

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