Saturday, October 15, 2011

Missississississippi River

We spent 3 more days cruising down the Illinois River to the mouth of the Mississippi. Several nice peaceful anchorages and great weather.

The Mississippi, just below the Illinois River junction, is very pretty with high bluffs. The leaves are just turning. The river is wide and the traffic is minimal. Made for a nice afternoon introduction to the Mighty Mississippi. First stop for us is Alton, Il., just in time for Monday Nite football featuring the Deee-troit Lions. Good to see them playing well! Tuesday & Wednesday were chores time at the marina. Laundry, cleaning, waxing, fuel filter change and other assorted details. Tuesday nite was a beautiful night in the marina hot tub under a full moon! NICE!
I needed some extra fuel jugs for the long upcoming run on the river. I asked a dock neighbor where to go and he volunteered to drive me to the farm store. Always great people hangin' around the marinas.
The need for extra fuel jugs is because of a 250 mile run between fuel stops. There are no services from just south of St. Louis down the Mississippi to the Ohio River and up the Ohio past Paducah to the Cumberland River and Lake Barkley.
The fuel stop just south of St. Louis is called Hoppies. It's run by a great elder couple Fern & Charlie. Hoppies is just several barges strung together on the river. Very basic, rustic, primitive. But they have fuel & water so it is a must stop before the 250 miles. They also have afternoon sessions conducted by Fern on what to look for and where to stop. She is a very colorful character. Charlie is the last living "lamplighter" on the Mississippi. He used to light lamps on bouys every night. Made the stop worthwhile just to chat with her. We enjoyed our stay at Hoppies.
The Miss. river water levels are always down in the fall but this year is especially low. One good stop recommended to us is the Kaskaskia River just off the Miss. So we pulled in there the first night after Hoppies. Well, we TRIED to. WHACK!! Hard into a sand bar. OOOPS. Luckily, my solid fiberglass keel didn't mind a sharp encounter with a sand bar. But we sure did stop quick. So back out & head further down the river. Time to improvise. There are wing dams on the river to control the flow. We picked one and pulled in behind it. We weren't totally out of the flow of the river but good enough, barely. On top of the current flow, the wind was blowing pretty hard down the river as well. These two things combined for concern with a dragging anchor. So I set alarms of 11pm, 2am & 4 am to get up and check position. Made for a fitful night of sleep but we didn't move at all.

We got back underway at dawn. With all the current flow, we averaged 9 knots instead of our usual 6. So we managed to run 91 miles almost all the way to Cairo at the mouth of the Ohio. Another beautiful night at anchor with a little shrimp sauteed in the cast iron skillet. But the day wasn't without some excitement. We came upon a big barge/tow rig that was negotiating a sharp turn and holding up traffic, including us in the process. When he finally did make the turn it was time for us to pass. This rig was 5 barges long & 3 barges wide. Each barge is about 100' long & about 40' wide. He's moving about 8.5 knots and the best I can do is about 10 knots. It takes a LOOOONG time to pass. I hailed him on the radio to see if he was OK with it and if there was traffic ahead. He said to come on through! Well, we get about half way past and I can see another big barge rig coming upstream at us. The river is not THAT wide. I sent Chris to the bow with some vaseline to grease the hull so we could squeeze between them. It was a hairy moment running between those two barge rigs! Just another day of "Rollin On The River".

Tomorrow we head up the Ohio River. We loose the favorable downstream current of the Mississippi and our fuel consumption will go up fighting the current. How much will our fuel burn increase? Will we have enough? Stay tuned...

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